by Don Heatrick

Recently I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with the legendary sport scientist, educator, and strength and conditioning coach Dr Yessis. In this podcast I summarise my reflections on Muay Thai S&C as a result of that chat!


Welcome to the Heatrick Heavy Hitters podcast. Muay Thai has become your passion. You want to stop wasting opportunities. You want to leave your mark. You are a… Heavy Hitter.

Together we are the movers and shakers of the Muay Thai community, those challenging themselves on a daily basis to become more. Challenging Muay Thai to become more!

Heavy Hitters are the Thai boxers and coaches of all levels looking for the most efficient and effective Muay Thai performance training-strategies and tactics to level up. I’m Don Heatrick, and my mission is to share with you just that!

Recently I was invited by Lawrence Kenshin to speak on his podcast with the legendary sports scientist , educator and strength and conditioning Coach Dr Michael Yessis. This conversation will be published very soon, and I’ll share it in sections on this (Heavy Hitters) podcast too… but I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on some overarching thoughts after speaking with Dr Yessis.

When it comes to programming strength and conditioning training for any sport, there is no perfect plan or absolutely perfect method. There is always compromise. The task of the strength and conditioning coach is to balance the program as best as possible with the needs and demands of both the individual fighter and the sport of Muay Thai itself.

The objective is to develop a better fighter in the long-term, while serving the short-term targets as best as possible. This requires a degree of short-term sacrifice in order to claim a considerable long-term gain – be that both in physical performance and career longevity through reduced injury.

If you ask 10 different S&C coaches how they’d put together a program for a specific sport, you’ll get as many different answers. Each coach will have their own unique experience of what has worked with the athletes they’ve trained in similar conditions in the past, and each coach will have their own level of understanding of the sport itself.

Muay Thai is something I’m passionate about. I’m lucky to have been involved at all levels in the sport both as a fighter and as a coach now for nearly 25-years, and in combat sports even longer than that. For the last 10-years I’ve also been working as a full time as a strength and conditioning coach too. As a result, my approach will be unique to me and my experience.

The problems we face in programming training for Thai boxers are challenging! We have a sport that comes from a country steeped in tradition and superstition, with training methods largely handed down word of mouth from coach to coach with little or no scientific basis. We have a full-contact discipline with no offseason and often very regular competition. We have athletes that need a good mix of aerobic fitness, muscular endurance, strength, power and speed, along with great mobility and stability. And it’s a sport requiring a tremendous amount of technical and tactical skill practice. We also of course need to achieve all this while making weight for every fight!

It’s a tricky one. And of course there are many ways to tackle this. It’s a conundrum I’ve enjoyed tackling and refining over the years – one that requires fighters be prepared to step out of the current norm for the sport in order to move to the next level athletically.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s of course plenty going right in Thailand, lots of great training methods being used. But there’s also poorly coordinated methods that waste effort, and untapped athletic abilities completely left by the wayside. And far from saying we need to scrap the Thai way of training, I’m saying we need to tweak it and supplement it. We need to consider the individual fighter more and progressively develop them.

We need to foster an environment that more efficiently squeezes the most juice out of the situation rather than just spends the most time trying to do so – and we need to strategically consider a fighter’s full career in the longer-term too rather than being overly focused simply on the next fight.

I love Muay Thai, and I love Thailand. But an overly romanticised view of the training and the sport prevents an objective assessment of how best to train Thai boxers to truly excel and achieve the most they personally can given their own unique family genetics.

When I first started blogging about Muay Thai strength and conditioning back in 2012, things were very different. Strength and conditioning was’t widely known in Muay Thai circles and my objective was to shine a light on the possibility of enhancing Muay Thai performance with improved supplemental training.

Now, every Thai boxer is familiar with S&C, it’s just the application of it that’s not so well understood… and understandably so, considering everything I’ve mentioned so far!

The rewards for those able to crack this nut are considerable, and Muay Thai fight training is evolving despite all the challenges. And I’m proud to be playing a part in raising awareness of this previously overlooked and massively misunderstood part of a complete fighters training program.

I don’t have all the answers, I’m continually learning – adding to my bank of experience and methods – and I always will be! But I’m truly excited to continue sharing with you Heavy Hitters how I personally roll out strength and conditioning for Muay Thai and offer training tools and full training programs too.

It was an honour to speak with Dr Yessis, and thank you to Lawrence Kenshin for setting that opportunity up. And like I say, I’ll also be releasing digestible sections of my chat with Dr Yessis right here on the Heavy Hitters podcast too.

That’s it for today’s episode, I hope it’s given you some context for your training as a whole.

When it comes to getting a head start on planning which sessions go where in your training week, there’s a free cheat sheet download to help you out over at, that’s H E A T R I C K, where you can find all the Heavy Hitters resources, articles and videos. Including a transcript of this podcast, and some extra links too. And there’s a link to that transcript page along with this podcast.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Heatrick Heavy Hitters podcast on iTunes, stitcher, anchor or wherever you get you podcasts – and you can audio message me on anchor too, so you can feature in future episodes.

Heavy Hitters, I challenge you to discover, practice, and become. And 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.

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