High training volume in any sport will lead to overuse injuries and muscular imbalances, and Muay Thai is no exception. It’s true, you really can have too much of a good thing! Fighting posture is designed to defend vulnerable parts of your body against imminent attack, not promote long-term health. And Thai boxers spend a significant amount of time hunched forward in a fighting stance, throwing a disproportionate amount of horizontal extension movements while punching or even holding pads for training partners. However, intelligent supplemental training can counteract these muscular imbalances, avoiding injury, and keep you training hard — so don’t go jacking it all in just yet.
This poor posture is also common in a seated position while driving a car, watching TV or using a computer, and leads to a condition classified by Dr Vladimir Janda as upper crossed syndrome; in which muscular imbalances in the upper torso increase your risk of injury and make you less efficient during training and in the ring.
Upper crossed syndrome is characterised by over-active, tight pectoral chest muscles (rounding your shoulders forward) and Upper Trapezius / Levator Scapula muscles (shrugging), combined with weak deep neck flexors (poor head tipping and rotation control) and Rhomboids / Serratus Anterior muscles (which should pinch your shoulder blades back and down).
I know from personal experience that injury from this condition is a time bomb waiting to go off. I tore my Upper Trapezius muscle while clinch training 1-week before an English Title fight. At the time my strength and conditioning training failed to address the upper crossed syndrome I’d developed over years of Muay Thai training, combined with a habit of stooping to talk to shorter people!
Strength and conditioning sessions, along with warm up and cooldown routines should be structured to counteract this posture and resulting muscular imbalances by strengthening and activating deep neck flexors and lower scapular fixators, while relaxing the pectoral, upper trapezius and levator scapula musculature. Strength and conditioning should always provide benefits that can’t be obtained by simply practising or performing your sport — or you’re wasting time. In this case, Thai boxing creates an imbalance that we must counteract to minimise injury and maximise performance.
In my next post I’ll detail some exercises that will counter the muscular imbalances caused through high-volume Muay Thai training.. Please don’t forget to give me some comments below.
Don Heatrick, owner of Heatrick Strength & Conditioning, is a renowned Level 4 Strength and Conditioning coach, Muay Thai coach and former pro Thai boxer from the UK.
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