This post was prompted by a recent Facebook status, which asked, “As strength and conditioning is becoming a big part of fighters training, what do coaches and fighters think it is? Weight training? Cardio? Padwork? Bag work? Core exercises? Body impact conditioning?”
It’s a great question, and one that certainly attracted a lot of attention. It shows that Thai boxers are at last ready to seriously consider the benefits of strength and conditioning for Muay Thai. And helping Thai boxers get to grips with this is the purpose of this site.
The aim of this post is to briefly summarise what strength and conditioning (S&C) is without too much unnecessary detail which will only serve to confuse even further. In a nutshell, S&C is the practical application of sports science.
The study of human performance provides the opportunity to maximise an athlete’s physical qualities for their sport. To this end, the primary strength and conditioning objective is injury prevention, followed by performance enhancement. All manner of training tools are used to achieve this. I feel confusion arises when fighters perceive the tools as strength and conditioning, when in fact it’s the process and methods behind the tools.
S&C is not weight training, olympic lifting, kettlebell, sled pulling, hill sprinting, tyre flipping or suspension training sessions – or indeed any other mode of training you can think of. These are examples of tools. And it’s also not CrossFit, they are workouts. Using strength and conditioning tools to create a ‘beasting’ session doesn’t target specific physical qualities, or provide progression, individualisation or satisfy a long term plan. Often fighters mistakenly perform gym workouts, believing they’re strength and conditioning training.
You should be able to answer exactly why you’re using a particular exercise at a particular phase of your training. If it has no purpose, elicits no developmental benefit for the individual fighter, then it’s wasting time and energy. Even worse, inappropriate exercise selection can hinder Muay Thai performance by interfering with a skilled pattern of movement.
Strength and conditioning isn’t a replacement for technical and tactical Muay Thai training. It’s supplemental work that develops the physical qualities that can’t be optimised by practising the sport itself. If either technical and tactical Muay Thai, or strength and conditioning training are lacking you will limit your performance potential. The two directly support each other. You can’t be the best Thai boxer you can be, just by Thai boxing – you’ll leave important physical attributes underdeveloped.
Movement quality and mechanical efficiency are a primary focus, ensuring a fighter has adequate mobility and stability to control sound movement patterns over a wide range of joint angles. Once this foundation has been established, individualised, periodised programmes are designed to develop the fighter’s strength and power qualities along with appropriate energy systems to maintain sufficient intensity for the duration of the intermittent rounds of Muay Thai.
S&C becomes increasingly important as your fight career advances. Early on, technical and tactical differences between fighters are greater, but as you move up through the ranks, skill levels are less of a differentiating factor and physical attributes become more critical. This is were a fighter with an effective strength and conditioning history gains a real advantage.
It takes time to build effective movement patterns and progressively build athletic qualities, the sooner you start, the more effective you’ll be when it becomes a critical part of your Muay Thai.
Employing modalities such as olympic lifting, strength, plyometric, speed and agility training progressively over the long term, creates a robust, high performing fighting athlete capable of exploiting all technical and tactical Muay Thai advantages.
S&C is about using the right tools for the right job at the right time. It’s not just what tools you use, but how you piece them together to avoid conflicting physiological demands to achieve maximum effect for the individual fighter.
I hope this helps clarify things a little more. I’ve linked to other posts on this site that go a little deeper into some of the areas mentioned in this summary. As always, please let me have our comments below, then I can better help out.