Muay Thai Workouts to Get Your Heart Pumping

muay thai workoutsThe premier martial art in Thailand is Muay Thai. Known as the art of the eight limbs, it uses a characteristic combination of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet. Within mixed martial arts, Muay Thai forms a major component of every fighters game, because it is an efficient and effective fighting style. The massive combinations of punches, kicks, knee strikes and elbows also makes it a very physically challenging combat sport, which is sure to help you get in shape, and shed any excess weight fast! If you want to follow along with a video workout, this kickboxing course covers many of the fundamentals outlined in this article, and is great for getting you fit.

Being a very challenging martial art, if you’ve got young kids that are planning to exercise with you, they may benefit more from this course that’s targeted specifically at children and martial arts training. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your exercises, and slow down or stop if at any time you feel dizzy or faint. If you’re new to exercise, this course is great because it teaches you how to start a fitness regime, and only takes an hour a week. Once you’re ready to step it up a notch, you can try the Muay Thai workouts that follow.


You want to make use of your body’s natural range of motion to get your muscles loose for this workout. This is called dynamic stretching and is a great way to warm up before doing traditional stretches.

  • Move your arms in a circular motion, both forward and backwards 10 times each.
  • Move your head up and down, and side to side to loosen up your neck.
  • Twist at the waist, and perform 15 trunk rotations.
  • Bring your knees up to your chest, and then open at the hips for 10 raises on each leg.
  • Stand on your toes and swing your leg up in front keeping your leg straight, for 10 raises on each leg.
  • Sit with the palms of your feet together and lean forward to stretch the inside of your legs. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Bend your knee and bring your foot to your butt, holding it there to stretch the front of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Lay face down on the mat and push up until your arms are straight, stretching your abs for 30 seconds.
  • Standing tall, bend at the hips to touch the floor, or as close as possible as you can reach. Hold for 30 seconds.


Thai boxers are all whip thin, and lightning fast. To get in this shape yourself, you need to work on your cardio, and get your heart pumping. After you’ve stretched, spend 10 minutes and go for a quick run around your gym, or around the block. It’s great for strengthening your shins as well as
your overall health and fitness.


The first steps you need to master are the stealthy Thai fighters walk. This forms the basis of all footwork in the martial art, and should be practiced until you feel natural doing it.

  • Stand in a wide boxing stance, with your left foot forward if you’re right handed.
  • To walk, touch your left foots toes to the ground, and bring your right foot about 15cm forward
  • As soon as you put the weight on your right foot, move your left foot forward 15cm
  • This ensures your feet are always the same distance apart, and helps to maintain your balance

For your hands, lead with the same hand as your forward leg. This arms elbow should be in front of your body, and the other arm tucked in with the palm facing your ear. Throughout all of your exercises in Muay Thai, remember to focus on your feet and your stance.

Shadow Boxing

To perfect your technique, shadow boxing is a must. It helps you to create and get comfortable with combination attacks, and allows you to form strategies against any type of opponent you can imagine. If your gym has a mirror do this where you can see each aspect of your body, as it will help you form proper technique.

Then you just need to run through all of the Muay Thai techniques you know, and as you improve you’ll pick up speed and won’t even feel the slightest bit silly as you go through them. You’re aiming to do three rounds of shadow boxing, at three minutes each, with 60 seconds rest in between. To get you started try some of these combinations, and mix and match as you like:

  • 10 uppercuts, alternating left and right arms
  • 10 right crosses
  • 10 left jabs
  • 5 right knee strikes
  • 5 left knee strikes
  • 10 left hooks + right uppercut
  • 10 right hooks + rising left elbow strike
  • 10 right crosses + left hook + rising right elbow strike
  • 10 right leg push kicks
  • 10 left leg push kicks
  • 10 right leg blocks
  • 10 left leg blocks
  • 10 right leg blocks + step forward left jab + right cross + left uppercut
  • 10 left leg push kicks + step forward right cross

Cardio Round 2

Now that you’re sufficiently warmed up, grab a skipping rope and prepare for some high intensity skipping. This is nothing like what you used to do in grade school. Complete 3 x 3 minute rounds, with 60 seconds break in between. Skipping builds stamina, fitness, and also helps to develop your hand eye coordination, and tones your wrists, forearms and shoulders. Don’t forget to mix up your footwork, bouncing on both legs, a single leg, criss-crossing your legs, or bringing your knees right up to your chest. The goal is to keep you on your toes, and constantly change the rhythm you’re skipping.

