Strength and conditioning are two important assets for every Muay Thai practitioner. While hitting pads, sparring, and working on your technical skills might be where the “thrill” of the game is found, strength and conditioning are the backbones allowing you to do so. Without them, you may not be able to train as long, hard, or skillfully as you might like. You might also find yourself more prone to injury without the appropriate strength to support your training.
If you plan on training in Muay Thai, then strength and conditioning should be a part of your weekly training schedule. While any general strength and conditioning will be helpful, you can certainly hone in on routines that will also support and enhance your Muay Thai game as well.
Here are 10 strength and conditioning exercises that you should add to your weekly training schedule:
1) Jumping Rope
This one might be obvious as it has been widely used in boxing and Muay Thai for years. Jumping rope is an incredible asset for your conditioning, and will help you to have better cardio for your Muay Thai sessions. Not only will it enhance your conditioning, but you will also find that it can help with your footwork, coordination, and balance as well.
Jumping rope can be as simple or intricate as you desire. You can do basic one or two-foot jumps, or you can build up to all sorts of footwork. Start with a small goal, like jumping rope for 1 minute, and work up to a 5-minute round. Jumping rope is also a great warm-up exercise.
Burpees are the ultimate full-body exercise, and they are great for Muay Thai practitioners as it provides some explosive movement conditioning as well. There are many varieties of burpees, making them easily adaptable so you can change them up a little each time. Try some of these varieties:
- Traditional: Drop your hands to the ground, kick your feet out to a plank, jump your feet back in towards your hands, posture back up and jump into the air.
- Push-Up: Drop your hands to the ground, do a push-up, jump your feet back in towards your hands, and jump into the air. These are great for building strength.
- Speed: Drop down to your chest as quickly as possible, bring your feet back in towards your hands, and jump into the air. Do these as quickly as possible for explosive movement.
- Plyometric: Utilize any variety of burpees but do a tuck jump at the top, jumping and tucking your legs as high and tight as possible at the top.
Grasshoppers are a fast-paced, plyometric movement that will also build shoulder and core strength. It is a perfect exercise for Muay Thai practitioners to add to their routines. Here’s how to do them:
- Get into a “bear” pose on the ground, propping yourself up on your hands and feet. Your shins should run parallel to the floor.
- Bring your left leg through and kick it to your right side, while picking up your right hand and bringing it to your chest.
- Once you have the motion down, grasshoppers should be done quickly. Aim for 20 reps, rest, and repeat.
As an alternative, you can do these slowly (known often as “sit throughs”). Doing them slowly will focus more on mobility and shoulder strength, rather than the cardio conditioning aspect.
Running is a great way to take your conditioning level up a notch. Be sure to add lots of variety to get the best benefits out of running. Try some of these:
- Long, Slow Runs: You should be able to talk during your long, slow runs.
- Short, Fast Sprints: Pick a shorter distance and sprint as hard and fast as possible. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Walk/Run: Run for 2 minutes then walk for 30 seconds. Repeat this pattern for as long as you’d like.
- Relay Races: Grab a partner and run relay races. Pick a particular distance. Rest while your partner runs.
5) Traditional Weightlifting
Traditional weightlifting has numerous benefits. Squats, presses, deadlifts, and bench presses are considered the “big lifts,” providing incredible strength gains for Muay Thai athletes. Adding in these lifts will give your muscles the strength they need to keep your body safe when you are striking hard and moving around on the mats. Plus, as you age, building muscle becomes even more important to your overall health.
6) Plyometric Movements
Plyometric movements are great for developing speed in Muay Thai. Repeating plyometric movements in sets of 10-20 at a time gives you the added benefit of them making for an incredible conditioning workout too.
Here are a few of the best plyometric movements to be done in quick, high reps to benefit both your conditioning and your plyometric speed:
- Jumping/Alternating Lunges: Utilize a jumping motion to switch between your left leg lunge and your right leg lunge.
- Jump Squats: Squat down and then spring up into the air with a jump. Land and immediately begin the next squat.
- Ice Skaters: Jump laterally to your left, plant your left foot, and allow your right foot to cross and swing behind your left foot. Touch your right hand to the ground, then reverse the motion to your right side.
- Box Jumps: Find a box, platform, or even just a sidewalk curb. Jump up and down with both feet, or even try jumping up and down on a single foot.
7) Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are another great exercise that combines strength and conditioning into one movement. Do these in high reps with good form and you’ll be feeling the burn from head to toe. Here’s how to do them:
- Position yourself in a plank.
- Ensure you are driving through your shoulders and your butt stays flat with your body.
- Run your knees, bringing one at a time up towards your chest and then kicking it back out.
Adding some pull-ups to your routine will give your shoulders and back some much-needed strengthening for your Muay Thai striking. Even if you cannot quite complete a pull-up on your own yet, you can do some modified ones to begin gaining the same benefits. Try some of these:
- Tie a band to the pull-up bar. Place your knee or foot in the band to assist you in a pull-up.
- Play with different grips: overhand grip, underhand grip, one-and-one, etc.
- Negatives: Jump up to the top of the pull-up, and lower yourself as slowly as possible.
- Dead hangs: Hang on the bar without movement. Aim to work up to a full minute hang.
Another classically simple movement that is sure to increase your strength and conditioning for Muay Thai is a good old push-up. Push-ups require the use of your entire upper body, including your shoulders, back, and abdominals. They are also quite easy to modify if you are not quite yet able to perform them well. To modify them:
- Avoid dropping to your knees. This is not the same movement, making it more difficult to build up to standard pushups.
- Elevate. Start by doing pushups on a wall. As you get stronger, move to something less elevated, like a counter top. Work your way down, elevating a little less each time, until you can do regular pushups.
10) Animal Movements
Animal movements are one of the best ways to combine strength, conditioning, and some mobility into your Muay Thai. These movements might seem easy at first glance, but you will quickly find that they are challenging to perform as you move from one to the next.
- A For Apes: These can be performed laterally or forward/backward. Place your hands on the ground and sink into your butt. Hop your feet together to the other side of your hands (or forward or backward).
- B For Bears: Get on your hands and toes. Your butt should not be sticking up in the air, but rather, your shins should be parallel to the ground. Move in varying directions.
- C For Crabs: Sit on the ground. Elevate your body utilizing your hands and feet. Move around in varying directions.
- D For Ducks: Squat down as low as you can go. Walk your feet in a duck-like motion as you aim to keep your balance and keep your butt low.
Animal movements are an incredible way to tie your strength, conditioning, and mobility together into one quick and powerful workout.
Adding Strength And Conditioning. Exercises To Your Muay Thai Routine
If you are a Muay Thai athlete, you will want to ensure that your body is as strong as possible. Strength will enable you to stay healthy, avoid injury, and even strike harder. Add some of these 10 exercise ideas to your weekly routine to see an improvement in your strength and conditioning.
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