Muay Thai fighters like to take advantage of every training session. However, weight training for Muay Thai is often not in the mix.
Most fighters avoid weight training and stick to calisthenics for strength development. Many are afraid to get bulky, and slow. Taking Muay Thai performance to the next level is not an easy task. This leads us to the following question.
Table of Contents
- Should Muay Thai Fighters Lift Weights?
- How Many Times A Week Should You Lift For Muay Thai?
- What Muscles Should You Train For Muay Thai?
- Dumbbell Exercises For Muay Thai
- How Often Do Muay Thai Fighters Lift Weights?
- Weight Training Before Or After Muay Thai?
- Weight Lifting For Muay Thai – Should You Do It?
Should Muay Thai Fighters Lift Weights?
Lifting weights is often associated with big strong men who usually lack the mobility required for combat sports. However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and Muay Thai practitioners can benefit from weight training.
Although weight training for Muay Thai may sound unusual, fighters can increase their strength, speed, and power.
We now live in a modern age, and fighters are more conditioned than ever, so pushups, pull-ups, and air squats will not cut it.
MMAWhisperer believes that proper strength training can improve the performance and overall fitness of every Muay Thai practitioner.
Keep reading our article to learn more about how lifting weights can bring out the A-game in every fighter.
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How Many Times A Week Should You Lift For Muay Thai?
In combat sports, the body of every fighter is basically a vehicle that drives the performance. Strength and conditioning can drastically improve performance while making the fighter more robust and less prone to injuries.
Fighters primarily focus on Muay Thai training, and like other athletes, they hardly have time to incorporate weight training into their routines. For that reason, they need to make every gym session count.
Fighters need to get in and out quickly while training the most important muscle groups.
Ideally, a Muay Thai fighter should go to the gym as much as a beginner, which is two to three times a week. However, the performance inside the weight room should be with very high intensity.
Training with weights two to three times is more than enough if done correctly. Fighters need to focus on strength, power, and speed.
That’s why, when fighters step into the gym, they must train the entire body with each session rather than isolating muscle groups. Isolation is more of a bodybuilding type of training.
Stimulus means much more progress, and compound movements for the chest, back, shoulders, legs, and arms will give you the best possible results.
Should Muay Thai fighters do a stretching routine in the gym?
As we mentioned, most fighters, whether professionals or beginners, struggle to find the time to go to the gym because of all the other cardio conditioning, sparring, bag work, etc.
Weight training should increase your performance in Muay Thai, but an injury can easily occur if you never let your foot off the gas and neglect the recovery process.
Doing compound exercises two to three times a week can put a lot of pressure on the muscles, which means that you must also incorporate a stretching routine.
If your body is not healed from the previous weightlifting sessions, the stimulus will not have efficient results.
Muay Thai fighters must prioritize resting because they get stronger, more powerful, faster, and fitter during that period.
Fighters can do the stretching routine before or after the workout. When it comes to recovery, fighters should never compromise.
What Muscles Should You Train For Muay Thai?
Exercise selection is crucial when lifting weights to become a better Muay Thai fighter. Because Muay Thai is a combat sport that utilizes the entire body, you should incorporate a full-body split when you step into the gym and train every muscle group.
You must do exercises for the chest, back, legs, shoulders, and arms. The great thing about this is, by doing only compound movements without any isolation, one exercise per muscle group can do the trick.
For instance, if you do squats, you are targeting your legs, but the back is also activated, as well as the chest and abdomen.
Does muscle help in Muay Thai?
By lifting weights and building muscle, Muay Thai fighters can drastically improve their performance and speed and become less prone to injuries.
Despite visiting a gym filled with powerlifters and bodybuilders, fighters always stick to the basics like bench presses, bent-over rows, squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, curls, and triceps extensions.
Muay Thai is a combat sport that has been around for many centuries, and doing fancy workouts or techniques is unnecessary.
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Dumbbell Exercises For Muay Thai
You have many options to work with because most gyms have a lot of equipment. It can be bars, machines, cables, or good old-fashioned dumbbells.
Because fighters have a limited training time, they must have a training plan before stepping foot in the gym.
Choosing the wrong exercises could lead to unbalanced structural development and an unfortunate injury.
So, you need to handpick exercises that will make you more athletic and prepare you for the next fight.
Even though many people like to use the bar for traditional lifts like squats or deadlifts, dumbbells are a great option for fighters.
By using proper size dumbbells, Muay Thai fighters can incorporate compound and multi-joint lifts.
The 1-5 rep range is best for Muay Thai fighters because it works on power and explosion. Dumbbells are perfect; you will not have to constantly rack and rerack the bar.
Starting with the lower body, squats are a perfect exercise for the knees, shins, calves, and entire legs.
A deep squat will also put pressure on the abdomen. A proper squat is knee dominant, meaning the knees must bend before the upper body.
For a dumbbell squat, fighters must first pick a comfortable weight. Afterward, there are three options.
First, you can grab two dumbbells and perform a squat by keeping them close to the body. You know you have reached the proper depth when the dumbbells touch the ground.
Another option is to grab the dumbbells and place them in a shoulder press position while you squat.
Many consider the exercise more of a front squat and puts a lot of pressure on the abdomen and chest.
