Muay Thai has a reputation for being an aggressive and brutal martial art. It’s why many observers and practitioners consider it to be an ideal combat sport and effective for self-defense. That reputation extends to Muay Thai fighters as they are usually known for their aggressive and come-forward style. They are seen as very strong and powerful and that includes Nak Muays that compete in the lower weight classes.
So we’ve established the fact that Muay Thai fighters are considered strong and powerful. There are several factors that help them achieve that peak level of physical strength and condition, but is lifting weights one of them? Do Muay Thai fighters lift weights to be the powerhouses that they are?
Muay Thai and Weights - The Traditional Perspective
If we look at it from the traditional perspective, it would seem that Muay Thai and weights don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. At least that’s what it seemed to Thai fighters in particular. The fighters, and most certainly even the trainers, did not think that lifting weights would help them be competitive in their fights. If anything, many even believed that it would only cause them to bulk up unnecessarily and make them slow during their matches.
Another reason why lifting weights wasn’t incorporated into traditional Muay Thai is about the equipment. There simply wasn’t any available equipment for Muay Thai practitioners to seriously consider weight lifting. There might be a few pieces of equipment, but not enough to really encourage them to make it a regular part of their routine.
Aside from the lack of equipment, the proper knowledge was not there as well. That’s just as important, if not more so than just having the right equipment around. Old school trainers and coaches in, particularly those in Thailand, weren’t familiar with the benefits of lifting weights and what it could do for their fighters. Their mindset was still that it hampered fighters by limiting their quickness and agility.
Why Things are Changing
Things are changing, however. As Muay Thai has gradually gained in popularity around the world and become more mainstream, so to speak, it’s also in the process of evolving. Part of that evolution is that lifting weights is slowly becoming an accepted part of the art.
There are several reasons why this change is happening. First and foremost is that more Muay Thai trainers and coaches are becoming more knowledgeable about lifting weights. That knowledge just wasn’t available in years past but now it’s come to Thailand and other countries where Muay Thai is practiced. Exposure to new ideas about weights and strength training is a huge factor in this development.
The second reason is the availability of proper equipment. This is directly connected to having the right knowledge about using weights for the art. If in the past, there were little to no equipment in Muay Thai gyms, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Larger gyms have stocked up on free weights and more complicated pieces of weight training equipment.
Then there are the results. Nothing can make people change their minds faster than real and measurable results. Those gyms and of course the fighters that have used weights and strength training have noticed the effects on their performance. They got the results that they wanted and in many instances, it even exceeded what their initial expectations were.
Lastly, there is the influence of foreign coaches and fighters. Some of them have even come from other combat sports. They have successfully used weights and strength training and conditioning and it was shown in how they performed. And the bottom line now is that Muay Thai practitioners are seeing and realizing the benefits of weights and strength training.
So the answer seems to be clear, that more and more Muay Thai fighters are beginning to lift weights. Still, some clarification needs to be made about the fact and what it actually does to the fighters. By doing so, more will be enlightened and those that have been curious could actually take the step to try it and incorporate it into their training.
Here are some realities about lifting weights and Muay Thai to think about:
Lifting Weights Doesn’t Slow Down Fighters
It has long been believed that lifting weights will slow down a fighter, particularly those that lift heavy weights. The reasoning is that the fighters will tend to bulk up and pack on loads of muscles and that will slow down their movement.
However, this isn’t particularly true. As long as it’s done the right way, weight lifting isn’t going to make any fighter too bulked up. But there’s a right way to do it for Muay Thai and that’s the lifting and training that fighters should follow. The calorie intake also plays a part. A high-calorie diet should be avoided and one that’s specific for fighters should be consumed instead.
Stick to the Basics
Muay Thai fighters and practitioners need to stick to the basics. It’s one sure way to make lifting weights effective and beneficial for them. They’re martial artists and fighters, after all, and not professional bodybuilders or weightlifters.
They need to stay away from any fancy movement or technique because they’ll just be wasting their time. Instead, they should focus on compound movements that would provide the most benefits. Those movements include the squat, deadlift, overhead press, clean, snatch, bench press, and rows, plus their many variations.
Low Reps are Best for Muay Thai
To get the most out of their weight lifting routine, Muay Thai fighters should go for low reps. The ideal range of reps would be around 1 to 5. The reason is that this particular range has already been proven to be effective in developing both power and explosion.
Adding strength and explosiveness will be great additions to the arsenal of any fighter, especially in a combat sport as physically demanding as Muay Thai. Could higher rep ranges, such as 6 to 8 or even 10 to 15, also be done? Yes, but only from time to time as they’re better suited to those who want to bulk up.
A Proper Program Is Needed
A proper program is also crucial if Muay Thai fighters are going to get the most benefits from lifting weights. About 2 to 3 times a week will probably be sufficient. And take note that it should be prioritized over the actual Muay Thai training.
The program for fighters should be kept as simple as possible. Nothing too fancy. A day should be dedicated to the upper body and a separate day needs to be dedicated to the lower body.
Muay Thai is probably at its most popular globally. That means that the number of potential fighters and practitioners is likely at an all-time high. The pool of talent has never been deeper because it’s no longer just Thailand that produces high-level combatants.
The art of Muay Thai continues to evolve and develop. One aspect of that evolution is updating the traditional training methods and adding things that used to be ignored by trainers and fighters alike, such as lifting weights. In any case, it’s sure to add to the already formidable arsenal of any Muay Thai fighter.