Muay Thai strength training is a recurring question, so let’s take the opportunity to clear things up a little. We’ll look at how to build strength in the first place, and how to get stronger when strength gains dry up!

We’ll look at this from both the novice strength training end of the spectrum and the more experienced lifters perspective, and while managing this in context of your Muay Thai training program too.

And as promised, I’ve shared some links to more information on topics mentioned too – just see the  transcript below for the links in context!


Hello and welcome to the Heatrick Strength and conditioning podcast… from the leading MuayThai performance coaching company for busy Thai boxers and trainers to achieve total physical confidence for the biggest fights.

In this episode I’m going to discuss how fighters can get stronger! Strength is a crucial foundation for all athletic qualities. If you want to be faster or more powerful, then you first need to be capable of producing more force (become stronger). It’s something I’m always banging on about, and for good reason. And most fighters are still getting it very wrong.

From the many questions I get from fighters, the majority still aren’t training for strength, although they mistakenly believe they are. And for those that have been strength training, how do you bust through that plateau when your strength progress stalls because you’re fighting so regularly, like pro member Richi Alvarez has found in Thailand?

Well let’s spend this episode having a quick round up.

Firstly, strength requirements are relative. For example, a Thai boxer doesn’t need the same strength levels as wrestler. However, without a decent level of relative strength your ultimate performance will suffer and your risk of injury increases significantly. In fact, local osteopaths and therapists refer a lot of injured clients to me that simply need strengthening to get them out of pain and to move well.

Strength training develops the maximum amount of force you can produce. It’s heavy and slow. Where as power training develops how explosively quickly you can apply your force against resistance. Speed training develops the maximum velocity you can move at against little or no resistance. Exercise choices and loads must be selected to satisfy all of these requirements. These all fit on a force–velocity curve… and I’ll post a link in the text with this podcast to a video to explain this curve in more detail.


Recently I shared a post on my Facebook page of FSC Muay Thai coach Sonny Perez working his heavy deadlifts from my online strength and conditioning program. This lift epitomises strength. Let’s look at the basics of strength development, and then we’ll look at how to advance things if your progress get stuck.

Strength training requires heavy compound lifts, so use deadlifts, squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, rows, pull ups. Bilateral lifts, that’s using both limbs together, also have a better strength development effect than single limb exercises.

The 3-5 rule is a good start when it comes to strength training…

  • Load those heavy compound lifts for typically 3-5 sets or 3-5 reps.
  • Take 3-5 minutes rest between exercise sets.
  • Use 3-5 strength exercises per session

So hopefully you can see, if you’re using a circuit training sessions with lower load, higher reps, less rest and a ton of different exercises, you’re not going to build strength. That’s a metabolic conditioning session, not a strength session.

Strength training is very different. And it’s why most fighters don’t get stronger, they tend to want to turn all sessions into conditioning sessions, which then wastes the opportunity to build something different, and vital!

That 3-5 mins rest between strength exercise sets is the main psychological sticking point for fighters, but we can productively shortcut this by placing two non-competing exercises back to back in a superset, and then resting for a couple of minutes before repeating that pair of exercises again. That means at least 3 mins will have gone by, by the time you return to the first exercise in the superset.

A little tip, I tend to program a mobility exercise in that rest period too, to make the session even more valuable.

You also need at least two total body strength sessions in your program every week, on non-consecutive days (so make sure you don’t do two days in a row). You can go to three sessions in a week at a stretch, but most fighters struggle to fit that in around all the other cardio conditioning and Muay Thai training – and recovery can be tricky.

And balancing recovery is the whole game. We must remember that training is the stimulus, but it’s during the recovery from this stimulus that the adaptation happens – when you get fitter, stronger, more powerful, faster.

If you’re all stimulus and no adaptation you’re going nowhere!

And the recovery time from a real strength and power training is significant – up to 72-hours on a heavy week! So if you’re body isn’t used to that, or you’re not programming your sessions correctly, then getting enough recovery can be a problem.

If you’re otherwise getting these parts of your training right, then there are two simple, key players that can take your recovery, and therefore your training and performance, to the next level…

Firstly getting good nutrition. And a key component for athletes looking to recover quickly and get stronger is protein. I like to target 2g of protein for every kg of bodyweight you have during heavy training periods. Make sure you’re overeating by 200-300 kcals per day too.

Secondly, get enough sleep! Try and get 8-hours sleep every day and see how that compounds your recovery and your performance.

Moving beyond this, for fighters more experienced in lifting who’ve hit a strength plateau, I recommend my online clients to double up on a 4-week strength training block, making it into an 8-week block.

I don’t recommend going any longer than this as the training effect diminishes. You’re instead better shifting your next training block to a power or speed emphasis to reset, and make you responsive to strength training again.

For experienced lifters, I also recommend adding an extra set to the strength training exercise. So for example, if the program calls for 3 sets of 5 reps of a deadlift, then go for 4 sets of 5 reps to push up the training volume.

This can increase strength gains, but only use extra sets if needed, otherwise it won’t be an effective method when you do need it to bust through a strength plateau.

Also bear in mind that if you add some strength sets in your session, you’ll need to take some other exercise sets away.

My programs use a conjugate training method, meaning that I include exercise sets for speed, power and strength in each session. If I add a set to any strength exercises, I’d generally take a set away from the speed training exercise quota for that session to avoid over stimulus and under recovery!

Wrapping up here, there are massive athletic benefits to be had if you manage your strength and conditioning training well. But many are still wasting the opportunity. As a fighter or a coach, you can take advantage of this and get ahead of the competition.

  • Use the 3-5 rule for strength training sets, reps, number of exercises, and rest between exercise sets.
  • Use two total body routines with heavy bilateral compound lifts.
  • Get 2g of protein per kg of body weight and overeat by 200-300 kcals each day
  • Sleep for 8 hours every day
  • Extend strength training blocks up to 8-weeks before changing emphasis
  • Add extra strength training sets if you really get stuck, but make sure you take something else away if you do.

That’s all we’ve got time for in this episode. If you’ve got any questions, or want to check out our library of free articles and videos, head over to, where I’d love to help you reach your Muay Thai goals.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Heatrick Muay Thai Strength and Conditioning podcast on Anchor, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts – and you can audio message me your questions on Anchor too, so you can feature personally in future episodes! I’ll Catch you next time.

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:


Unlock Your Muay Thai Potential

with the Optimal Fight Camp Blueprint

Elevate Your Game Through Strategic Strength & Conditioning

Becoming a dominant force in the ring requires more than just sweat and hard work; it demands a precise strategy

Our 12-week fight camp blueprint is your roadmap to superior athleticism and ring dominance, regardless of your current level.

When you adhere to scientifically-proven training principles, you’re setting yourself apart from the rest. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ you’ll reach your goals.

Navigating this path can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve compiled the ‘Optimal Fight Camp Blueprint’ into a comprehensive PDF guide to simplify your training planning.