by Don Heatrick

I’m often asked questions similar to this…

“I was wondering something while I was training at Attachai. The sessions over there are way harder than I’m used to, but I assume he just puts me through Bangkok training. ⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣“How do Thais do this twice a day + running so much? I mean they have mostly long careers and I’ve never heard the Thais talk about overtraining”⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣And it’s a great question!

⁣⁣⁣Generally, Thais don’t understand how to program progressive training. They throw everyone into largely the same regimen, regardless if they’re beginners or seasoned pros.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣And those that can’t keep up, or become injured as a result are deemed “lazy”.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Even Damien Trainor shared with me in our podcast together, that after feeling like he was burning out in Thailand, he had to take a days rest – and then nobody at the camp would speak to him for 2-weeks!⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Any successful Thai nak muay started training at a young age – benefitting both from a slightly less demanding training routine, and being younger (recovering well from training) too.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣But even so, of the hundreds of thousands of child nak muay in Thailand, most are broken by the training and discarded.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Only the genetically gifted, those able to withstand the high volume of training without becoming injured, make it as an adult.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣These fighters aren’t necessarily the best technical fighters, only the most robust.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Many technically and tactically superior fighters will be discarded simply because their training was mismanaged – wasn’t progressively programmed.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Overtraining is real, and so are overuse injuries. And there’s a bone yard (of discarded fighters) that you don’t see.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣I’m not saying don’t train hard. I’m saying pay attention to your body and don’t break yourself trying to match those that have…⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣a) incrementally adjusted to tolerate high training volumes over years of training, and⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣b) are genetically more robust than the majority.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣Even Thais come undone when they’re training changes too much – even in as little as 5 mins work.

This surprised me too! Let me explain.

When I carried out athletic performance assessments on elite Thai boxers in Bangkok, with a 5 minute shuttle run in the morning…

I was shocked they told me their legs were too sore to kick properly when they rolled up for their afternoon training session!

These full time pro Thai boxers, with well over 15 years of training for 3 hours, twice every day, 6 days a week…

Were complaining about a 5 minute Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS) shuttle test – that even my health and fitness clients back home wouldn’t have any issues with.

These Thai fighters were finding that any new stimulus, even something very small like an increase in running intensity with demands of single leg stopping and turning, was a total shock to their bodies.

They were experiencing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for the first time since they were little kids, just starting their Muay Thai training.

DOMS usually peaks between 48-72 hours after exercise. And these guys hadn’t even hit 8 hours yet!

We know that muscle soreness happens as a result of damage caused by doing something that the structures aren’t adapted to.

This could be a significant change in volume and intensity, or performing a new movement through a different range of motion (ROM), and eccentric (lengthening) muscle actions are responsible for soreness, not the concentric (shortening) contractions.

These fighters were adapted to what they’ve been doing, day in, day out for years. But certainly not adaptable.

Now you can understand why you can’t just jump into the same regimen as the Thais without a progressive lead in either! And you shouldn’t be expect to.

Also, it’s easy to overstep the (entry) mark when the level of general preparedness isn’t being addressed.


DOMS aside, the fact that elite Thais can experience such a strong reaction to a 5 minute activity also points to something far more insidious for those training full time in Thailand…

The Thais were failing to understand what sport science calls the Law of Accommodation.

Despite all of their years of intense training, they are no longer “adapting” (getting better), they are merely “accommodating” (staying the same).

That’s a LOT of time spent tearing up your body for no further improvement

To get better, they must progressively plan their training better…

Introduce various training stimuli for long enough to reap the rewards, and then change it up before it goes stale.

Throwing more hours at your training is one way you can do it, but this quickly creates a glass ceiling, limiting ultimate progress…

And in reality, this ceiling can easily be broken, if you understand how to structure training more scientifically.

Luckily for Western fighters, by far the vast majority of Thai gyms don’t understand how to do this, and the traditional culture inhibits their advance in this respect.

Thais stick with the methods handed down from generations of coaches and fighters without question, without taking on new learning about physiology and performance, without attempting to improve things.

So although those training outside of Thailand can’t hope to match the fighters lifestyle afforded there…

Training twice a day, 6 days a week, taking a nap between sessions, with little or no other work or family commitments etc.

Western fighters can use a progressively planned (periodised) training program that plugs all the gaps missed in traditional Muay Thai training.

All it takes is some fundamental resistance training equipment, and the knowledge of how to use those tools to optimise Muay Thai performance.

Stick with me, I’m keen to share with you how you can do this and close the gap on those that can afford the time to train full time for months in Thailand…

And if you are training in Thailand, how you can swap out even just 2-3 hours a week from your 30+ hour training week, to reach new levels of physical performance – even if you’ve been training there for 15 years or more!

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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