Timing Training to Boost Recovery & Performance

It’s not enough to just train hard, you need to train smart. Thai boxers must train many different qualities to be successful – highly skilled movements, tactical strategies, flexibility, strength, explosive power and relentless endurance.

How can you develop all these without frying yourself in the process?

In a previous post I discussed general adaptation syndrome and the concept of supercompensation. Timing your next training session to hit this supercompensated phase will prevent overtraining and boost performance (fig. a). Conversely, failing to allow enough recovery is a recipe for overtraining and poor performance (fig. b), while leaving too long between sessions and you’re just spinning your wheels (fig. c).

Timing training

Timing training for a) performance improvement, b) performance degradation or overtraining, c) no overall performance change

Overtraining can be avoided by coordinating all training sessions and understanding how each impacts each other and your recovery. But… this is easier said than done.

Depending on the intensity and volume of your training, you can fatigue up to three different systems – metabolic, neuromuscular and structural – and each system’s rate of recovery is different.

  •  Metabolic system recovery (removal of waste products from muscles and blood) from low-volume aerobic/lactic work can be complete in just a couple of hours, although higher intensity, higher volume activity can totally deplete muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) which can take up to 24-hours to re-stock by consuming more carbohydrate.
  •  Restoration of the neuro-muscular system (central nervous system) takes between 12 – 36 hours depending on the training session intensity.
  •  Structural system damage from hypertrophy (muscle growth) and eccentric muscle contraction (lengthening) can take between 1 – 3 days. This damage is characterised by DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which results in muscle tenderness peaking 2-days after unaccustomed intensity and duration of exercise.
3 recovery systems

Recovery rates of the three independent recovery systems

The recovery time for each of these systems will depend on the training intensity and individual capability, along with nutrition and rest quality. Although the fatigue effect of consecutive training sessions taxing the same recovery system is superimposed (stepping recovery back, see fig. c above), sessions loading a different recovery system can be hit while simultaneously allowing others to recover.

This is where some clever planning can allow you to work hard on consecutive days and  improve performance without overtraining.

If your first day of training focuses on heavy strength and power development, such as resistance exercise, plyometrics, Olympic lifting or Muay Thai technique worked explosively with large rest intervals, there will be a mild metabolic demand and little structural system fatigue.

Then the following day can heavily load you metabolic system with padwork and sparring while simultaneously allowing neuromuscular recovery from the previous days training. By understanding how training effects recovery on three independent levels you can massively improve your training progress.


  1. […] muscle damage, structural system recovery can take up to 3-days to complete, sometimes longer if the damage is severe. This is a major […]

  2. Mun March 31, 2013 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Great post!! Would be nice to have a more elaborated framework of training cycles and rest times, maybe a comparison between thai training customs v.s the material covered here?

    • DonHeatrick April 1, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Hi Mun,
      Thank you :)
      Great suggestions, I’ll add them to my list.


  3. BeniM. April 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Super stuff,
    How about a idiot-proof example of a weeks workouts?

    • DonHeatrick April 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Cheers Ben :) I’m looking to put some guides together for #TeamMuayThai members to download – I look at some example programmes too.

  4. […] There are many recovery methods, but for the purpose of this article I’m talking about active recovery – which is simply low intensity, low volume training designed to improve recovery by promoting the supply of oxygenated blood around the body. Such methods are better than just sitting around and doing nothing (assuming your not in a severely overtrained state). […]

  5. Colin July 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Sorry if you’ve put this somewhere else Don but would recovery from a intense muay thai training session (pads, spar, clinch) be considered a different ‘system’ to that of weight training for strength/power?

  6. DonHeatrick July 1, 2013 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Colin,
    Yes, padwork, sparring and clinch work would all tend to be power endurance work which would result in largely metabolic fatigue. Weight training for strength and power if conducted specifically will result in neuromuscular fatigue.

    I like to programme alternate days of each to ensure adequate recovery and that sessions don’t negatively impact each other.

  7. […] Your body takes a varying amount of time to recover, depending upon what kind of stress you applied; metabolic, neuromuscular or structural. The good news is that each stress type can recover independently to the others. By training different recovery systems on consecutive days, you can train hard each day, maximising progress without overtraining. To find out more about recovery, take a look at my article Timing Training to Boost Recovery & Performance. […]

  8. carlos flores November 22, 2013 at 2:01 am - Reply

    Thanks for the reply man great article, short and sweet. Time to experiment and apply.

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. […] – strength, power, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, muscular endurance – all of which are perishable . Quite simply, use it or lose it. The plate spinning analogy I’ve used in a previous post […]

  11. […] spark transmission along your nervous system which fires muscle contraction. My article on timing training to boost recovery and performance explains how neuro-muscular fatigue lasts between 12 to 36 hours depending on the intensity and […]

  12. […] perform whole-body weight training sessions on consecutive days, you’ll over-train. You can train other energy systems without any problem, but give your CNS (central nervous system) […]

  13. […] … A second part has now been written, take a look at Timing Training to Boost Recovery & Performance. […]

  14. […] Achieve maximum training effect, then get out — allowing your body to recover (and improve) and provide more time to practice Muay Thai, or even have a […]

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