T Nation

Muay Thai + Weightlifting



I'm Clint and I'm 20 years old.
I've been lifting weights for a couple of years and I decided to learn a martial art.
So, I just started muay thai and I really like it.
I would like some ideas to improve my strenght for muay thai.
Is a normal 3 day split okay? I also run for cardio (I'm in the army)
Within a couple of weeks I'll only have the time for 1 practice(2hours) muay thai a week.
I'll still be running and lifting weights though.



Lift weights while Muay Thai? Muay not?

Big compound lifts would be my best bet for you. Maybe a push-pull split with a strength-endurance emphasis would work.


Learning Muay Thai is pretty intense. I would schedule my training either on a 2 or 3 day split

Mon -Squat (Heavy quads, low hamstring focus)

Wed - Bench (1 cycle push focus and another pull focus plus arms)

Fri - Dead (Heavy hams, low quad focus)

With all the sparring and technique plus stretching that you must do for the MT movements you need to take it easy on the weights.

I don't even mention cardio bc it is self-evident.

However you did not mention anything about your diet man and that will be the most important. Also, If you are into east asian culture there are schools in Chiang Mai where you can stay and learn.


Good suggestions so far. Depending on how often you're training Muay Thai, I would recommend keeping your lifting to two total body sessions per week, with an upper/lower emphasis each day.


Ive never trained in muay thai. I dont think i am the best qualified to give you advice. But i do think i can offer you these points for you to consider.

  • Your training a sport. So train movements, not muscles.

  • You should leave you weights session psyched and pumped, not obliterated.

  • Lower frequency (whick usually means total body2-3x a week)

  • use alot of single limb lifts.

  • medicine balls, explosive push ups would be handy tools.

Id love alwyn to write an article touching on the topic of writing programs for contact sports. :wink:


there is some pretty good information is this thread already so I'll just add this.

For muay thai, neck and upper back strength are very important. Both help you a great deal in the clinch (you will be able to pull them down to knee lever easier, and they will have trouble pulling you down).

You will gain some strength in that area from clinch drills, but I would suggest buying a neck harness and add that to your routine as well (I think there is a good one over at rossboxing)

Muay thai is a lot of fun, good luck.


I actually train and fight Muay Thai and lift as well.

There are a variety of things you can do for gaining strength and it doesn't only have to be weightlifting unless ofcourse weightlifting is an interest of yours. If you're after strength for the given sport without care of how you get it, then explore Ross Enamaits information in his books and website.

He's an awesome guy and very helpful.

Like some have alluded training your body and not "muscles" is what you have to aim for.

"Muscle" training is for bodybuilders or rehab not for athletes.

You need to condition your body at the chosen sport the specific way for the sport.

Sure some exercises are great and have higher tranfer over success but do NOT train like a bodybuilder - one part a day movements.

You also have to forget about the idea of how you look and focus more on how you perform.

At 110 kilograms I looked buff and mean but at 98 kilograms I maul even the bigger guys with speed, more power, fitness and endurance even though I look scawnier.

I don't have bulging biceps and pecs but something that the opponents mention after fights is that they thought I was fairly strong compared to what they're used to and my look was deceptive.

Train hard in class. Getting your technique right will help too. What does that mean exactly? Well it means learning how to switch your body "ON" at the right time. Making sure your CNS fires right which then makes your muscles fire right.

For example it is no use having an excellent CNS activation in your pecs, shoulders and triceps during a punch if your biceps, lats, rear delts etc are firing at the same time antagonising the movement. That's not very economical at all. So slowing down, reducing your power and working your technique until it is perfect (well close to it) and then adding power and speed will work wonders.

You will eliminate negative antagonism which will tire you and rob you of power and speed.

I see some supposedly really strong guys in the gym buckle when I throw a 66 kilogram fighter in with them to train. They can't believe how hard he hits.

Likewise, western fighters often freak out at the power a small thai guy has. They forget that their techniques are usually flawless as they have learned to do it from a very young age.

They can throw powerful kicks and punches all day long without getting as fatigued and that is largely because of economy of movement and perfection of technique not because of scientific strength training protocols designed in university labs lol.

Whoooaaa... sorry.... end rant.


That hardly qualifies as a rant, Humble.

Good input


I trained Muay Thai hard (four times a week, three hours at at a time) while lifting three times a week. It takes a toll on your body, but if you can handle it you will have awesome body composition and performance to boot. You don't really have to worry about keeping your diet clean, you burn a TON of calories in MT class.

Almost of the power generated in Thai boxing does not come from muscles but from technique, as humble made clear. There is a steep learning curve but if you're patient the payoff is awesome.


humble's right. Forget about looks and stick to performance. Whole body 3 times a week is a great way to train.

Since you also train Muay Thai, minimize the volume of your workouts by using movements that hit as many muscles as possible. Good examples are olympic lifts and snatch-grip deadlifts on a platform (a deadlift-squat movement built into one). Also try that movement wherein you do a pullup on a bar and quickly convert it to a dip. I don't know what it's called though.

BTW, oly lifts are a great way to improve CNS efficiency, but don't get too excited. They're not that easy to learn and you're better off learning your Muay Thai technique. But if you can do both, Muay not?


Perhaps a muscle-up is what you're referring to?


As good as Oly lifts are, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of dedicating enough time to learning their technique properly. It may be worth it for you or it may not be.

As an athlete you want bang for your buck without having to delve too much into technique learning. The only technique you practice and practice over and over again should be the sport relevant one.

Any assistance strength, mobility, flexibility or recovery work should not involve a steep learning curve.

That just robs you of time where you could be progressing with something else.




Obviosuly we don't know your schedule (thanks for serving our country), but if it's at all possible, try and fit in a second class, even if it means dropping one of the strength workouts.

If your schedule isn't flexible to allow for a second class, I'd say maybe lift twice a week and spend the third day doing conditioning work.


Gentlemen, this is one of the best posts I've seen on this site. Your replies are exactly what this is all about. Thanks for helping rebuild my confidence in this site. Muay Thai is outstanding!!