This may sound like a contradiction. The aerobic system supplies energy at a slow, steady rate, while plyometric exercise develops the stretch short cycle (the elastic qualities of muscles and tendons), explosively applying force rapidly. So how can both of these qualities be trained in the same session?
Aerobic – plyometric training employs repeated intermittent bouts of moderate plyometric activity (anaerobic alactic energy system) with rest periods that place demand on the aerobic system for recovery before the next plyometric burst. This improves the aerobic abilities of fast twitch muscle fibres, so you can maintain high power for longer. Just the kind of energy system development needed for Muay Thai.
I’ve recently structured some simple conditioning segments in fighter’s programmes, using this method on the same day as strength and power training in the weights room (usually at the end of the weights session). It’s a great way to compliment neuromuscular (strength/power) training and also gain some cardiovascular conditioning. I utilised moderate intensity 2-footed skipping as a plyometric exercise, concentrating on ‘stiff-ankling’ to enhance the stretch shortening cycle of the achilles tendon and calves.
An 8-week Progression
The key to targeting your training to drive desired physiological adaptations, is the manipulation of intensity and work-to-rest ratios. Here’s an 8-week progression of work-to-rest durations of moderate intensity two-footed, stiff-ankling skipping to enhance the aerobic ability of fast twitch fibres and reactive strength in the lower body.
During weeks 1 to 3, each work set consists of 20x two-footed skipping bounds followed by 15-secs rest, repeated for the duration of the work set – which progressively increases from 6 to 10 minutes.
During weeks 4 to 8, each work set consists of 20x two-footed skipping bounds followed by 10-secs rest, repeated for the duration of the work set. Reducing the rest interval to increase aerobic demand.
During weeks 6 and 8, a second set of skipping is introduced with a 2-minute rest between sets. Again, the work sets progressively increase from 6 to 10 minutes.
Consider the floor surface when skipping — avoid rigid floors, especially if skipping barefoot. Too much impact will quickly result in an overuse injury. I like either to wear barefoot shoes on the rubber gym flooring, or to go completely barefoot on gym matting or in the boxing ring.
Discipline – Ego in Check
Progressive training is vital to avoid training plateaus and overtraining, don’t be tempted to jump weekly steps because you deem yourself fit enough. These are specific adaptations, remember for each new exercise/stimulus you have a corresponding training age. Understand the law of accommodation and the need to apply the minimum stimulus to achieve the desired adaptation for long term gains and to avoid overuse injuries.
The aerobic plyometric method is one of many conditioning tools that develop the aerobic energy system to support your Muay Thai training. An efficient aerobic engine is not only fundamental to fight performance, but also general recovery between training sessions. If you can recover better, you’ll not only fight better, but can also train harder and more frequently – resulting in faster progress!