Sam posted this fantastic question on the forum:

“Is there a point where your fitness level is ‘enough’, at which point you could spend all your time working on technique, sparring, and other such sport-specific things?“

In answering this question, I’ve taken the opportunity to link-in more detail on some of the topics discussed. Please check them out if want to know more.

Prompted by the Muay Thai Skill vs Strength & Conditioning post, Sam wondered if the need for specific strength and conditioning training ever becomes redundant, and technical and tactical Muay Thai training becomes your 100% focus?

The quick answer is no, but let me explain why in a little more detail. As a fight athlete you need a variety of athletic qualities – strength, power, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, muscular endurance – all of which are perishable . Quite simply, use it or lose it. The plate spinning analogy I’ve used in a previous post regarding strength & conditioning programming  brings home this point. If you spend too long spinning one plate (focusing on one quality), others will falter and fall.

Due to the conflicting nature of some of the physical adaptations to training, it’s impossible to remain at peak levels for all physical qualities simultaneously. Training is planned to sequentially build qualities that serve as the foundation for the following quality, essentially converting one into the next. For example, strength into power, power into power-endurance. This planned or periodised approach to training enhances progress by developing complimentary qualities, and is fundamental regardless if you compete or not.

That being said, planning training like this also aims to get a fighter in the best physical condition in time for their next critical fight. This peaking  not only applies to strength and conditioning but also to technical Muay Thai training. The most effective method is to build from general to sport-specific work as the competition date approaches, to avoid accommodation/training plateaus and ensure maximum transfer to performance in the ring.

It’s also true that Muay Thai skill levels are perishable too. For example, Thai boxers must regularly practice kicking, punching, elbowing, kneeing and clinching technique. Focusing too much attention in one area will lead to diminishing skill in another area – we’re forever chasing those spinning plates! Fighters also lose reactive timing and spatial awareness after a lay-off from sparring. When they return, they have ‘ring rust’.

Muay Thai is a multi-faceted sport with complex demands. Structuring training to get the best out of a fighter is very much an individual thing – it depends on where you are starting from, and which plates are wobbling! This is where the Pareto or 80-20 rule becomes very useful. Find the critical 20% of training emphasis that will result in an 80% effect on performance.

Too much sport-specific practice can easily lead to overuse injuries and strength/stability imbalances. Strength and conditioning sessions should always seek to address these imbalances and contribute to an athletes regime in a way that can’t be addressed by practising the sport itself.

You can never stand still, there’s always an area you must work on. Maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses, physically, technically and psychologically. Training as a fighter certainly isn’t mundane!


    Don Heatrick BSc. (Hons) Level 4 Strength & Conditioning Coach, Muay Thai Coach

    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), and now a podcast host and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

    Don helps committed Thai boxers organise training for accelerated self development & Muay Thai performance.

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