by Don Heatrick

Father Time waits for no man, and if you haven’t already felt how getting older affects your Muay Thai, it’s a certainty you will.

In this episode, I’ll look at what you need to do to keep doing what you love (Muay Thai) and remaining badass for the rest of your life…

What’s vital to remaining vital!

There comes a time for every Thai boxer, when they become aware that there were benefits to being younger in this game…

And that now training may have to be approached differently.

For those that have been in Muay Thai since their youngest years, and that have a high degree of body awareness, this realisation kicks in much earlier!

For example, in my podcast interview with 25 year old, 2x world champion Daniel McGowan, he already realises what he used to do wasn’t necessary at the time, and isn’t efficient or productive for him at the age he is now – despite approaching his athletic peak!

We’ve ALL been a bit “Yee-haw” in our training when we were younger, it’s par for the course. Don’t beat yourself up about that!

But if you ask questions of yourself, with experience you can build wisdom.

So let’s drop a few facts before I go on…

Strength protects your joints, flexibility doesn’t.

You lose strength as you age, and you lose power and speed the quickest.

Picture an elderly person trying to get out of a chair, and having to use their arms to boost them up and help.

This is because they’ve lost significant lower body strength. They’re no longer strong enough to lift their own body weight, let alone an external load.

And when you picture an older fighter, you see a fighter that is literally getting slower.

I’ll be 50 next year, I’m perched on the edge of another statistically typical age-related drop off in athletic performance…

More on the expected rates of decline, and what you can do about it in a moment.

But first, let’s look at what most people think you should do to age well…

Everyone focuses on cardio fitness, flexibility and mobility as they age… which are important, but NOT the most critical.

The quickest declining and most ageing qualities to lose are strength, power, and speed – the neuromuscular qualities.

These are things that aren’t developed during running sessions, Yoga classes, or Muay Thai training.

They are developed in resistance training sessions.

Joints are better protected when the muscles that pull on the joints are strong enough all directions that they pull. Think of guy ropes on pulling on a tent pole.

If some guy ropes are tight and others are slack, the pole is going to fall over. It’s the same with your joints.

Fighters in particular perform a ton of horizontal pushing with the high volume of punches thrown and push ups, but rarely do enough horizontal pulling exercise to stabilise the shoulders properly.

Over the years the tension on the guy ropes on those shoulders gets further and further out of whack, until the tent pole falls over.

And then you can’t train Muay Thai anymore until it’s fixed… and the longer you left it, the longer that’ll take.

That’s in the short term.

If you love Muay Thai, and want to continue training in it until you pop your clogs, rather than you when you pop your shoulder, back, hips, or knee…

Then resistance training is a very, VERY, wise investment. 

Muay Thai will always be number one, the most fun. But to continue having this fun for as long as possible, you’ve got to maintian a youthful body. 

And if you’re getting older, you need to arrest the decline as much as possible, or even rewind the clock for those that have yet to exploit strength and conditioning.

You loose muscle mass as you age (that’s sarcopenia), but you loose strength between 2 to 5 times faster (that’s called dynapenia).

What happens is you loose the ability to electrically fire the muscle fibres that you have left.

But strength, power, and speed training reconnects and strengthens the firing of your muscle fibres, and helps hold onto your muscle mass too.

Massively reducing sarcopenia and dynapenia as you age.

You’ll typically peak between the ages of 20 to 30, with a slow decline of about 1-2% per year until the age of 50….

With a steeper decline of about 1.5 to 3% per year between the ages of 50 and 60….

Before declining between 3 to 5% per year until you are no more!

If you’re beating this rate of decline, you’re winning big time.

For example, how much could you deadlift when you were 20 to 30 years old?

At 40 years old, if you can lift 98% of that, you’re top of the curve!

At 50 years old, if you can lift just over 96% of you best, you’re also top of the curve!

If you’ve not lifted before, then you have lots of untapped potential… 

You can get stronger despite getting older! I’ve lots of clients like this.

Studies show that 68 year old strength trained adults can have strength, power, and speed levels similar to 28 year olds… that’s 40 years younger! 

Research shows that the best way for ageing adults to train is using a concurrent training model…

where strength, power, speed, and endurance are trained concurrently at the same time…

Just like I train fighters!

Another little fact for you…

Studies have found that even resistance training for a year, and then stopping…

will offset your age related decline compared to anyone that doesn’t resistance train, even seven years later…

You’ll ALWAYS be ahead of those the same age that haven’t used resistance training.

And the longer you resistance train, the less the tail off in your athletic abilities, and the bigger the difference between you and those the same age.

Although the ageing process can’t be stopped, it’s obvious from research over the last 50 years that the rate of athletic decline can be massively reduced.

It’s easy to dismiss training methods if you haven’t invested time in understanding them. 

I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, and I see lots of people jumping to conclusions without investigating deep enough.

If you’ve been neglecting effective strength and conditioning, it’s never too late to begin! 

And the sooner you start, the bigger the benefit for the rest of your (hopefully) long and super active life.

And the later you’ll have to give up on Muay Thai training altogether… Personally, I plan to be kicking like a mule right up until I kick the bucket!

Actually, I want that written on my headstone!

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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