These days, fighter training has become more sophisticated. Coaches, fighters, and hobbyists alike all realise that to remain healthy, injury free and perform their best it takes more than steady runs, bag work, pad work, and sparring.
But, what types of sessions are needed? How often should you train? What order should sessions go?
Organising your training week, whatever your level of commitment to Muay Thai, can be daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be…
Let’s run through the steps I use with clients to create your most effective weekly training plan.
Looking to download the Weekly Training Schedule Template?
You can download that here.
Building Your Weekly Training Plan
In this episode, we begin breaking down the steps I take when working with clients to schedule their weekly training plans.
Over two episodes, we’ll cover what the different session types are and how to prioritise them, outline how many of each session type you need each week, and apply sports science best practice to determine what goes where and why. We’ll look at time-blocking each session, and finally follow 7-steps to create your own weekly training schedule. Let’s get started!
Regardless if you’re a full time pro or part time hobbyist, you must make most efficient use of the training time available each week. And that means hitting key priorities, and filtering priorities layer by layer.
Not all of your training yields the greatest results – it’s important to 80/20 your work. That is to focus on the 20% of your training that gets 80% of your results, not the other way around. My planning process is built on this fact and scales effectively regardless if you train 3 hours a week or 36.
The Performance “Buckets” In Your Training Plan
As fighters, we have multiple (performance quality) buckets that need filling to different levels, and our various training sessions pour into particular buckets at differing rates.
Some sessions, like Muay Thai pad work, can serve multiple purposes including technical and tactical Muay Thai skills training, cardio conditioning, local muscular endurance, mobility and coordination, and more. It pours into several buckets, but not all.
Other sessions, like resistance training, can target very specific purposes such as strength, power, speed. It fills only a few buckets, but hits the ones missed by Muay Thai training.
Although there’s an overlap in the performance qualities both developed and used by different types of training, those buckets need balancing in order to remain healthy, injury free and perform your best.
First and foremost, we’re fighters. Muay Thai technical and tactical skill training comes first and everything else is supplemental training. However, it’s important that the supplemental training plugs the gaps left by Muay Thai training alone. If you can develop a performance adequately from practising Muay Thai, then that’s what you should do. But, neglecting qualities serving as your athletic foundation prevents you reaching your potential and reduces your longevity in Muay Thai (competitively or recreationally).
The Three Session Types in Your Training Plan
The three session types we must schedule each week are, Muay Thai, resistance training, and cardio conditioning. And because of the overlap in qualities developed, the hierarchy for fighters is…
- Muay Thai Training – targets technical and tactical Muay Thai skill and sport specific fitness
- Resistance Training – targets neuromuscular performance, strength, power, & speed (anaerobic power)
- Cardio Conditioning Training – targets foundation energy systems fitness (aerobic capacity, aerobic power, anaerobic capacity, lactic power)
This provides the biggest bang for your buck!
The Three Schedule Models (How Many Sessions Per Week)
The number of each session type needed each week depends on your competitive level or time available for training. We’ll begin by outlining the three circumstances or schedule models that I use…
- Minimal Model – for enthusiasts or fighters with minimal time looking to still maintain consistent progress
- Competitive Model – for fighters (or those that want to training like fighters) looking for optimal long-term progress and longevity
- Extreme Model – for fighters looking to progress while training in Thailand!
Progress is the common denominator. Applied well, all three models result in systematic progress in both technical Muay Thai skill and athletic performance – all the performance buckets sustainably get the attention they need.
But these three models also represent either doing less than optimal, an ideal time investment, or more than is optimal.
Training any performance quality only once a week quickly becomes maintenance. To progress, twice a week is minimal. Training a quality three times a week means quicker progress. Doing more than this can mean even greater progress, IF you recover adequately for your body to improve. I’ve spoken in detail about hitting this sweet spot in a previous episode that I’ve linked for you in the further resources below.
With a better understanding of weekly training frequency, we’ll begin summarising the Minimal Model – the least amount of training you can do and still progress in the most balanced way. There are two Muay Thai sessions, two resistance training sessions, and one cardio conditioning session; because the Muay Thai sessions contribute enough cardio training to ensure weekly progress. All of these sessions combine target specific performance qualities that make up a skillful, powerful and robust Muay Thai fighter.
I’ve both a strength and conditioning for Muay Thai 101 guide and a 3-part Science of Building Champions video series that dive into effective resistance training and cardio conditioning training for fighters, which I’ve also linked in the further resources below.
The Competitive Model hits the sweet spot, balancing both optimal short-term and long-term progress while avoiding burn-out. There are five weekly Muay Thai sessions, two resistance training sessions, and three cardio sessions. And this is the model I recommend my clients aim for when possible.
The Extreme Model is for those training in Thailand, with no other responsibilities outside of training and competing. For example, no family or work commitments, and the opportunity to nap during the day between training sessions. There are between six to twelve weekly Muay Thai sessions, two resistance training sessions, and 3 cardio sessions. You’ll notice the only difference between the Competitive Model and Extreme Model is the amount of Muay Thai training each week.
Training In Thailand
While in Thailand, the focus should be technical and tactical practice – amassing quality, skilled repetition. Although due to the high training volume, your sport specific fitness will improve too, it should be seen as a by-product of the opportunity to build your skill. The foundation athletic performance side of the equation is more optimally addressed in targeted resistance training and cardio sessions.
It’s not just the number of sessions that matter. The quality of those sessions critically affects your rate of progress. Doing more isn’t better. Doing better is! I highlight how to fast track your ability through systematic deliberate practice in the Breaking Limits in Muay Thai episode that you’ll find in then further resources below.
The three schedule models, Minimal, Competitive, and Extreme, all drive progress at different rates. And in reality you’ll likely land somewhere between any two of them.
I’ve spent some time justifying the session types needed, and how many each week create the best progress given your situation and time available. Now that heavy lifting is done, in the next episode we apply sports science best practice and use 7 logical steps to organise these sessions and create your own weekly schedule.
- Without Burnout or Blowout – Planning Long Term Fight Performance Training
- Breaking Limits In Muay Thai
- Strength & Conditioning for Muay Thai 101 – A Science-Based Approach to Accelerated Athletic Development
- The Science of Building Champions 3-part Video Series
- Download Weekly Training Schedule document
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/
I would love to hear your thoughts on possible progressive overload approaches for the technical and tactical training sessions in combat sports. Given so often, these sessions are structured in a way that can be very monotonous (minimal or no undulation). By way of example, many fighting gyms use a set work-to-rest ratio for all of their pad work (i.e. 3 mins on 30 seconds off x 5 rounds) and sparring, I wonder how the manipulation of volume and intensity could be applied to the technical and tactical sessions. Hence, it parallels your undulation approach in your S&C programs and articles. As you state above, these sessions contribute to the development of cardiovascular conditioning, muscle endurance etc.