Having wound the clocks forward for the start of the spring season the UK, it’s time to seriously consider getting some outdoor training in. My first port of call is always a steep grassy slope less than a minutes jog from my home. The gradient stretches roughly 30-metres from a children’s play area up to a public footpath, and from a standing start at the bottom, it takes about 6-seconds to hit the top with a maximal sprint. This is perfect for one of my favourite conditioning drills, hill sprints.
Energy System Development
This high resistance interval method builds both the explosive anaerobic alactic energy system along with aerobic power. Without a good aerobic system, you can’t recover sufficiently to repeat the hill sprints. The greater the number of sprints, the greater the aerobic demand — about three hill sprints into the session you’ll certainly experience this yourself. The high-resistance uphill sprints also heavily tax the central nervous system, affecting the same recovery system as strength and power training. Hill sprints are the perfect way to train aerobically on the same day as weights room sessions.
Uphill sprints encourage acceleration mechanics, explosive triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip, which has great transfer to Muay Thai. The unilateral (1-legged) loading along with the diagonal opposite swing of the arm (serape effect) also transfer well to Muay Thai. The high knee lift needed to drive up an incline loads the hip flexors, something also of great benefit to a Thai boxer.
Despite the high loading on the hips and calves, this is all posterior chain, sparing the knee as you climb. Hill sprints are in fact low impact on the knees, and suitable even for heavyweight fighters – just be careful on your way back down the hill, go slowly (it’s your rest period anyway) as this will aggressively load the knee joints.
Hill Sprint Progression
Now, I know you’re a superfit Thaiboxer, but start small and progressively build up. Resist the urge to go all-out from the first session, instead incrementally up-the-ante creating long-term adaptation that continues way beyond 6-weeks or so. We’re seeking the minimum dose to create the desired training effect so that we don’t prematurely suffer from accommodation. You can read more on this in a previous blog post, Muay Thai & The Law of Accommodation.
I recommend using the following structure once or twice a week:
In week 1, sprint for between 5 to 6 seconds up the hill a total of 8-times. Rest until your heart rate drops to between 130 and 140 bpm or for 1-min between sprints. The number of sprint repeats in each session increases each week.
So there you have it, simple and effective. Find yourself a steep slope and go for it. Just be prepared for the confused looks from passers by – they won’t understand why you’re putting yourself through such a regime. But then again, you’re a Thai boxer, you’re used to that.