Weight Training Programming & Fighting at Short Notice

You know the drill, you’re between fights and focusing your weight training and Muay Thai training to be better than ever for your next outing. You’ve put together a solid block of strength training and have seen real results from this directed, periodised approach. But now a fight has come up in just three-weeks time. Now what do you do? How should you change your training — if at all?

This is a common problem for Thai boxers, and one that recently cropped up on the #TeamMuayThai Questions & Answers Forum.

There’s no off-season in Muay Thai, we fight all year round and often take unplanned fights at short notice. This obviously conflicts with a long-term plan for athletic development. You can’t optimise performance with sporadic training emphasis. It’s a focused, periodised approach pays dividends. Conversely, depending on the timing of the fight, a long-term approach can prevent you peaking adequately in time.

So here’s the key weight training considerations when taking a fight at short notice and week 1 of an accelerated 3-week programme to peak for a Muay Thai fight.

To Peak or Not to Peak?

So how do you deal with an unplanned Muay Thai fight? Firstly, decide how important the fight is. If your ranking or a title is at stake, then it’s worth interrupting the long-term plan. If the fight isn’t so important then I treat it as a ‘friendly’ and hardly alter my programme at all — aside from removing heavy strength and power training in the final week.

If the fight is critical, we must attempt to peak, shifting the weight training emphasis from strength to power, and finally power endurance. Power exercises generally need more skill than the strength lifts, and require adequate coaching. Assuming little or no experience of olympic lifting or plyometrics, here are some simple but effective power exercises that you could consider using:

  • Box jump
  • Medicine ball shotput wall throws
  • Medicine ball floor slams
  • Kettlebell swing
  • Push press
  • Dumbbell snatch
  • Squat jump

Further Suggestions

Power exercises must be trained explosively as fast as possible. Using 3 sets of 5 reps will work well for all these exercises, except for the medicine ball and kettlebell exercises which would be better using 10 reps. Stick to generous rest intervals (3mins or so) before repeating the same exercise to allow full recovery of the CNS, as it’s important to maintain maximum velocity when developing power. If you fatigue and begin to slow down, you’re building power endurance — and you need to save that until you’ve maximised power in the first place. I recommend targeting power for the first half of the remaining training block while maintaining strength.

Transition to power endurance over the final half of the training block, by reducing rest intervals between exercises and increasing to 10 reps on all exercises (20 reps on medicine ball and kettlebell exercises). I also like using a circuit format for power endurance training rather than simple sets. Generally progress from heavier exercises and get lighter (and faster) as the Muay Thai fight gets closer.

Example 3-week Fight Peaking Weight Training Programme

Programming training depends on many different factors that are unique to each individual and their circumstances, and 3-weeks is not long enough to get optimum adaptations. However, with that said here’s an example accelerated 3-week weight training programme to peak as much as possible at short notice based on the following assumptions (from the original question on the Team Muay Thai forum):

  • Just 3-weeks until the fight
  • 6 total sessions (2 per week) between now and the fight
  • Little or no olympic lifting experience
  • Little or no plyometric experience or conditioning
  • The preceding training block focused solely on strength using 3 sets of 5 reps


Session 1

Using superset exercise pairs (performed back-to-back with no rest), then resting 1-2mins before repeating the same pair for a total or 3 sets

1a) Box jump x5 reps
1b) 3kg Medicine ball shotput wall throws x10 reps per side

2a) Dumbbell snatch x5 reps (using 5-rep max load)
2b) 5kg Medicine ball floor slams x10 reps

3a) Front squat x5 reps
3b) Chin ups x5 reps


Session 2

Using superset exercise pairs (performed back-to-back with no rest), then resting 1-2mins before repeating the same pair for a total or 3 sets

1a) Box jump x5 reps
1b) 3kg Medicine ball shotput wall throws x10 reps per side

2a) Dumbbell snatch x5 reps (using 5-rep max load)
2b) 5kg Medicine ball floor slams x10 reps

3a) Deadlift x5 reps
3b) Standing overhead press x5 reps


Stay tuned for next week, I’ll be giving you the next 2-sessions of progressive training…



  1. Bryan November 18, 2013 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Brilliant, man. Thanks!

    • DonHeatrick November 18, 2013 at 7:48 am - Reply

      No problem Bryan, thanks for posting the question. :)

  2. Erislandy November 18, 2013 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Hi Don, Thanks for the post, I can’t do chin ups so is there any alternative that’ll help me build up to it.
    Thanks in advance

    • DonHeatrick November 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Hi Erislandy,
      You could use a lat pulldown cable machine, or assist your chin up with either rubber resistance bands (looped over the bar, placing your foot in the other end) or boosted by a training partner as required.

