I’m often asked for a genuine training program for Thai boxers that don’t have access to any gym equipment – something to supplement the typical training regimen in Thailand…
And in the current climate, something you can do at home when your gym has closed to help control the COVID-19 outbreak.
So I set about the following program design brief…
Produce a 4-week strength and conditioning routine for Muay Thai fighters to develop functional strength, while concurrently training explosive power, and maximum speed – using only body weight and equipment available in any Muay Thai gym, such as a punch bag and some Thai pads.
If you want your free login access straight away, to watch the exercise tutorial videos and download the templates, click here..
If you want to know more first, here’s the outline of the routine:
SPS Routine Outline & Progression
1) Spiderman Lunge with Reach x5 reps per side
2) Split Squat x8 reps per side
3) Drop Squat x5 reps
4) 3x sets of Split Punches x10 reps and Jump Jacks x10 reps
A1) Thai Pad Hurdles x5 reps
A2) Heavy Bag Shoulder Butt x10 reps per side OR Explosive Hip Extension With Reach
Rest 1 minute, repeat for 3-5 circuit sets
B1) 180º or 360º Jumps x2-5 reps per side
B2) Thai Pad Plyo Push Ups x1-5 reps
Rest 1 minute, repeat for 3-5 circuit sets
C1) Single Leg Squat, Single Leg Box Squat, or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats x1-5 reps per side
C2) Single Arm Press Ups, or Elevated Version x1-5 reps per side
C3) Punch Bag Chin Ups, Alternating Side Chin Ups, or Floor Wiper Press x1-5 reps per side
Rest 1 minute, repeat for 3-5 circuit sets
Week 1 (Low) 3x circuit sets per exercise
Week 2 (Med) 4x circuit sets per exercise
Week 3 (High) 5x circuit sets per exercise
Week 4 (Deload) 2-3x circuit sets per exercise
Functional Exercise Selection – The Purpose Behind Every Exercise
You’ll likely be wondering why I’ve chosen these particular exercises for this routine. So let me briefly share with you my thought process behind every exercise selection I’ve made.
So building on the program design brief…
It’s important to provide not only exercises that satisfy the force and velocity requirements to develop strength, power, and speed…
But also balance strength on either side of the joints to not only improve athletic performance, but also reduce injury.
Therefore the routine must include lower-body exercises, upper-body push and pull exercises, along with core exercises too.
Activation/Movement Preparation Exercises
Spiderman Lunge with Reach
We start the activation and movement preparation section of the routine gently, priming the body for the next exercise, which in turn primes for the next exercise and so on.
The Spiderman Lunge with Reach does a good job of getting the whole body moving while challenging mobility and coordination.
This exercise increases the strength demands and activates the body for the unilateral single leg power and strength training coming up later in the session.
Increasing the intensity of force production, this exercise switches on reactive strength needed for the hurdles coming up in the next main exercise section.
Split Punches & Jump Jacks
Continuing to raise the pulse rate, this exercise now loads the calves and Achilles tendons in preparation for the plyometric hurdles coming right up.
Both shoulder and hip joints are also mobilised in multiple planes of movement to finish priming the body, and the “warm up” is now complete.
The session starts with the most rapid and difficult exercises to coordinate, while fatigue is low and the movement quality will be the highest.
Thai Pad Hurdles
This plyometric exercise develops stretch-shortening-cycle ability in the lower body. Ground contact times should be less than 250 milliseconds and elastic, reactive abilities enhanced considerably.
Heavy Bag Shoulder Butt (if you have a punch bag)
The same elastic, plyometric ability must also be developed in the core musculature. And this exercise achieves that while also improving motor pattern coordination – driving triple-extension from the ground through the hips, transmitting power via the core to the shoulder girdle, and on into a target.
This is a highly sport specific core power exercise that not only trains raw athletic ability, but also Muay Thai specific skill.
If you’re stuck at home without a punch bag, here’s a very practical alternative to the Heavy Bag Shoulder Butt for you…
Explosive Hip Bridge With Reach (if you don’t have a punch bag)
With this exercise, you are still training elastic, plyometric core musculature along with a coordinated hip extension pattern.
The next section of the routine increases the force demands by increasing the resistance, while also maintaining high-velocity movement. This will develop athletic power.
Coordination demands are still high, so this section must follow the speed section, while fatigue is still low.
180˚ or 360˚ Jumps
These turning jump exercises demand a high rate of force development to overcome the mass of your body, via a unilateral leg loading – predominantly on one leg.
The coordination of the arms in a counter-rotation (to generate both upward lift and transverse rotation of the whole body) is also very Muay Thai specific.
Thai Pad Plyo Push Ups
This exercise develops explosive upper body power while accelerating your body upward against gravity. The force demands are high, and the resulting velocity is too.
And this exercise also targets exceptional core power/stiffness – resisting collapse as the upper body explodes into action.
As fatigue builds throughout the session, we move into the least demanding tasks in terms of motor coordination. And the slowest movements, as a result of the greatest force demands.
Single Leg Squats, Single Leg Box Squat, or RFESS
Loading the lower body with enough resistance to improve strength using only body weight alone is difficult. Single leg exercise is the only way this can possibly be achieved.
A strong exercise specification is needed for those already with a reasonable level of strength, but must be regressed for those that aren’t there just yet. The Box Single Leg Squat and Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS) exercise options temper loading demands as required to provide everyone, regardless of relative strength levels, the training dose they need to improve.
Single leg stability and strength has a great deal of “carry over” to Muay Thai, and will directly improve Muay Thai performance.
Single Arm Push Up
This exercise provides sufficient overload to develop upper body strength… and the due to the unilateral loading, places significant anti-rotation strength demand on the core too…
We get a huge 2-for-1 deal with this exercise, all without any external loading at all.
Exercise regressions are also provided (shifting load away from the arm, and into the feet) for those with lower strength levels to begin with.
Punch Bag Chin Ups (if you have a punch bag)
Developing pulling strength using body weight requires something to hang from. Luckily, in a Muay Thai gym we have punch bags to achieve this at the very least.
The grip on a punch bag’s straps is actually very similar to clinching and has great carryover to Muay Thai.
Beyond the regular chin up, the alternate side version provides enough overload for those with greater strength levels already. And the friction of the body on the bag makes for an interesting load addition too!
If you’re stuck at home without a punch bag, here’s a very practical alternative to Punch Bag Chin Ups for you…
Floor Wiper Press (if you don’t have a punch bag)
Using this alternative exercise, you’re still training upper back strength in a sport specific manner.
Usually I program varying loads each week, based on a percentage of a tested rep-max for each exercise (the maximum load lifted in perfect form for a given number of reps). But without access to such training equipment, and using body weight loading alone, I’ve opted to progressively increase the volume (number of sets) over the four weeks to create the overload needed to cause the body to adapt – and get stronger, more powerful, and faster.
The relative number of sets and reps in each exercise section (speed, power, and strength) has been specified to concurrently train all three qualities, while emphasising strength development.
I hope sharing insight into my thought process behind this routine helps you understand why it’s designed the way it is, and how you can structure your own training more effectively in the future too.