Should you be in shape before starting Muay Thai... or will Muay Thai get you into shape?
While it can be helpful to already be in good shape prior to starting Muay Thai, training can also help get you into shape. The concept of working out for an already demanding physical activity may seem odd, but by adding sport specific training, you can improve your Muay Thai game and increase your physical fitness.
So if you’re wanting to take your Muay Thai to the next level, it’s time to consider augmenting your workouts (not including Muay Thai) by adding specific workouts to your training regime.
Hopefully you’re already doing pad work, drilling and sparring as part of your regular training schedule. Adding in workouts outside of your Muay Thai sessions can help improve your Muay Thai, make you fitter, get you ready for a fight, and overall make you more of a badass.
Samart was a Thai fighter with slick counters and surprising power who really understood the science of boxing. His most famous win came over fearsome Mexican boxer Lupe Pintor, who was not only a tough challenge and the defending champion, but also came to the fight overweight. Samart defeated Pintor via knockout in the fifth round.
As a boxer, Samart was known for his almighty left hand. His crisp boxing technique served him well in his career as a pugilist, but it was his slick, upward-flicking jab that lit up the Muay Thai world. Samart’s jab carried him to victory throughout most of his professional fights. In Muay Thai, it was devastating when paired with his side teep.
Is Muay Thai Enough?
This depends on what your goals are and what you are willing to do in order to reach those goals. Sometimes we say we want to accomplish certain things, but when it comes down to it, we fail. We fail because in order to reach our goals, there often has to be sacrifices made that the majority of “normal” people aren’t willing to make. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but that also means you have to be okay with accepting the status quo.
For example, achieving the hardcore fitness model physique requires intense consistency in strength training, cardio, dieting, and recovery. (If you’ve ever gone through a fight camp, this will sound super familiar.)
While it’s cool to look like a fitness model, you also give up a lot in the process on the way to super lean. The same goes for becoming an elite fighter.
To reach insane goals you have to do insane things. When you take your Muay Thai to the next level, you (must) improve your coordination, footwork, speed, power, and overall fitness.
Here are just a few of the types of workouts you can do to build on these attributes through Muay Thai. All of these types of workouts come with numerous variations of their own, which means the likelihood of ever getting bored with your workouts is virtually non-existent.
To reach insane goals you have to do insane things. When you take your Muay Thai to the next level, you (must) improve your coordination, footwork, speed, power, and overall fitness. Here are just a few of the types of workouts you can do to build on these attributes through Muay Thai. All of these types of workouts come with numerous variations of their own, which means the likelihood of ever getting bored with your workouts is virtually non-existent.
Bodyweight workouts are great because they require only one piece of equipment: you. Using only your own body, you can get an amazing and challenging workout that requires no gym membership, and very little to no equipment or crazy gadgets.
Plus, bodyweight exercises and workouts are hard! Traditional exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups are extremely challenging for most people. Additionally, being able to bust out a set of pull-ups or chin-ups is pretty badass.
Here are nine exercises that you can do, right now, with no equipment or much space required: Abs; Dips; Squats; Lunges; Pull-ups; Push-ups; Chin-ups; Burpees; Shadowboxing.
…and the list goes on and on! An awesome thing about bodyweight exercises is that they are an excellent measure of your actual pound-for-pound strength. Additionally, all of the above exercises have variations to keep you challenged. Take the squat, for example. There are prisoner squats, pistol squats, narrow squats, etc. For push-ups, the variations include traditional, narrow, diamond, assisted, etc.
WORKOUTS: Bag Work & Drills
The heavy bag should be one of your best friends when it comes to training. If it is not your BFF yet, then it’s time to make an introduction.
Using the heavy bag will not only help with your technique, speed, power, and conditioning (to name a few benefits), but is an amazing workout buddy. It’s the workout buddy that is never stands you up or drags you down. From kicks to punches, the heavy bag is a great resource that is often overlooked and underutilized.
The heavy bag can also be really intimidating. I know from personal experience that unless someone was telling me as I was using the heavy bag what to do, I wouldn’t use it. The only time the heavy bag got any love from me for a long time was in passing, when I would randomly kick it and then run away. I was a total jerk. Don’t be like I was… OK?
STRENGTH & CONDITIONING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Strength and conditioning is simply a method of using exercise in order to improve your physical performance as an athlete (in this case, a Muay Thai athlete). Improving your physical performance goes beyond just becoming strong through strength training.
Strength and conditioning together help to develop power, improve footwork, agility and speed, and can decrease the risk of injury.
A little bit of strength training can go a long way in upping your Muay Thai game. Strength training is just as it sounds: the means of improving your physical strength (whereas conditioning is improving your cardiovascular system). But the two definitely overlap, so don’t be surprised if you get your heart rate up while you’re strength training!
Strength workouts are exactly what they sound like: they’re designed to help you get strong.
