train like a muay thai fighter

Ever wonder what it takes to make it in the ring? Lucky for you, Muay Thai expert Tyler Scott has put together a list of key training exercises to get you in shape and sharpen your kickboxing skills. Muay Thai, which literally translates to “Thai Boxing”, is a martial arts combat sport that requires strength, agility, and focus. Whether you’re ready to get serious and try out fight camp or you’re just looking for a way to get in better shape, Tyler’s training routine is sure to teach you some new moves and make you sweat.


Conditioning
Like any sport, conditioning is an essential aspect of a fighter’s regimen. Improving your cardiovascular strength will lead to increased stamina and resilience in the ring when you are throwing elbows and dodging jabs.  

  • Run or jog 3-5 miles a day at least 3 times a week. (And use these playlists to keep you going.)

  • Take a circuit training class 1-2 times a week. This will build your endurance and ensure versatility of body movement. Check out Switch Playground if you’re looking to try something new and happen to be in NYC or Cape Town.

 

Footwork

Footwork, like jumping rope and ladder drills, has myriad advantages both in and out of the ring. Tyler explains, “Jumping rope, for example, serves many purposes and has many benefits. It’s a warm-up, a conditioning tool, develops hand-foot coordination, and builds mental discipline.” Increase your mobility by sticking to this footwork regimen:

  • Jump rope 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week. As you build your fitness level, feel free to increase the length of time.

  • Ladder drills 6 days a week. Try out the basics like the “side straddle hop” or “ladder back and forth” to get in the swing of things.

 

 

Shadowbox

Once you’ve learned some basic Muay Thai moves like jab, cross, hook, etc., it’s time for you to try shadowboxing. Shadowboxing is an individual exercise in which fighters can warm up, master technique, and get comfortable with the way their own body moves. You should practice shadowboxing 20 minutes per day at least 6 days a week for optimal results. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get comfortable with this exercise:

  • Create your own combinations and stick to them until they are mastered (ex: jab, cross, move, repeat).

  • Focus on footwork and proper posture and stance.

  • Your movement should be precise and relaxed.

  • Throw your strikes in the air with balance and control.

  • Practice in front of a mirror. This allows you to observe your own body mechanics as well as work on your defensive strategy. You can envision the strikes coming at you and learn how to move accordingly.

 

 

Bag Work

Bag work is designed to help you develop power, focus on rhythm and timing, and build technique. Plus, it’s a great way to let off some steam and take out your anger on an inanimate object! Keep track of your time with either a basic timer or download the app Boxing Round Timer for free.

  • Divide your bag work into rounds. You should do eight 3 minute rounds of combinations per day, 6 days a week.

 

 

Pad Work

Fighting pros use pad work to warm up for matches and fine-tune their movements. It is also a valuable way to simulate the movement and dynamic nature of an actual Muay Thai fight. Pad work requires a partner.

  • With your partner, take turns holding the Thai pads and actually doing the moves. The person holding the pads should call for specific strikes and combinations while the other partner implements them.

  • Take turns. One person should hold the pads for six 3 minute rounds while the other performs the moves, and then you should switch positions and repeat.

  • Pad work should be done 6 days per week.

 

Speed Drills and Combination Trades

Are you ready to suit up in some gear? Then you’re ready to test out speed drills and combination trades with a partner. Having proper protection is essential in this exercise; you should be sure to wear shin pads, 16 oz. gloves, and mouth guards for your safety. Just like pad work, speed drills and combination trades require a partner. Tyler explains that the purpose of speed drills is not to knock someone out, but rather that “the objective is to master speed and control while striking. Light to medium contact should be used in these exchanges.” Essentially speed drills and combination trades are designed to help you get in a rhythm and increase your agility in a fight.

  • With a partner, take turns throwing combinations at each other. Decide who is on defense and who is on offense and stick to it until you switch. This should feel like a natural back and forth, similar to a game of ping pong.

  • You should focus on speed with striking and trading jabs so your partner knows what is coming.

  • Speed drills and combination trades should be done 2 times a week, typically in 12 3-minute rounds.

 

Sparring

Think you’re ready for the big leagues? Sparring is designed to most closely simulate an actual fight between you and a partner.  Again, the essential protective gear is necessary; in addition to the shin pads, gloves, and mouth guards required for speed drills, headgear is also recommended for beginners learning to spar. Sparring is the final step before actually fighting in the ring so getting comfortable in safe conditions is key. Tyler explains, “Sparring should only be performed in a safe, controlled environment under trained supervision. At a traditional fight gym, this is only available through invitation by coaches. Coaches will maintain control, determine how many rounds, round duration, and partner pairing.” With sparring, you should be focusing on improving yourself—honing your personal technique, trying new combinations, and bettering your overall performance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you learn to spar:

  • Sparring is less predictable than speed drills and combinations trades. Offense and defense are not necessarily predetermined.

  • Sparring is what you work up to in order to prepare for a real fight in the ring.

  • Sparring should be done 2 times per week.

 

Dana VanPamelen is a co-founder of Hit House, a Muay Thai Kickboxing Fitness studio in Manhattan. She's been training since 2011 and her favorite move is the teep.

 

Emma Boelter graduated from Tulane University with a BA in English in 2017. Although she has writing experience in many different areas, right now she is focusing on providing clients with high-quality digital material. She currently lives in New York City and works as a freelance writer for INSIDER, a blog specialist for the Brooklyn Kitchen, and is taking on new projects. 

 

— By the rhone team
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