Growing up, I’ve always been a fitness buff and used the gym as a way to let go of pent up energy and develop some strength in my body. When I was introduced to Muay Thai, I replaced going to the gym with the raw intensity and power of Muay Thai Training to sharpen both the mind and body. As I got better in Muay Thai, I noticed that I’d reach plateau’s in my learning. Namely, I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be, my gas tank was shit, and my legs would give out. After dissecting my problem, I realized that there were several physical weaknesses that I needed to address and that’s when I started going back to the gym for answers.
After tinkering with several different fitness routines, I found that cross-training is especially effective for people training Muay Thai outside of Thailand. Kids training in Thailand grow up in the Muay Thai culture and their bodies adjust to the specific strength, flexibility , and power requirements needed for Muay Thai. Starting at the ripe age of 24, I developed inconsistent strengths and weaknesses through my body from years of weightlifting that needed to be ‘balanced out’ in order to become the best Muay Thai fighter I could be (or at least strive to be)
From my own experimenting, I found that the best way to use the equipment of a fitness club is to address specific weaknesses in the body, rather than doing a traditional weight lifting or conditioning routine. I found that by honing in on specific weaknesses this way, I could make sure I didn’t hinder my progress in Muay Thai but enhanced it with stuff I was doing outside of the gym.
Roadwork is Critical for Muay Thai Fighters and Practitioners
In order to develop the power in my strikes, I needed to add a running routine of hard sprints followed by light jogging. This develops strong leg muscles needed to create the force and power in the strikes of Muay Thai. Since all of the strikes involve rotating the body and elevating the hips, strong legs are always a must. Incorporate 2 – 3 hard runs a week into your training to really start to see your power and gas tank sky rocket for Muay Thai. If you get bored of the treadmill, you can swap it out from time to time with a stationary bike, but remember to go hard and up that intensity level.
What You Need to Know About Training the Core Muscles
In the gym, I’d do a lot of abdominal work to really work the core. The core abdominal muscles and muscles of the lower back are critical for supporting the upper body. The hips and shoulders, the two heaviest parts of the human skeleton are connected together by the spine. It’s these abdominal muscles that keeps these two rotating together with ease. Once the abdominal muscles give, you’ll start to burn your octane (O2) a lot faster, trying to stay upright. Work a lot of core muscle exercises like leg lifts and body weight abdominal exercises that don’t utilize a machine. These machines are great for specific abdominal muscles, but rob you of training the important stabilizers throughout your trunk necessary for maintaining your balance.
Develop Functional Flexibility with Stretching and Bands
The biggest thing in this modern era – the thinking age – is that most people sit at their desk all day for work. This robs you of lower body flexibility. Join a Yoga Class at your local gym or purchase some yoga bands to actively stretch out your hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and ankles. Modern footwear combined with sitting down all day has robbed us of our natural flexibility. Reclaim it back and notice your power, speed, and endurance sky-rocket for Muay Thai. You’ll be moving around more effortlessly than you ever imagined.
What Not To Train is Just as Important as What you Are Training – Exercises to Avoid
Avoid doing a ton of exercises that utilize a machine or too much equipment. The bench press is unnecessary and it’s too specific a movement to be useful for transitioning over benefit to Muay Thai. The same goes for dumbbell rows and barbell rows to work the lat muscles. If you’re going to work the upper body, stick to traditional methods of pushups and pullups. It develops the larger upper body muscles but more importantly develops the stabilizers in the body as well, critical for the accurate and precise movements of Muay Thai.
Again, this is a very specific topic and it’s going to be different for every individual depending on their particular weakness. If you have any questions about your own weaknesses that you’d like to strengthen through cross-training, leave a comment, and I’ll provide you with a solution you can implement in the gym today.