by Don Heatrick

No time for exercise? Fighters are juggling training and dropping balls.

There’ll always be life outside of training –– and for a fighter, it’s a delicate balance. And despite the guru’s calls for you to “make time”, sometimes it’s just impossible to make it all fit.

So when you’re in this situation, then what? Compromise? Yes. But, there’s a winning compromise and a losing one.

Let’s set you up for the win.

To download the cheat sheet click here.


When all efforts to make time for your planned training have failed, then this calls for a ruthless stripping down to bare essentials. Training must be condensed. And only the priority items must remain – to still get optimal results.

To find these priority items, I’ll explain my approach in three sections:

  1. The big picture.
  2. The medium picture.
  3. And the little picture.

We’ll begin with the most important decisions, the big picture, and drill down from there.


First, don’t feel guilty you don’t have all the training time you’d like. It is what it is. Just pick the most important stuff and get it done. It’s the 80/20 or Pareto rule. You must focus on the super-effective 20% of your training activities. Those that achieve 80% of the final result. This will be your priority list.

To find this, first consider the 3 foundation Thai boxing session types:

That’s your Muay Thai training, strength training, and cardio conditioning training. For each of these sessions you must understand that generally:

1x session per week is maintenance.

2x sessions per week is progress.

3x sessions per week is faster progress.

Now ask yourself:

What are you weakest at? What do you need to work on in a physical preparation sense?

Cardio? Strength? Power? Speed? Endurance? Mobility? Rehab?

Also consider. The longer you’ve spent building an athletic quality, the slower you’ll lose it if you stop training it. Conversely, if you’ve only recently built a quality, you’ll lose it again quicker too. S&C coaches call this training residuals.

My plate spinning analogy serves us well here. If you’ve been spinning a plate for a long time, it’s going nice and fast. And even if you stop spinning it, it’ll take a long time before it slows significantly and falls. But, if you’ve only just got a plate spinning, leave it and it will fall.

So bear this in mind when you’re deciding what your big picture priorities are right now. What’s going to move you forwards, and what can you afford to leave alone without significant consequence?

And of course, if you don’t have a fight or another deadline, you can generally afford to be more relaxed about everything.

Now let’s consider things at a slightly closer level. The medium picture.


Here we’ll assess your training week.

How many days this week do you have available to train?

How long do you have for your training sessions on those days? 15 mins? 30 mins? An hour or more?

Again, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve got what you’ve got. Just do the best you can with the time you have.

Now, which of your originally planned sessions are on your priority list? Do they fit in the time available in this week?

If they do, mission accomplished. If they don’t fit, let’s zoom in closer still and take a look at the little picture.


At this level, we look at the individual sessions themselves.

What time have you got for your session on a particular day?

What type of session is it? Muay Thai?, Strength training? Cardio training?

I then breakdown the planned session into its main exercise groups or chunks, and consider roughly how long each chunk typically takes:

A Warm up and movement prep chunk is typically 5-10 mins.

A Muay Thai bagwork chunk (5×3 min rounds including rest) is typically 20 mins.

A Resistance exercise super-set (two exercises back to back) is typically 10-15 mins.

And a Cardio Session is typically 10-30 mins.

If you’re really pushed for time in your Muay Thai training, consider bagwork. Because you’ll get in all your rounds without then having to hold pads for your partner too (which would double up your training time).

Also consider, a Muay Thai session may achieve the cardio benefit you need that week too. If it does, you can afford to drop the corresponding cardio session completely.

For example, if your program calls for a cardio session targeting threshold training (operating at your anaerobic threshold heart rate), then Muay Thai bagwork will serve that purpose too.

But most of the time, the priority session that needs squeezing in, is the strength (resistance training) session. Because you can’t get the same training effect from either your Muay Thai or Cardio sessions.  

Now, exercises in my resistance training sessions are grouped into the following sections:

  1. Soft Tissue
  2. Activation And Movement Prep
  3. Plyometric And Speed
  4. Power
  5. Strength

And the amount of session time spent in each section depends on the purpose of the session as a whole.

If you must shorten a session, you’d only pick the priority exercise sections – according to both your big picture goals, and your medium picture time constraints.

For example, if I needed to condense a planned resistance training session to under 30 minutes – and my priority was maintaining or developing strength – then I’d take the only the essential exercise sections needed for strength.

In this case, the Activation and Movement Prep exercises, and the Strength exercises. And depending on the number of exercise sets planned in this session, it would typically take between 20-30 mins to complete in total. A productive session in the bag. Move on.

Remember, if you can do everything in your training plan, that’s great! But if you can’t, don’t sweat it. Just laser-in on your priority-list activities and tick them off.

And honestly, depending on what you need work on, just 15 to 30 mins is plenty of time to get some great quality work in. Work that can and will make a real difference.

Don’t give up when you’re short of time. Pick the right stuff and get it done.

Click the link below this video to get access to my Planning Your Training Week Cheat Sheet”

Just follow through the guidelines and you’ll know how much training to do, what goes where, and for how long.

And if you liked this video, please hit like button below, share with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

And I would love to hear your feedback. So leave me some comments below and let me know what you thought of these tips and if you are going to use them.

Thank you, and I’ll catch you next time.

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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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