by Don Heatrick

Training Density

How can a fighter best structure weight training sessions to be the most productive in the shortest space of time?

As fighters, we’re a twitchy bunch with a strong work ethic, and rest periods are generally not respected.

However, it takes a relatively long time for the neuromuscular system to recover between strength, power, or speed exercise sets – typically between 3-5 mins.

And not allowing adequate recovery greatly reduces strength, power, and speed development.

Taking less rest between sets is tempting, as you don’t feel fatigued. But in reality, your central nervous system is still fried and incapable of delivering a strong enough spark to contract your muscles with sufficient force.

But who’s got time to wait at least 3-minutes between sets?

Is there another way to use this rest time that doesn’t hamper strength, power, or speed?

The solution is supersets – pairing two non-competing exercises back to back without any rest.

For example, perform 5x front squats followed immediately by 5x weighted pull ups, then rest for a couple of minutes before hitting the front squats followed by pull ups again.

By the time you return to the front squats, about 3-minutes will have elapsed, and by the time you repeat the pull ups again, about 3-minutes will have elapsed too.

And the chosen exercises don’t interfere with each other’s recovery, as pull ups involve different neuromuscular pathways to the squats.

Renowned strength coach Mike Boyle advocates tri-sets for even greater ‘density’ – pairing two strength exercises back to back with either a core or mobility exercise, depending on your personal requirements.

I love this approach too, it allows you to pack a lot of high quality work into a short space of time. Get in, train hard, and get out again.

Here’s an example gym session structure that I use… You can plug in any relevant exercises into the categories outlined:

Soft Tissue/Flexibility
Foam rolling/tack and stretch, band distraction exercises

Activation/Movement Preparation
Movements specific to upcoming exercise selection, anchoring of soft tissue range of motion work above

Speed Tri-set:
1a) Plyometric Exercise – Lower Body
1b) Med Ball Exercise – Core
1c) Mobility Exercise
Rest 1-min

Power Superset:
2a) Power Exercise
2b) Mobility Exercise
Rest 2-mins

Strength Tri-set 1:
3a) Strength Exercise 1 – Lower Body
3b) Strength Exercise 2 – Upper Body Pull
3c) Mobility Exercise
Rest 1-min

Strength Tri-set 2:
3a) Strength Exercise 3 – Upper Body Push
3b) Strength Exercise 4 – Core
3c) Mobility Exercise
Rest 1-min

You can even fill the short rest periods with Muay Thai footwork practice, or relaxed shadow boxing if you like. I consider this during lower intensity sessions, when the lifting loads aren’t so taxing.

This session structure packs a lot into around 45-60 minutes. And if you can fit two sessions like this in each week for 4-weeks, you’ll be rewarded with increased in speed, power, strength, improved mobility and significantly reduce your likelihood of injury. It’s certainly time well invested in something other than purely Muay Thai practice.

Every so often, an opportunity emerges that can redefine how we train, fight, and thrive.

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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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