Muay Thai fighters are a lot stronger than they look. Don’t be fooled just because they don’t have puffed up gym muscles. Muay Thai training in Thailand will turn you into a true human weapon.
Muay Thai training conditions the martial arts body to be both strong, fast, powerful and efficient. These are the requirements of a five round battle in the ring where one slip up could mean defeat or worse. For strength training, most of them stick to a few simple exercises, utilizing primarily body weight exercises and calisthenics. In essence, it’s what you’d expect from a third world country style workout. But based on the way these guys can fight and go the distance in a kickboxing match, it looks like it sure as hell works. Here are the crux of the conditioning exercises Muay Thai fighters in Thailand use to chisel themselves into weapons.
Jump Rope – The Thai jump rope is made of a thick rope, much heavier than the standard speed rope you’ll find in the states. It’s worked to strengthen not just the foundational strength of the calves and feet, but also strength of the shoulders and hands. When you are at the beginning of your Muay Thai training learning curve, this should be a staple in building up the required calf strength to progress.
Push ups – This is good for not just the shoulders and triceps, but also for developing core muscles. Most Thai’s do these close grip to focus more on the muscles of the tricep rather than the pec muscles.
Squats and Sprints – If you’re going to go 5 rounds, you’re going to need the leg strength to carry you through. Muay Thai fighters perform a ton of squats and sprints to keep those legs strong. I can say from experience, running vs. not running, starting a running program is the fastest way to add some serious power to your striking. This should be a staple of your Muay Thai training, beginner or pro.
There are few exercises which have such a direct impact on my power, speed, and stability as sprints. I try to incorporate this into my Muay Thai training everyday.
Neck Raises with Weight – Thai fighters work the neck for staying strong in the clinch. They tie some weight to the end of a towel or something soft that they can bite down on and use it to work the neck with up and down repetitions. I’ve tried this before and quickly stopped because I thought my teeth were going to be ripped out! I don’t know how they do it! This sort of Muay Thai training is not really recommended unless your serious about getting into the ring.
Pull ups – Pull ups develop pulling strength of the upper body. This is critical for clinching power to tug down on the body of the opponent. When I was training in Thailand, a Muay Thai champion at the 105 lbs weight class was toying with me in the clinch (I weight about 155 lbs) and this was just embarrassing. He was certainly the strongest 105 lbs I’ve ever come across! Later I saw him just ripping away on the pull up bar, to no surprise.
Skip Knees on the Bag – This one is tough! It’s a test of whole body strength from the calves all the way up to the shoulders and hands grabbing onto the bag. Out of all of the exercises for Muay Thai that one can do on their own, if you’re pressed for time, squeeze in 15 minutes of skip knees, and you’ll feel like you’d been working out for 2 hours. Muay Thai training for serious practitioners and those who just really want to be in phenomenal shape!
There is a beauty to the way the Thai’s train the strength and conditioning. Muay Thai training in Thailand is simple, but effective because of effort. They do a few exercises but they do them to their extreme, resulting in super human strength. What they lack in ‘advanced equipment’ they make up for in sweaty equity, getting the body weight exercises in at the end of training, between rounds, etc. And it’s this sort of strength under pressure which is most applicable in the ring.