What do I mean, “Training and fighting the curve?”

It’s a fundamental principle of performance training that I’d like to breakdown for you, specifically for Muay Thai athletes. If you can grasp this, and structure your training to exploit it, I guarantee you’ll unlock more of what you’re truly capable of.

There’s two videos, offering bite-size chunks for you to think about.


Featuring Manachai, Joe Le Maire, and Tom Austin.

In this first part, I explain what the force-velocity curve is, and which exercises develop each area of the curve.

“Most Thai boxers only work the light, fast end of ‘the curve’… That’s a mistake, that leaves you under developed… You’ll have a lot more left in you.”

When it comes to training and fighting, strength, power and speed are three different (although dependant) physical qualities. And each one needs attention to reach your full athletic potential. And just like I’ve explained in previous videos, supplemental strength and conditioning is the only way to unlock all that a Thai boxer truly has.

Strength, power and speed are all parts of a continuum on a force velocity curve, from heavy and slow on one end, to light and fast on the other.

This begins with maximal strength, built with heavy lifts like deadlifts, squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, pull ups and rows at typically 90% of 1RM or higher.

This requires high force production, but it’s so heavy it moves slowly.

The next part of the curve, strength-speed builds POWER against heavy loads. That’s applying your force explosively quickly. And that’s done using heavily loaded Olympic lifts such as the split jerk, jerk press, clean, clean and jerk, and heavy jump squats, heavy kettlebell swings.

Then we move on to the speed-strength part of the curve, where the loads are a bit lighter, and therefore faster. This part of the curve is improved using the lighter Olympic lifts like the snatch, power clean etc., some plyometrics, medicine ball drills, lighter jump squats, lighter kettlebell swings.

At the lightest and fastest end of the curve we have speed, with no external resistance. Training for this is done using reaction drills, faster plyometrics, sprints, single kicks, punches etc.

Most Thai boxers only work this light, fast end of the curve. But this is sport specific isn’t it? And best for Muay Thai?

No, it’s a mistake that leaves you under developed, you’ll have a lot more left in you.

It’s true that generally, speed and power is more important than strength in Muay Thai, because we rarely have the luxury to of taking as long as we’d like to apply out force – we must strike, throw and defend as quickly as possible. But this doesn’t mean that strength training shouldn’t be part of a Thai boxers training.


Featuring Manachai and Singdam.

This final part, explains how your training affects the force-velocity curve, both positively and negatively. And how your fighting style affects which areas of the curve you depend on the most.

“Just as exercises fit on a force-velocity continuum, from strength at one end, and speed at the other, Muay Thai technique does too…”

First of all, if you haven’t seen part one of this video, go and watch that now…

…Ok, so moving on.

…This is how structured strength and conditioning training should affect your force velocity curve. IF you get it right.

It should improve all the way through. To get the most power or speed, you must first be sufficiently strong. We then covert that that power (that’s strength-speed and speed-strength) and then into speed.

It’s possible with a lopsided training emphasis to be strong without being powerful. There’s plenty of bench press monsters that can’t snap out a fast, powerful punch. Their training affects the curve like this (diminished velocity curve shift).

And equally, most Thai boxers have a massive speed emphasis, and lack strength and real power. And that affects the curve like this (diminished strength-speed curve shift).

Remember, you the develop greatest speed and power when it’s balanced with development along the whole curve right down to maximal strength.

And in my opinion, fighters are best to train concurrently, that’s train all qualities at the same time, so that you don’t lose significant speed and power while developing strength and vice versa. Then you’ll never go into a fight with your curve all out of whack.

Although concurrent training trains all qualities, it focuses on blocks that improve either strength or power, or speed, while maintaining the others. You can’t improve all of them at the same time. It’s physically impossible, that’s just not how your body works.

So some planning is needed to make this happen. And there’s more of that in some of my other videos.

But here’s something else I want you to consider. I mentioned that generally, power and speed is more important than strength to a Thai boxer, because of the explosive nature of striking. And this is true, but just as exercises fit on a force-velocity continuum from strength at one end, to speed at the other, Muay Thai technique does too.

At one end we have high-strength technique in the clinch, at the other end high-speed technique like punches. And of course we have everything in between too. So if you’re a fighter that likes to clinch and jump strike, you’ll need more strength than fighter that prefers to punch, kick, elbow and knee.

And aggressive style fighters use more strength than elusive and counter fighters too. So although all fighters must build sufficient strength to serve as a power and speed foundation, some fighters will employ more strength than others during a fight, depending on their style. It’s important to train the individual not just the sport…

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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