Following over a months lay off from training due to a persistent illness, I’ve lost a lot of muscle.

Stepping back on the scales I’m nearly 5kg lighter. My composition remains good, but I need to get my weight back were it was so I’m competitive in my weight category at 75kg max (day before weigh-in).

My strength has dropped proportionally with the muscle loss, so I need that back too.

I simply don’t feel robust enough to ward off injuries from training or competing.

My next block of training needs to both build strength and add muscle mass in key areas (that will aid my Thai boxing performance rather than merely slowing me down). I need to focus on strength and functional hypertrophy.

3-weeks in and I’ve added nearly 2kg of muscle in only the places that I need it. No wasted bulk — and I’m beginning to feel sturdier.

I thought I’d share with you an overview of the routine I’m using.


I’ve been supersetting a strength exercise with a higher volume hypertrophy exercise, that is working sets of each exercise back to back without rest. The strength exercise is performed for 5-reps followed by 8-reps of the following hypertrophy exercise. Then taking 2-minutes rest before repeating the next set for a total of 4 work sets.

I’m training 3-times a week in the gym, alternating two session plans, three times a week.

So in the first week I perform session (A), then session (B), followed by session (A) again on non successive days.

In the second week I perform session (B), (A), then session (B) again. The exercises used in the two sessions are as follows.


Front squat x 5-reps
Rear foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats) x 8-reps each leg

Incline bench press x 5-reps
Dumbbell chest press x 8-reps

Pull-ups x 5-reps
Dumbbell bent over rows x 8-reps each side

Candlesticks x 5-reps


Deadlift x 5-reps
Single leg suspension squat x 8-reps each leg

Standing over head press behind neck x 5-reps
Barbell push press x 8-reps

Barbell bent over row x 5-reps
Suspended rows x 8-reps

Coreplate (landmine) twists x 5-reps



a) Front squat — knee dominant lower body
b) Rear foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats) — unilateral knee dominant


a) Incline bench press — horizontal push
b) Dumbbell chest press — horizontal push


a) Pull-ups — vertical pull
b) Dumbbell bent over rows —  horizontal pull


Candlesticks — core anti-extension



a) Deadlift — lower body hip dominant
b) Single leg suspension squat — unilateral knee dominant


a) Standing over head press behind neck — vertical push
b) Barbell push press — vertical push


a) Barbell bent over row — horizontal pull
b) Suspended rows — horizontal pull


Landmine (Coreplate) twists — core anti-rotation


Each exercise superset pair consists firstly of a strength exercise (5-reps), followed immediately by a hypertrophy

Strength & Hypertrophy for MuayThai

finisher (8-reps). Each superset is repeated 4-times before moving on to the next pair of exercises.

As far as programming the intensity, I use low, medium, high and high+ (overload) weeks.

• Low weeks use a 9-rep max weight for the 5-rep strength exercise, and a 12-rep max weight for the 8-rep hypertrophy exercise, i.e. 4-reps left in you, or a -4  rep max loading

• Medium weeks use a 7-rep max weight for the 5-rep strength exercise, and a 10-rep max weight for the 8-rep hypertrophy exercise, i.e. 2-reps left in you, or a -2  rep max loading

• High weeks use a 5-rep max weight for the 5-rep strength exercise, and an 8-rep max weight for the 8-rep hypertrophy exercise, i.e. 0-reps left in you, or 0-rep max loading — maximum effort

• High+ weeks use the same loads as the high week (0-rep max), but the maximum number of full form reps are recorded (until technical failure)

The high+ week is an overload week that also tests new strength levels to establish appropriate loading for the following block of training. Then you can start the whole cycle again, building from low week, through to high+ week.

When designing individual programs, I test all the lifts, calculate % of 1-rep max, and specify target weights for all exercises of every session.

But, when issuing general templates, where fighters find their own weights, it’s simpler to work with a target number or reps (e.g. 5-reps) and a weight intensity (e.g. -4 rep max).

In this -4 rep max example, 5-reps completed with a weight you could lift a maximum of 9-times will feel relatively easy (low week), as you should feel like you have 4-reps left in you.

You should now have enough detail to structure your first block of training.

And if you’d like to know my thoughts behind the exercises I’ve selected in these two routines, take a look at my follow up Exercise Selection article.

Don Heatrick

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.

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