by Don Heatrick

I’m often asked how I choose exercises for a fighter’s gym session.

So I’ve broken down the steps I mentally run through when planning a strength and conditioning session – to ensure productive progress for every minute in the gym.

So let’s get to it…

My 9-step logic to selecting the best/most appropriate exercises for each category in any gym based session.

As I explain my thought processes, I’ll flag up some topics that may be new to you.

Where I can, I’ll provide you links to articles and videos that will deep-dive into those more thoroughly for you.

There’s a hierarchy to the decisions involved in choosing the best exercises for a fighter, so let’s begin at step 1…

Step 1. Which athletic quality(s) am I looking to develop?


Step 2. Which movement pattern am I looking to develop?

hip dominant
knee dominant
– horizontal push
– vertical push
– horizontal pull
vertical pull
core anti-rotation
core anti-extension

Step 3. Which training block am I looking to match from the fight camp blueprint (predominant athletic quality emphasis)?

mobility & movement
functional strength
– explosive power
maximum speed

Step 4. What training equipment is available?

body weight only
med balls
barbells & plates
– weighted sled
aerodyne bike
a steep hill!
– etc.

Step 5. What restrictions does the layout of the training facility present?

perhaps you can’t throw med balls at walls
– there are no bumper plates
– or it’s too crowded
– etc.

Step 6. Are there any equipment setup constraints on the intended supersetted exercises that are trained back to back?

– is the gym equipment poorly laid out (across opposite sides of the gym)
– is there no room to superset two paired exercises together
– or maybe there aren’t enough barbells or dumbbells
– etc.

Step 7. Are there currently any injury or mobility restrictions to consider for the fighter?

– shoulder internal or external range of motion or injury?
– range of motion or injury to hips, knees, ankles, elbows, wrists, or lower back, etc.

Step 8. What’s the fighter’s relative “training age” for this particular movement or athletic quality?

– Are they adapted to plyometrics (such as box jumps, hurdles, bounds, and depth jumps) without causing overuse injuries?
– How about skilled kettlebell technique (like swings, push presses, jerk presses, cleans, and snatches)
– or power lifting technique (such as squats, deadlifts presses, and rows) or olympic lifting technique (like high pulls, snatch, clean, and split jerk)
– etc.

Step 9. Select an appropriate exercise based on all the above!

The main thing here is that EVERY exercise, in EVERY session must be fully justified. If there’s no reason for an exercise to be there, it should be removed.

If the targeted athletic benefit can be developed during Muay Thai training, then it should be, not in supplemental S&C sessions! S&C should develop qualities that aren’t adequately built using Muay Thai training alone.

The predominant focus of each training block (movement, strength, power or speed) is the absolute priority. Although I recommend a conjugate or concurrent periodisation model for fighters training (where strength, power, and speed are simultaneously trained)… only one or two athletic qualities are targeted for development, while others are maintained.

For example you could develop both strength and aerobic power.

Adding something to a training session invariably means taking something else away. These decisions are always justified by going back to step 3 “Which training block am I looking to match from the fight camp blueprint?”

Don’t fall into the trap of just adding more and more, and ending up with a program that doesn’t make a fighter better – and just makes them fatigued!

Do check out the links scattered throughout the text transcript above to get extra detail on the topics I’ve discussed.

If you liked this, please hit the like button, share with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

And I would love to hear your feedback. So leave me your comments below the video and let me know what you thought of this episode and if you’ve found it useful.

Thank you, 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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