You'll notice that the reps in most strength workouts are pretty minimal. This is because you should be working pretty hard with each rep and getting a good amount of rest in between. And if you’re working hard and challenging yourself, you’ll want to stay at those set and rep ranges.
A small caveat: you may be like me and unable to do some of these exercises as written in the workout. For instance, at this point I cannot do a weighted pull-up. Does that mean I can’t do the workout?
I would simply do a variation of the pull-up, such as a hanging pull-up (where you try to hold at the top for as long as you can and slowly lower down), an inverted row, or use a band to help assist me.
Think of conditioning as the way in which you help to build your fight endurance. Ever been sparring and gassed? It sucks. Remember your first fight when you gassed? That really sucked. That’s why working on conditioning, in addition to your strength, is so important.
You can be the technically better, stronger, more experienced fighter, but if your cardio is crap, then there’s a good chance you’re losing that fight.
Conditioning goes beyond your typical cardio workout, and just like all the other workout modalities we discussed, there are hundreds of different ways to work your conditioning. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of traditional cardio or doing the same activity (unless it’s striking, of course) for minutes on end. I prefer a workout that will utilize a variety of exercises that will keep me moving.
I really like this workout below because it’s challenging and is designed in a circuit fashion, which as fighters, we’re accustomed to. With this workout, you’ll do as many reps for each exercise as you can for 60 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Rest for 2 minutes and repeat for 3 full rounds.
Throw down the gauntlet with this conditioning-focused workout:
Alternating DB Swings –> Mountain Climber Burpees –> Stability Ball Knee Strikes –> Med Ball Thai Power Thrust Burpees –> Alternating Jump Knees –> Tuck Jump Burpees –> Speed Push Ups –> Burpee Switch Kicks –> Shoulder 21’s –> Burpee Knees
What I like most about this workout is that it utilizes “rounds” and includes explosive exercises to help build power.
STRENGTH & CONDITIONING WORKOUTS
Now that you’ve gotten an idea of the fundamental differences between strength and conditioning, it’s time to pair them together. While it is good to do separate strength and conditioning workouts, it’s also possible to incorporate both into a training session.
1. How should I approach recovery?
Becoming a badass in the gym isn’t just about becoming a monster on the pads, a beast in sparring, or showing off your abs. It’s about performing on and off the mats as best you can, and part of that includes taking time to care for yourself.
Training is hard. It’s hard mentally, it’s hard physically, it’s hard in so many ways that only people who train their asses off day in and day out can fully comprehend. There’s only so long you can grind in the gym before you slowly start to unravel. Even the pros take recovery seriously.
Recovery doesn’t have to be complicated – taking a day off, engaging in a low-impact activity (e.g. swimming), or just having some fun with your friends can help you to unwind and give your body a break. I like to take 10 -15 minutes to stretch in the mornings or pre- or post- training.
Recovery won’t happen by accident. Just like your regular training sessions, schedule it, plan it and make it happen.
2. What gear & accessories do I need?
There is no gear that you “must” have in order to workout. As discussed earlier, you can get an awesome workout using just your own body. However, there are a few items that come in handy that I use on a regular basis. They’re portable, inexpensive and multi-purposeful.
3. What should(n’t) I wear?
In general, don’t wear anything that makes you uncomfortable or self-conscious. Working out shouldn’t be a fashion show. When in doubt, check with the gym beforehand.
Gyms should have hygiene standards. If it’s a martial arts gym, expect people to be barefoot or in wrestling shoes. While barefoot may be the standard on the mats, it’s always necessary to wear shoes in the bathroom. Bring flip flops, and even better, something to clean your feet with (e.g. sanitizing wipes) when you’re done with class.
Tying up is often considered a last resort defense. Knowing when to clinch may get you some boos from the crowd, but it’s important when it comes to defending yourself.
The best fighters know when to tie up; in fact, Muhammed Ali famously mocked heavyweight Joe Lewis for not knowing when to tie up.
In order to tie up, you want to keep your guard very tight, get close to your opponent, and then wrap your arms around his. Once you have control of his biceps, you want to keep your head to the left of his and then boom – you’ve successfully initiated the clinch.
WORKOUTS FOR MUAY THAI… & YOU
Yes, you can just do Muay Thai and be a perfectly competent and skilled nak muay… or you can reach new heights by enhancing your training schedule with workouts for Muay Thai. Adding in strength and training sessions can really make a difference in your performance in the gym and in the ring.
You are always in control of what it is you want to work and how you want to work out. Never forget that you have absolute autonomy when it comes to creating your strength and conditioning program.
The beautiful thing about being a Nak Muay Nation member, is that you have the tools, resources and network to help yourself create a training framework that works best for you. You don’t have to do this alone with the support of the Nak Muay Nation behind you!
THIS. IS. IT. A totally self-reformative program that'll start building your perfect fighters body in just SEVEN DAYS - and it's 100% FREE! Balance your S&C training, rework your diet & learn key workouts that take you from van Damme to van DAAAAMNNNN!!!
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