It’s rife all over the internet, because it’s eye catching and appears to make sense to the layman. But fight specific exercise has gone rogue, and needs reigning in.

Muay Thai specific exercise is a small piece of the strength and condition puzzle, but transfer of training is everything!

In this video I explain why sport specific exercises shouldn’t be overused, when they a best employed, and which ones to avoid completely.


Featuring Manachai, Singdam, Liam Harrison & Thonsai

“In a good programme, there’s a time and a place for less specific training, and highly (Muay Thai) specific training. The trick is to know how much to use, and when to use it.”

For a Thai boxer, there are three main collaborate elements to a programme; and that’s strength & power training, cardio conditioning training and of course Muay Thai training.

Although there’s an overlap between all three, each element should focus on it’s own specific adaptations to bring about enough overload to trigger the body to get fitter, stronger, more powerful, and technically and tactically better at Muay Thai.

If training in Muay Thai alone can’t bring about enough stimulus, then supplemental cardio or strength and power training should plug the gap.

Without progressive overload to trigger continuous development, you’ll only get so far with your performance and then it then plateaus. And this is where most fighters remain stuck without, planned progressive training to take them beyond that glass ceiling.

With supplemental training picking up tab to break through these sticking points, we consistently have a spectrum of training activities, ranging from non-Muay Thai specific to specific. With the most specific being fighting in the ring itself.

Now as a coach, I’m NOT looking for Muay Thai specific training all the time. I’m looking for transfer of training. And let me explain the difference.

Being too sport specific for too long doesn’t overload certain characteristics enough to optimise athletic performance. Being too specific doesn’t vary the demands on the body, which not only under develops athletic performance, but also massively increases the risk of overuse injuries. You need balance.

In a good programme, there’s a time and a place for less specific training AND highly specific training – the trick is to know how much to use, and when to use it.

Sport specific training converts the performance you’ve gained with less specific work into something that’s useable in the ring. It’s the glue between the two. It transfers better athletic qualities into applicable Muay Thai qualities.

And this is transfer of training. If your training doesn’t improve your fight performance, then you’ve got poor transfer of training.

Good coaches, and good programmes manage transfer of training effectively. They don’t just throw together what appears to be sport specific exercises. They manage progressive overload, from general exercises to sport specific ones that transfer into something meaningful against an opponent.

And sport specific doesn’t just mean loading up Muay Thai techniques. I see that all over the internet, and that’s a mistake. Many of these don’t improve your fight technique. At best they waste time and energy, and at worst they’re detrimental to your performance!

So to round up for this video (and we’ll go into more detail in the next one), general exercises allow you to overload more and build athletic qualities, the sport specific exercises convert those gains into fight performance.

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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