Fighter Weight Training Sessions In a Nutshell

Thai boxers, like most athletes,  don’t have much time to dedicate to weight training sessions. It’s therefore critical to train specifically in the gym — be the most productive and get out again. Fighters must focus on strength and power development in the weights room, as these adaptations aren’t maximally stressed during Thai boxing training and will otherwise leave untapped physical potential.

Being hard pushed for time, you’ll be lucky to get 2 or 3 weight training sessions per week, as well as balancing technical and tactical Muay Thai training and energy systems conditioning. To get the biggest bang-for-your-buck you should train the entire body in each gym session, rather than isolating muscle groups (bodybuilder style). In this way your whole body gets a training stimulus 2-3 times a week rather than just once with a split muscle-group routine. More stimulus simply means much more progress.

The exercises selected for each session should be compound, multi-joint lifts, not  isolated joints. For example, think squats and deadlifts for the legs rather than leg extensions or leg curls. By training movements (multi-joint lifts) rather than individual muscles, you’ll also get an important sports performance benefit; improved muscle-group synchronisation to better coordinate movements delivering strength and power. The muscles must work together with precision timing — develop efficient motor patterns.

It’s important to balance the intensity and volume of these multi-joint movements to reduce the likelihood of injury and optimise performance. In a typical week you should perform an equal number of sets and reps of all the following movements:

  1. Lower body knee dominant — e.g. squat
  2. Lower body hip dominant — e.g. deadlift
  3. Upper body horizontal push — e.g. bench press
  4. Upper body horizontal pull — e.g. rowing
  5. Upper body vertical push — e.g. standing shoulder press
  6. Upper body vertical pull — chin-ups
  7. Core anti extension e.g. — candlesticks
  8. Core anti-rotation e.g. — landmine (coreplate) twists

If you’re not sure what I mean by any of these exercises, please take a look at the videos in this previous post.

Each training session should target the whole body, using an exercise for each of the following movement categories:

    • Lower body (either knee dominant or hip dominant)
    • Upper body Push (either horizontal or vertical)
    • Upper body Pull (either horizontal or vertical)
    • Core (either anti-extension or anti-rotation)

Don’t 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) a rest.

If your sessions are structured in this way you’ll have a balanced, athletic body, with equal strength development on both sides of all your joints. This helps protect you from injury and allows fast powerful movement by balancing agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

Unless you have an injury re-hab issue, there’s no need to isolate any other areas of your body, as working these multi-joint movements hard will develop all necessary muscles. For example, arms are a typical area that people tend to isolate, and there’s no need. Your biceps get a lot of work during the upper body pulling movements (both vertical and horizontal). Your triceps are hit when training upper-body pushing movements (both vertical and horizontal). Simply put all your effort into these lifts and save your self a heap of time. Remember the objective is to develop strength and power, not just bulk up and slow down.


  1. News | Super Fight Series February 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    […] Link: Fighter Weight Training Sessions In a Nutshell | Heatrick Strength & Conditioning for Muay… Don Heatrick posted a link to SUPER FIGHT SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP's wall: How to structure Thai boxer's weight training sessions for max effect. […]

  2. Muscle build June 10, 2013 at 12:30 am - Reply

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    • DonHeatrick June 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      Thank you… and do please keep coming back – new articles every week :)

  3. Vicki October 13, 2013 at 4:42 am - Reply

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  4. […] further managed by allowing sufficient rest between circuits. Exercise choices should also balance movement patterns to both improve performance and reduce […]

  5. […] Fighter Weight Training Sessions In a Nutshell […]

  6. keiran July 2, 2014 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    Hey man I need to cut 14 kgs how many sets and reps should I do?. And just say with the core and pec training in the plan will I be over training them if we do push ups, core and abs training at muay thai the

    • DonHeatrick July 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Keiran,

      You could try the Power – Strength – Fat Loss Routine that I posted.

      If your planned chest and core training is strength/power based, then muscular endurance based push ups and situps (as part of your Muay Thai training) the next day won’t lead to overtraining.

      Best regards,

  7. […] A strength training program is essential when training for an amateur muay Thai fight, and at any other level of fighting. The program should focus on building relative strength (strength which is relative to the fighter’s weight). […]

  8. […] need equal knee/hip dominant habits and strength, or you’ll get found out when a wobble comes your way. When you go to pick something up from […]

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