Depending on the specific training you now wish to do, you can complete all of the following, or mix and match as best suits your schedule. All will help you get into fit, fighting shape.

The Bag Workout

In addition to being a great stress release, hitting the bag lets you feel what it’s like when you actually connect with an opponent, and gives you a great workout at the same time. When you train on the punching bag you improve your timing and movement, and builds stamina in every punch and kick that you throw. This will make you a more powerful fighter as you get stronger.

Its critical at this stage that you’re hands and wrists are properly wrapped, and focus on executing each strike with a clean and crisp technique. You don’t have to re-enact Rocky, but you do need to perfect your form. Speed will come later. Aim to complete 3 rounds of 3 minutes with 60 seconds rest doing a combination of attacks on the bag.

Use the attacks from your shadow boxing again with the bag, and don’t forget to keep moving, both your feet and your head. Muay Thai fighters aren’t robots, they are fluid and graceful on their feet, ready to dish out a lightning fast attack. Remember to stay on your toes, and stay nimble, and throw in a mix of both high and low attacks, legs and arms, as well as big elbows.

The Pad Workout

This method of training is more advanced than the bag, as it involves your Muay Thai instructor holding the pads for you as you attack. This should only be done with experienced instructors, as it is a much more fluid form of a workout. This workout relies heavily on your instructor, as they have you attack with a mix of the different techniques you already know. As you improve, they’ll also teach you defensive strategy at this stage, and you’ll soon discover where you’re leaving your defenses open! You should aim for 3 rounds at 3 minutes each, with 60 seconds rest.

The Strength Workout

Every fighter gets their strength after having done thousands and thousands of repetitions of the same moves, mastering each. With the strength workout you are going for numbers, and need to complete each of the following, on both arms and legs.

  • 100 push kicks on the heavy bag
  • 100 normal kicks on the heavy bag
  • 100 knee strikes shadow boxing
  • 100 leg blocks shadow boxing

The Conditioning Workout

Thai boxers don’t typically use heavy weights to train with, rather relying on simple bodyweight exercises and their cardio to deliver lightning fast attacks. To get your body in a similar level of conditioning, follow these exercises, and do three sets of each:

  • 10 wide grip pull ups
  • 25 push ups
  • 25 bodyweight squats
  • 10 box jumps
  • 50 sit-ups

The Free Weight Workout

If you do have access to a gym, these free weight exercises will get you in fighting shape, and help support your development and fitness as you learn Muay Thai. Generally the focus is on perfect form and building strength, not increasing muscle mass for the professional fighters.

Deadlifts, three sets of each:

  • 5-10 reps on a light weight (warm up)
  • 5 reps on a medium weight (around 50% of max)
  • 3 reps on a heavy weight (around 75% of max)
  • 2 reps at your lifting weight (your max)

Front squats, three sets of each:

  • 5-10 reps on a light weight (warm up)
  • 3 reps on a medium weight (around 50% of max)
  • 5 reps on a heavy weight (around 75% of max)

Weighted chin ups, five sets of five reps. For the best results, you can also superset your weighted chin ups between your front squats.

Bench press, three sets of each:

  • 5-10 reps on a light weight (warm up)
  • 3 reps on a medium weight (around 50% of max)
  • 5 reps on a heavy weight (around 75% of max)

Finish it all off with some intensity training, six to eight sprints at your highest intensity with long rest periods in between. If you’re interested to learn a little bit more about this type of training, this recent post covers some great strength building workouts as well.

The Sparring Workout

This one is only for advanced fighters, as it involves direct contact and can be very harmful should your opponent make a hard hit. Be sure you have all of the appropriate pads and protective gear, and under the supervision of your instructor perform 3 rounds at 3 minutes of sparring. It simulates exactly what will happen in a real Muay Thai fight, and has you both working out your muscles and your brain as you seek to counter what your opponent is trying to achieve.

After completing your workouts remember to drink plenty of water, and redo the stretching exercise from the beginning to loosen all of your muscles so you’re not too sore tomorrow. These different workouts form the basis of the training that all Muay Thai fighters go through, and is usually performed early in the morning and in the early evening, twice a day, 7 days a week for every serious contender. If this seems a little intense, try this course and begin getting fit in the comfort of your own home. Start your journey to fitness today!