The third option is grabbing one heavy dumbbell with both hands and performing a squat.
You can choose which gives you the most benefits and attack the quads.
Weight training for Muay Thai can be very beneficial. When most people hear the words weight training, they immediately think of deadlifting. This exercise activates the entire body while focusing on the lower back and legs.
The best option for Muay Thai fighters would be a hex bar for the deadlift. The hex bar can help with explosiveness, strength, and endurance. However, a deadlift can also be performed with a pair of dumbbells.
Like the squat, you can keep the dumbbells close to your legs. In this exercise, the lower back starts to descend, and the knees are slightly less bent.
Regarding the upper body, many fighters use their weight and do pull-ups or dips. If you are a beginner who likes to conquer the world of Muay Thai, doing dumbbell presses is the best way to toughen your chest.
Instead of a bar, you can use the same bench and grab a pair of dumbbells. The best part is that you can customize your training plan and activate a different part of the chest each week.
For instance, you can start with a flat bench, move on to an incline the next week, and decline for the lower part of the chest.
This exercise is already performed with dumbbells by gymgoers. Two different variations can improve the performance of Muay Thai fighters. The first is a traditional shoulder press, and the second is the Arnold press.
Arnold press is an exercise that Arnold Schwarzenegger invented which activates the front, side, and back shoulder.
Bent over row
This exercise activates the entire back from the lower portion to the lats. While performing the bent-over row, the only thing to remember is to retract your scapula and use your arms as hooks.
Put some pressure on the feet, and don’t rock back and forth.
We recommend that you initially pick up the dumbbells and go in an upward position. From there, you can bend without causing tension to the hamstrings.
Russian twist or other variations for the abs
Regarding the abdomen, there are a lot of exercises that can be performed with one or two dumbbells. You can simply get on the ground in a sit-up position and use the dumbbell for extra tension.
You can do a Russian twist, or if you need an advanced exercise, you can perform leg raises with a dumbbell between the thighs.
Curls and triceps extensions
The arms are the driving force behind every punch in Muay Thai.
Everyone that walks into the gym, whether a fanatic of a combat sport or a professional, always remembers to do curls before walking out.
You can perform triceps extensions over the head and do any variation you like for the curls.
Buakaw Banchamek, a Muay Thai champion, likes to do many curls standing up. You can do them in that position if you are a big fan or on an incline bench.
How Often Do Muay Thai Fighters Lift Weights?
In a traditional sense, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and kickboxing are combat sports that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with weight training.
At least, that is what it looks like from the outside because the fighters and even their coaches are very agile, fast, and definitely not bulky.
However, contrary to popular belief, the champions of the sport actually lift weights. The key is optimal rep range and a clean diet.
By lifting weights in a 1-5 rep range and sticking to a low-calorie diet, fighters can keep their mobility and physique while becoming stronger and faster due to weight training.
Weight training can make Muay Thai fighters more injury-resistant. After all, the strikes like switch kicks and double knees require a lot of reactive strength.
Although people think martial artists are allergic to iron, Muay Thai professionals lift weights two to three times per week.
Ultimately, it all depends on the fighter and his strengths and weaknesses.
The only place where weight training is not so prevalent is in traditional Muay Thai camps. In camps, the fighters take a break from weights and do calisthenics.
Weight Training Before Or After Muay Thai?
Incorporating weight training for Muay Thai can be very beneficial for every fighter.
However, certain aspects play a huge role in how to maximize the effects of lifting weights.
For instance, when to train with weights, how to recover, and how to avoid injuries.
Because Muay Thai and weight training are very demanding, fighters, especially newcomers, struggle to balance them and have many questions.
Should you lift weights before or after?
Firstly, lifting weights and training in Muay Thai on the same day is not a good idea.
The muscles need to properly heal and recover. Doing both training sessions in one day will tire you and make you less injury-resistant.
If your level of conditioning can take two training sessions in one day, then the weight training should always come before the Muay Thai training. There should be a couple of hours gap between the two sessions.
For proper growth stimulation, lifting weights should be done first. Your body needs to be fresh to handle the heavy load of many exercises.
If you go to the gym after a Muay Thai workout, you will be completely exhausted and lift with far less than 100%.
Nutrition and sleep
Something that relates to almost every sport, whether that is Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, football, or bodybuilding, is the recovery process.
To maximize your performance in the gym, you must implement proper nutrition and high-quality sleep.
Even if you are getting all the training parts right, you can’t recover properly without the right amount of recovery, and you will not step up your game.
Regarding nutrition, protein is a key micronutrition that helps with recovery. Only 2g of protein for every pound of body weight will do the trick.
To start lifting weights and training in Muay Thai, you must eat a couple of hundred extra calories.
As far as sleep goes, shoot for eight hours, and everything else will fall into place.
Weight Lifting For Muay Thai – Should You Do It?
Even though weight training is not part of the physical preparation in Muay Thai camps, most fighters lift weights two to three times a week.
Weight training for Muay Thai is great because it improves the fighters’ speed, power, and overall performance.
Lifting heavy weights can also strengthen bones and prevent injuries further down the road.
Our article explains what, when, and how to train to become a better Muay Thai fighter. Last but not least, make sure that your body gets enough rest.