by Don Heatrick
@donheatrick

Consider this… Accepted ‘best practice’ is only the ‘best so far’.

In his book Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed discusses what we accept as ‘best practice’…

It makes sense that if there’s a way of doing things that proves superior, that everyone should adopt it.

But it’s important to also realise that the accepted best practice is only the ‘best so far’.

If an alternative method is proven to deliver superior results, then the status quo (best practice) should be amended.

Best practice should evolve through time in a rational, evidence based way.

For me, this is clearly reflected in Muay Thai training…

We should balance the proven aspects of traditional Muay Thai training, with the proven aspects of athletic performance research.

Respecting The Traditional – Embracing The New

When I first published my website, I wrote the tagline of “Respecting the traditional. Embracing the new”.

I believe in this more than ever.

We must use the power of best practice, without allowing it to inadvertently stifle progress.

As we continue to learn more about human performance, best practice has to evolve.

“Traditional” WAS best practice, and there’s huge value in that.

But we mustn’t allow this to prevent us from taking what’s been collectively learned, and applying it to level up best practice even further.

Muay Thai training in Thailand is increasingly taking onboard these points, but the culture, social structure, and economics there make for slow progress on this front.

Coaching fighters online, I’m constantly working to dial up the parts of their training that are proven to accelerate Muay Thai performance, while dialing down or eliminating the areas that aren’t.

This means confronting some of the assumed best practices originating from the echo chamber in Thailand, and those invested in duplicating traditional Thai training in the west.

For example, let’s look at training volume – the quantity of training that a fighter does.

In Thailand, fighters train full time… Twice a day, 6 days a week.

That’s plenty of time to spend even on inefficient training, and still make fighters better…

The ones you don’t break with too much training of course!

But then, traditional Thai training is designed to filter out the fighters that aren’t genetically robust enough to tolerate the high volume of training without getting ill or injured.

And don’t confuse genetic robustness with greater athletic, or technical and tactical Muay Thai ability.

Muay Thai fights are typically about 15 mins work…

If you retire a fighter through overuse injuries and an inability to tolerate training sessions of over an hour, then you’re losing talented fighters who could dominate in the sport if their training was managed better.

If your only gauge of productive training is to work harder, and work for longer, you hit a glass ceiling. One that either sees fighters plateau and stop improving, or broken and tossed into the boneyard.

And even worse for those broken by the system, not in a fight, they’re probably labelled lazy by their coaches – who don’t appreciate that it was poor planning and mismanaged training that killed a fighter off, not a lack of heart, and not a lack of technical ability.

However, if training instead goes after specific technical, tactical, physical or psychological improvements with a laser focus, fighters continue to progress while investing much less time, wasting far less energy, and with much less wear and tear.

The key is to break training into respective, overlapping elements of; Muay Thai (technical and tactical training), resistance training (for explosive neuromuscular performance and injury reduction), and cardio conditioning (to boost relentless energy supply and utilisation)…

All of which is designed to overcome your opponent in a Muay Thai fight.

And this doesn’t mean changing a whole lot.

It means swapping out between 2 – 3 hours a week of the extraneous training in a typical Thailand training model, and replacing it with two resistance training sessions, and between 1 to three cardio sessions… that’s it.

This is supplemental training, Muay Thai is your priority.

We just remove the filler, and replace it with training that plugs the gaps in athletic development left by Muay Thai training.

You keep all the good stuff, and swap out the wasteful stuff.

And as current practice continues to evolve, we’ll continue to filter for what’s wasteful and what’s effective.

Even within my time in Muay Thai, the serious consideration of scientific strength and conditioning in a fighter’s training has changed considerably over the last 26 years or so.

Best practice IS evolving. And I’m pleased to see such a traditional discipline as Muay Thai, increasingly taking human performance science onboard…

And WITHOUT screwing up the traditional aspects of Muay Thai and its training.

For me, this is vitally important…

We mustn’t lose respect for the traditional while embracing the new.

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.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donheatrick/

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