I’ve not had much time this week as I’ve been preparing fighters for a show at the weekend, so this post quickly summarises a simple strength development approach introduced to me by Gil Stevenson, a director of the UK Strength & Conditioning Association. If you struggle to understand how to train for strength rather than bulking up muscles, then this very simple structure can help you out.
BECOME A 3-TO-5 PERSON
3 — 5 sessions per week
3 — 5 exercises per session
3 — 5 sets per exercise
3 — 5 reps per set
3 — 5 minutes rest between sets
This is a simplified, easy to remember structure that helps you to design a strength training session. The combination of numbers used depend on your phase of training, training experience and so on, but as a rough template it helps you get started.
Between 3 to 5 strength sessions a week provides enough stimulus to increase strength (although – I generally recommend 2x sessions per week for Thai boxer, as this allows sufficient developmental stimulus, without eating significantly into sport specific training). And using between 3 to 5 different multi-joint exercises with maximum effort gets results. Your exercise selection is beyond the scope of this post, but you should include a lift for the lower body, an upper body push, an upper body pull and something for the core.
Performing between 3-to-5 sets of each exercise ensures there’s sufficient volume for a strength adaptation. Using a weight that you can only lift a maximum of between 3 and 5 times with good form will provide an intensity that loads the central nervous system (CNS) sufficiently to cause an adaptation. You’ll get much stronger without putting on body weight — and a greater strength-to-weight ratio will make you more athletic and provide the foundation needed for speed and explosive power.
Resting for a minimum of 3-minutes between sets of the same exercise allows your CNS to recover enough to work at the intensity required to develop strength in the next set. If you take shorter breaks, although you won’t feel tired, your CNS will still be shot and unable to transmit a strong enough signal to lift heavy enough. Your wiring simply can’t transmit the spark to your muscles without enough re-charge time. I like to superset two non-competing exercises back-to-back without rest to condense workouts. I still aim for a 3-min rest period before repeating the same exercise again. Your whole session should take an hour or less.
As a rough and ready outline you could do a lot worse than applying the 3-to-5 structure to your strength training sessions.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning
Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.
Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.
Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donheatrick/
Good as always, pretty much what I do already but I find it really hard to rest enough between sets.
That’s good Mark. Yes, it does seem a long time between sets, especially to Thai boxers who always want to push on – but to train and overload strength specifically, it’s a physiological requirement. Resting needn’t be stood around watching the clock though. As I mentioned, supersetting a non-competing exercise immediately afterwards uses the time productively. I also add mobility and stability work into my programmes during these ‘rest’ periods. Even light shadow boxing or footwork drills are efficient use of this time. Just make sure you aren’t negatively affecting your recovery for your next work set.
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Hard Train, Better Result.
Thanks Don, also Im looking for a good compound exercise to add to what I already do, squats, deadlift, overhead press, bench press and barbell row. Hopefully split into to different workouts of 3 exercises each. Any ideas ?
I’d add chin-ups or pull-ups to your programme Mark. It’ll balance out the the two upper-body pushing exercises (overhead press and bench press) with a second upper-body pulling exercise (in addition to the barbell rows).
Bent over barbell row
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Thanks for amazing content, you really have loads of knowledge and information available on your website.
I am on my way to plan the S&C training in the different blocks, and Im struggling with the balance between Strenght, Power and Speed excersizes. Ive read and watched videos and texts where it is mentioned that during eg the Strenght block, the main focus is Strenght, while the other qualities should be maintained. But in choosing 3-5 excersizes, I find it hard to fit them all in the two S&C sessions I do pr. week.
Could you point me in the right direction, eg a video or link to something explaining this further?
I hope your doing well, and thank you again for the great information, I cant wait to get started with this structure!
Hi Sanna, you’re most welcome, and thanks for your question.
I think I need to put together a brief guide to help with this. But in the meantime, here are a couple of resources that should help:
HOW DO YOU TRAIN STRENGTH, POWER AND SPEED IN ONE TRAINING SESSION?
5 PERFORMANCE BOOSTING EXERCISE CATEGORIES FOR YOUR RESISTANCE TRAINING SESSIONS
Thank you soo much for your response! I will look into the links more carefully to adapt the training to it a bit more.
So far it feels great having a structured S&C training, for the first time ever. I will keep an eye out in the future for even more information from you, and meanwhile; I wish you the best with all your coming projects!
You’re welcome Sanna! Pleased to have helped mate, and thank you.