Having just watched current Lumpinee Champion, Pakorn, win the Yokkao -63.5kg World Title at the Yokkao 11 event in Bolton, England, I thought I’d share a closer look at one of the pre-event promotional videos released by Yokkao.

The video shows Pakorn undertaking strength and conditioning training at CrossFit BK in Bangkok, in preparation for his Yokkao World Title fight against Greg Wootton. Pakorn was candidly sceptical, saying, “I didn’t think that training here would help at all, but the more I trained the more it helped.
“It’s helped a lot. It’s a new technique that I’ve never used before.”

Head CrossFit BK Coach, Henrik Olofsson, designed a strength & conditioning (S&C) programme for Pakorn with 4-weeks to go before the fight. Please don’t get hung up on the fact that Olofsson is also a CrossFit coach, the process that he used was a programmed one (strength & conditioning periodisation) specifically for Muay Thai. This is not something you can expect from general CrossFit training.

In fact, Olofsson himself says, “… not every exercise or benchmark “WOD” (CrossFit workout) is suitable for a high level Muay Thai fighter. However, you can certainly achieve a sport specific, progressive strength and conditioning programme for sports using the CrossFit methodology.”

“At the end of the day, the outcome and effectiveness in any S&C program lies in the art of programme design. With smart exercise selection, including anti/rotational exercises as well as uni/ipsilateral movements combined with CrossFit elements leaves potential for an optimised CrossFit strength and conditioning program for Muay Thai. “

I’d like to highlight that it’s planned, progressive training that makes you a better Muay Thai fighter, not just random workouts. CrossFit uses many different training modalities, just like strength and conditioning – both use the same tools – the difference is which tools are selected and how they’re structured in your training. Pakorn was given a strength and conditioning programme, not CrossFit workouts.

Pakorn Specific

Pakorn came to the programme with 4-weeks to go before the World Title fight, and with no strength and conditioning training history. Also, Olofsson was keen to win some ‘buy-in’ from Pakorn, who was obviously sceptical of the effectiveness of (what was for him) a new training methodology. All of this will have affected the programme design significantly.

Baseline assessments seemed to show Pakorn had some hip mobility issues and relatively poor foundation strength in the fundamental movement patterns (which is to be expected, he’s never trained them). Hip mobility may come as a surprise to you though, I mean Pakorn can kick someone in the head, surely he has good hip mobility? I find the mobility required to high kick isn’t the same as the mobility required to drive through a deep range of motion from the floor. When I first started weight training, I struggled to hit deep exercise positions with the correct shaped back, despite easily being capable of kicking head height. Your body cheats it’s way around movements it can’t do without you knowing.

Ankle mobility also looked to be an issue for Pakorn – I spotted the coaching team had Pakorn goblet squatting with his heels raised up on a weight plate to compensate for lack of range of motion. I find this is typical for many Thai boxers. Ankle sprains/strains can occur when kicking pads and bags, or in sparring, which will reduce ankle range of motion if not specifically addressed once healed. Pakorn probably needs to reclaim motion lost though a history of kicking impact.

Although strength building would have been the best place to start in his programme, with just 4-weeks to go, Pakorn couldn’t afford this. So with some basic movement pattern coaching and a little strength development, the focus of the programme was on power (applying his existing strength as explosively as possible). In fact, the primary focus seemed to be on power-endurance – with foundation strength and power ‘coached in’ along the way – which is all that realistically could be done within the given constraints.

Programmed training should begin with a general focus, and become more specific as the phases progress toward an important competition. The final training phase is the most sport specific, looks more like Muay Thai, and should include as much Muay Thai as possible. In this respect, it was the perfect time for Pakorn to experience strength and conditioning, as it was easier for him to relate the S&C methods to Muay Thai and buy-in to the training.

However, if the S&C coaches are serious about giving Pakorn a full strength and conditioning programme that really boosts his athletic foundation, he should now return to a general phase of strength, before progressing through a focused power phase and finally once again onto new, higher levels of power endurance.

I’ve run out of time right now, but I’ll go into the specifics of the selected exercises in this video another time.

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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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