How Does Your Body Fail? - strength and conditioning for Muay Thai

How Does Your Body Fail?

When it comes to strength and conditioning for Muay Thai, every fighter initially seeks a competitive advantage by developing dominating strength, knockout power and relentless endurance. All of which can be crafted and fine tuned with targeted, progressive training. But I thought I’d share with you another perspective too – that of the strength and conditioning coach.

When you’re operating on the ragged edge of your fitness and ability, your skilled movements begin to deteriorate. Although there are common modes of failure, the way that your body fails will be unique to you and your training/injury history. When fatigue has accumulated and you’re ‘red-lining’, your body will begin to collapse along patterns of weakness. If you’re extremely well conditioned and skilled, this may take some considerable effort to expose, but pushed hard enough, these problems will emerge. Once you know what your failure modes are, you can work on these weak links.

Finding Your Weak Links

As a strength and conditioning coach, I can easily find your weak links – even if you don’t know they exist. And I don’t have to beast you into dire fatigue to find them or to correct them. Recently, I’ve been privileged to work with some juniors in the gym, and this has allowed me to quickly expose their problem areas (it’s exciting to think that ironing out these kinks at such as early stage gives them an incredible head start).

By checking fundamental movement patterns, I can see errors that cause collapse, energy to leak, and injury to potentially accumulate. And these movements may appear ‘hunky dory’ when an athlete is fresh, but I can fast forward to observe these movements in a simulated fatigued state by simply adding increasing load to the pattern until failure occurs. Then I can see how the body collapses, and prescribe exercises to work on these weak links.

Every single gym session I’m testing, where do you fail and why? I don’t have to wait for you to fatigue in the future. I can bring about your own unique structural collapse right now, in front of my eyes in real time.

Fundamental Movement Patterns

The following fundamental gym movement patterns are the foundation of all your movement, including Muay Thai. Perform these correctly under load, and you’ll be good to go in the ring despite building fatigue.

• Knee dominant lower body – squatting, lunging etc. (as shown in the picture)

• Hip dominant lower body – deadlifting (hip hinge), hip thrusts etc.

• Upper body pushes – horizontal and vertical presses

• Upper body pulls – horizontal rows and vertical pulls

• Core anti-extension – ab rollouts, med ball floor smashes etc.

• Core anti-rotation – landmine twists, med ball side twist throws etc.

Performance Enhancement AND Injury Prevention

Correcting and stabilising your specific failure patterns will improve your movement quality throughout the whole fight, right through to the end of the 5th round. To this end, such training moves from corrective to performance enhancement – your strength, power and endurance will remain consistent with a stable structure and efficient movement patterning. But this robust performance also massively reduces the likelihood of injury, not just in the ring, but also throughout training. Progressively loading critical movement patterns is key not only to achieving maximum performance, but also reliable, robust performance too.

Wasted Opportunities

Gym training should be an important supplement to your Muay Thai practice. Done right, it will take you way beyond what you could achieve without it. Far too many fighters (and coaches) are squandering an opportunity to gain a genuine advantage by underutilising or inappropriately applying strength and conditioning.

But, things are changing. Information is getting out there regarding how to make best use of this secret weapon – and is great place to start! I encourage you to seek out appropriate training at the earliest opportunity. The sooner you start the better. It’s an investment that pays bigger and bigger dividends as time goes on. There’s no shortcut, you’ll have to pay your dues to achieve what others can’t. And it starts with being willing to expose your failures and work on them.

The sooner you know how you fail, the sooner you can work on plugging that leak.

About Don Heatrick

Don is an ex-pro fighter, Muay Thai and strength & conditioning coach from the UK, with over 25-years experience in combat sports and athletic conditioning. He is passionate about all things that lead to improved fight performance and loves sharing what he's learned (and continues to learn) along the way.
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