Traditionally speaking, people that train Muay Thai (some fighters in particular) shy away from weight lifting. A very common mindset and training approach is that a few sets of calisthenics is sufficient for strength development.
In the modern age, however, some pushups and pull-ups are not going to cut it. Proper strength training done in a smart and focused way will only serve to improve overall fitness and your fight game. If you want to get serious about lifting for your Muay Thai game, then you need to accept the following six points as true.
#1: Lifting Won’t Make You Any Slower
Believe it or not, weight lifting will not make you bulky and slow if you do it properly. However, a high calorie diet and lifting like a bodybuilder can make you add unnecessary mass and cause you to be slower in your movements. So eat the calories necessary for training and lift specifically to improve for Muay Thai.
Want more specifics on how to lift specifically for Muay Thai? Listen to this insightful podcast with coach Don Heatrick about Muay Thai strength and conditioning.
#2: Low Reps Are Best For Muay Thai
Keep most lifting in the 1-5 rep range. This rep range has been shown to be best for strength and power, as well as explosion. These attributes, of course, can be invaluable for a Thai fighter.
Strength will not be detrimental to your skills – in fact, it will help. Lifting in rep ranges such as 6-8 or 10-15 should be utilized occasionally, but tread lightly because they are better for putting on mass. High rep ranges are better served with calisthenics and circuit-style workouts (e.g. metcons).
#3: Basics Are Foundational
You are not a power lifter or bodybuilder. Fancy workouts and techniques will most likely not be necessary or helpful.
Stick to the basic compound movements. They include the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, row, clean, snatch and all their variations. These lifts will build overall strength and implemented properly should not interfere with Muay Thai Training.
#4: You Need A Plan
Program your lifting effectively. Strength training should not take precedence over regular Muay Thai training. 2-3x per week will be effective and help to build strength.
A very effective program could be one day of upper body focus and one day of lower body focus. Keep it simple and the results will come. The bulk of your time should be reserved for pad work, sparring, bag work, running and anything else that is more fighting specific.
#5: Pair Lifting With Traditional Calisthenics
Don’t neglect calisthenics! They still provide the vital attribute of muscular endurance. After your strength work, you should still include pushups, sit-ups, dips, pull-ups etc.
#6: Lifting Is Extremely Demanding
Recovery. Recovery. Recovery. Lifting and strength training will breakdown your body. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, protein and overall calories so that you can recover sufficiently and keep training hard. Getting hurt or over trained due to lifting will not benefit your Muay Thai.
The next time you’re at the gym, try sparing 10-15 minutes at the start of your session to lifting some weights. Don’t overdo it, and certainly don’t let it overtake anything else in your training regimen, but allow the powerful explosivity of lifting to be integrated into your Muay Thai skillset. You won’t be sorry!
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