At a seminar I delivered to Thai boxers in Cork, Ireland, there were some very experienced fighters — having invested many years of training both domestically and in Thailand, and amassing a large number of fights internationally. You wouldn’t describe these guys as ‘beginners’… or would you?
A small part of this particular seminar looked at a few fundamental movement patterns used to train strength and conditioning exercises. Some fighters were surprised to find that they struggled to perform simple movements. I remember attempting my first correctly coached full-depth squat, ‘What the #@%*? I can’t do this right!’ I’m constantly finding movements that I can’t do, and working on them to develop the mobility, stability, strength or coordination that I lack.
The truth is that your body is good at cheating it’s way around movements it can’t do without you knowing. It can reproduce a lookalike movement pattern that doesn’t have the same efficiency, reliability or safety, despite how it may feel – you’ve unconsciously learned to work around a limitation and formed a habit.
It’s a humbling to find an apparently simple movement pattern so challenging, especially when you’re a high performing athlete. At this moment, take a step back and observe your ego in the spotlight. Do you accept that despite your prowess in the ring, that you have some limitations that need addressing? It’s interesting to observe an experienced fighter battling their ego like this… but the best fighters take it for what it is, an opportunity to grow and improve.
The seminar crammed a lot in, and while discussing how to programme supporting strength and conditioning work around Muay Thai training, I explained that although you may have an advanced training age when it comes to Muay Thai, you can simultaneously have a novice training age in strength and conditioning. As an analogy, just because you’ve passed your driving test, you wouldn’t expect to jump straight on a motorbike without having to learn from the beginning.
If you have less than a years experience of resistance training, you’re new to this element of training and you need to craft the fundamentals. Strength and conditioning is a long-term pursuit with gradual progression, start by establishing your foundation. Just like Muay Thai training, there’s a progression from beginner, intermediate to advanced, and the same is true with all disciplines. In fact, every mode of training, even each exercise has an associated training age which will determine which progression/regression is applicable for you as an individual.
So once again, keep that ego in check and work on what’s going to bring you on the quickest — and it’s rarely the most advanced, sexy looking exercise variation that you’ve seen on YouTube.
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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