      Alternatively, use a suspended row (aka inverted row) instead for the time being, as shown at 1 min 17 secs into this video:

      Kind regards,

  3. […] two of the accelerated 3-week weight training program to peak for a short notice Muay Thai fight. In week 1, we introduced power movements both at the speed end of the scale with plyometric box jumps and […]

  4. […] Short Notice Weight Training Program PART 1 […]

  5. david wichner March 10, 2014 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Hi Don,
    Just thought I’d stop in, I tried this workout today! I didn’t have some of the equipment in my home gym so I took a trip to the beach park outdoor gym, they had the plyo steps which I used the highest one for box jumps, I used an empty milk gallon full of sand and water for my snatches, I brought my own medicine ball (15 lbs about 7 kg) for shotput throws that I did against a tree, also used that for the ball slams, they have a squat station but the weight settings are fairly light-I used it anyways….and last but not least the chin ups on the bar station!
    The workout left me feeling spent but not over exerted, I finished it off with 50 squat jumps to burn my quads a little more since the front squats were a little too simple!
    After that I felt winded and I think I had a B+ workout if I had to grade it! I tried to exert as much explosiveness as possible! But kind of feel that it was a short program compared to the building functional muscle program I used of yours for 9 months and got significant muscle gains with!
    This was kind of my only alternative today, as I am trying not to buy a plyo box and heavier dumbbells! The lighter medicine ball however is on its way!
    Thought I’d share my experience but I definitely see where the power could grow from with this routine, just need to adapt this a little perhaps!?

    Sawasdee krub,

    • DonHeatrick March 11, 2014 at 8:39 am - Reply

      Hi David,
      Thank you for reporting in. It’s great to hear how people are getting on with the routines. :)

      Strength and power training sessions won’t leave you feeling spent in the same way as the function muscle (hypertrophy) sessions will. We’re targeting the neuromuscular system rather than muscle tissue.

      The strength/power sessions I’ve put together for a short notice fight will also be shorter (but higher intensity) than the hypertrophy sessions. This is part of the programme design, tapering for peak performance.

      As far as tweaking what you did in your outdoor session, I’d drop the 50x body weight squats (muscular endurance) and substitute for single leg pistol squats or similar (strength).

      Lighter med balls will allow you to accelerate faster and train the kind speed/power quality needed closer to the fight too.

      All the best,

    • david wichner March 25, 2014 at 2:46 am - Reply

      Edit*9 weeks….on hypertrophy program…oops

  6. david wichner March 24, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks Don,

    I hadn’t noticed this reply til now so I’m sorry for the late reply!
    Yes, it’s been going great, I have been doing this twice a week…once outdoors and once indoors at my home gym: there I just sub the box jumps for lateral jumps over my bench! I also have gotten a heart rate monitor to see how I recover, especially between sets!

    Thanks for the unilateral leg tip!

    I also wanted to know more about specific core power training as this program doesn’t have a direct core set!


    • DonHeatrick March 28, 2014 at 6:22 am - Reply

      Hi David,
      There’s some stealthy core power training in the programme using medicine ball throws:
      Medicine ball shotput wall throws (core anti-rotation)
      Medicine ball floor slams (core anti-extension)

      The dumbbell snatch, being unilateral, will also contribute a great deal of core stabilisation power.

      Best regards,

  7. david wichner March 29, 2014 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Thanks Don!
    That’s what I figured just wanted to make sure! I’ve been on this phase for 3 weeks, I am going to switch gears into phase 2 next week!


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