I recently watched footage of my nephew, Matthew Butcher fighting at Bangla Boxing Stadium in Phuket…

…it again seems the promoters abandoned the weighing scales in favour of  “eyeing up”, and memory. Obviously not the most reliable method of matching fighters!

It’s frustrating for fighters and coaches alike. And Sumalee Boxing Gym now refuse to take such fights, regardless of how enthusiastic the fighters may be to crown their training period with this fight, on this night.

But it happens to every fighter at some stage, and it can be a great learning experience… a test of heart.

Having fought this one at (around a 10kg?) disadvantage, Matthew’s next fight will feel so much easier!

…And a few stitches make for a good anecdote anyway (Go Warrior)! ;)

But why does Muay Thai have weight classes?

….Because extra “functional” weight means extra strength and power – certainly tipping the odds in favour of the bigger fighter.

But did you know, you can train to build extra strength and power WITHOUT putting on extra weight?

It’s not just about having more muscle, it’s about having better coordinated, more efficient, better contracting muscle.

This is done by training the central nervous system to better recruit the muscle fibres you’ve already got, rather than make the muscles fibres themselves bigger (and heavier).

To best do this you need resistance. You must overload the neuromuscular system to make it adapt. Just mashing out endless push-ups won’t make you stronger and more powerful.

Push-ups are a tool to build muscular endurance, not increase force production (strength) or how quickly you can apply that force (power).

I’m not into wasting time. If it’s not needed, don’t do it.

Anything you do in the weights room should give you something that Muay Thai training doesn’t, or you’re simply better off practicing more Muay Thai!

The Good News And The Bad News

The good news… 90% of Thai boxers don’t have a clue how to train to boost performance with strength and power training. The bad news… you’re probably one of them!

…That’s a whole lot of weight-category-advantage going begging.

And it’s a shame, because it’s just as important to develop your athletic foundation as it is your fight skill and fight IQ.

Building this foundation doesn’t happen overnight, it takes consistent investment. But the reward is massive. And because there are no shortcuts (and most people go the LONG way round anyway), the sooner you start, the further ahead of your competitors you’ll be.

Your strength and power will naturally peak around the ages of 30-35 years old. Ever heard the term “mature muscle”?

Many talented junior fighters stepping up to adult competition often find that despite their high skill levels, they struggle against more mature fighters at the same weight. They simply don’t exhibit the same degree of power… yet.

Younger fighters ABSOLUTELY should be taking advantage of their greater capacity to recover from training, and should be building a strength and power platform that will make them markedly different to their peers.

On the flip-side, older fighters can maintain peak levels for longer by not allowing their strength and power to diminish as quickly as they age… again, proper strength and conditioning gives you this.

Make it your mission to leave no stone unturned. Fill in the gaps in your training programme with smart strength and conditioning. Invest time in something that will consistently give you the strength and power of the weight class above you… WITHOUT being that heavy.

It’s like having permanently made a great weight cut…

…gaining an (un)fair advantage in the ring!

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.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram:


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