During our Interclub event this weekend at Unit 1 Gym, I had a chat with KO fighter Greg ‘The Prodigy’ Wootton about strength and conditioning for Thai boxers. The topic of resistance training came up, and the opportunities this presents for fighters to further develop skilled movement. I thought I’d expand on our brief conversation and share it in this post.
Just like Muay Thai technique, movements used in the weights room are skilled movement patterns that transfer to athletic performance – if done correctly. The gym is an opportunity to practice these patterns, honing the coordinated actions of multiple muscle groups to transfer force from the ground while maintaining stability through a challenging range of motion. This is nothing new, but it’s surprising how many people completely waste this opportunity with poor exercise choices or using poor movement mechanics.
“How can anyone expect to possess coordination in active work when his muscles have never worked together in groups?” ~ Earle Liederman, 1924.
If you’re only interested in a beasting or lifting heavy stuff with no regard for exercise selection or form and technique, you’re not only likely to injure yourself but you’re also wasting a valuable opportunity to move better.
Every repetition you complete further hardwires this coordinated movement autonomously. You’re forming habits. Make them good ones. Execute mechanically efficient, stable movement patterns that you can call on automatically later when under extreme stress and fatigue.
Teach your body in the weights room to coordinate multi-joint, multi-planar muscle groups together in sequence to efficiently transmit force from the floor. There’s no better way to develop this than against resistance. There’s feedback telling you when you’ve got it right or wrong.
Training like this not only transfers to Muay Thai by improving athletic potential, but it also makes the invisible, visible! You can bet that if your knee caves inward during a squat, that’s what happens in your fighting stance when you’re fatigued. Done properly, weight training exposes movement errors –there’s no place to hide. I’m continually humbled by exercises that cause me to crumble and lose form, even though unloaded I appear to move well.
Resistance training sessions allow you to constantly test and screen your mechanical positions to engage in preventative work rather waiting for a breakdown (injury) to happen before you discover a movement error. When you don’t move well, that’s an injury time-bomb waiting to go off, and wasted effort that doesn’t transmit into an effect on your opponent in the ring. Quite simply, prioritise better movement.
Good movement, is simply good movement regardless of the specific application. Although you can debate the application of specific Muay Thai techniques (there’s many different ways /styles you can successfully adopt), good mechanical positions are recognised regardless of sport or discipline, from ballet, gymnastics, rugby to Muay Thai. The same fundamental principles apply, we all operate under the same constraints.
Build your fundamental movement vocabulary, then apply them to Muay Thai. Habits make or break fighters. Take every opportunity to groove in good habits. Next time you’re resistance training, bear this in mind – check how you move, train skill.
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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