Muay Thai accommodation

Avoiding training plateaus (accommodation) requires some forethought. As discussed in part 1 of this article, it’s important to vary training load (intensity and/or volume) and the exercises or drills used. These modifications to training are essentially quantitative (changing the amount and intensity) or qualitative (replacing exercises and drills). Fighters/athletes with more advanced training ages benefit from qualitative changes.

The following acute training variables can be manipulated in a training programme to avoid accommodation, and create entirely different physiological responses.

  • Volume
  • Intensity
  • Rest/Recovery
  • Frequency
  • Density
  • Complexity
  • Choice of exercise/drill
  • Exercise/drill order

These variables apply to all training, whether that’s in the weights room or the Muay Thai gym.

Weight Training

  • Volume – number of sets and reps
  • Intensity – load used, low, medium, high, high+
  • Rest/recovery – rest intervals between sets, sessions
  • Frequency – number of session per week and/or day
  • Density – the number of exercises in the given time
  • Complexity – from simple motor patterns to complex motor skills
  • Choice of exercise/drill – movement pattern, strength, power, power-endurance, unilateral, bilateral etc.
  • Exercise order – changing the order of the exercises already being used

I’ve already written extensively on this site regarding these variables as they apply to weight training for athletic performance, and going into more detail is beyond the scope of this article. For now, let’s look at Muay Thai training.

Muay Thai Training

  • Volume – number of rounds and round duration
  • Intensity – rate of perceived effort or % max heart rate
  • Rest/recovery – rest intervals between rounds, sessions
  • Frequency – number of session per week and/or day
  • Density –  the number of activities in the given time
  • Complexity – individual techniques, combinations, closed drills, open drills, free sparring etc.
  • Choice of exercise/drill – fighter style, fight range, footwork/balance etc.
  • Drill order – changing the order of the drills already being used

Systematically varying the intensity, the number and duration of rounds, the rest intervals between them, and the number of weekly or even daily sessions is something Thai boxers are familiar with. Complexity and the choice of drills are generally less considered.

Repeating the same choice of drills with the same volume and intensity will lead to accommodation and diminished returns. Varying training drills prevents this from happening. This variation can come from employing drills using different fighter styles (aggressive, counter, elusive, tricky), ranges (long, medium, close or clinch range) and footwork patterns for example. Switching bagwork from a short-bag to a long-bag also creates variation, as does changing padholders and sparring partners. Private coaching sessions with a different instructor also avoids accommodation.


Although variation is needed to avoid accommodation, a training stimulus also must be applied long enough to cause a physical adaptation. Also, because of the specificity of training adaptations, weight training exercises must be as close as possible to Muay Thai in muscular coordination and physiological demand. So don’t get too random, and make sure your training is progressive too.

Periodising (planning) your training helps avoid accommodation by progressively varying training load and drills or exercises. Further away from the fight, this approach begins with general preparation and becomes increasingly Muay Thai specific as the fight date approaches. This both avoids training plateaus (accommodation) with progressive overload and peaks physical performance for the fight.

When manipulating the acute training variables, it’s important to understand what the physiological effects will be. Periodised training applies these variables in a structured, complimentary manner. Training cycles concentrate on building the foundation for each successive cycle, without conflicting adaptations. Learn as much as you can from as many different sources as possible — you can start with browsing through this site!

Further Resources

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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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