Can Muay Thai Build Muscle? 3 Tips To Gain Muscle When Training Muay Thai

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We all have different goals and expectations from muay thai training and its benefits (see Muay Thai’s Benefits here), and building muscle can be your goal. Having a strong muscle mass can have a lot of benefits in your daily life but also as a fighter. So today we’ll discover if we can build muscle with muay thai training.


We received this question a lot, as people are getting into muay thai to get in shape and they don’t know if they will actually look “ripped” with muay thai. Of course, muay thai is not the best sport to get HUGE and have massive muscles, but it is probably one of the best sport to have an athletic, complete physique. So, the short answer is YES, you can build muscle while training muay thai, here’s how! 


Why should you build muscle?


This might sound obvious, but building muscle is often underrated in the martial art world. Your muscles are very important in allowing you to perform everyday activities more effectively. They will also help you succeed in combat sports.


What muscle with Muay Thai training will definitely help you with is explosive power, that is, the ability to use your available strength much more effectively and efficiently.


Building up muscle will help you build up your muay thai game as it will allow you to be stronger, and be able to take more hits and, of course, hit harder. Also, if you are looking to lose weight or control your weight for a fight, having a strong muscle base will help you a lot?


Why? Simply because the more muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning naturally. This also means that when trying to lose weight ahead of a fight, your weight cut will be quicker and “easier”.


And of course, having a good looking, muscular body will improve your confidence and many other aspects of your life


Problems with muay thai & muscle building

Now that you know how building up muscle can improve your muay thai game and overall life, let’s dive in the negative part of muay thai training & muscle building.

As we know, muay thai is a very intense and complete sport that requires the activity of your overall body. Why means it’s a great choice for having a strong and functional body. 


But there is a catch, the primary problem that you’re going to encounter when trying to build muscle with Muay Thai training is that you will simply burn too many calories!

Muay Thai is such a complete sport that a 2h muay thai session can burn up to 1700 kcal (check out our Muay Thai & Weight loss article here). 


Simple math here, if your body is naturally burning 1800 kcal, + let’s say 600 kcal from your daily life and 1700 kcal that’s a total of 4100 kcal you would have to consume to maintain your weight.


If you’re burning too many calories and so losing too much weight, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to gain muscle mass. For this reason, you’ll need to find a way to give your body enough fuel to be able to grow your muscle mass, and this can only be done by consuming more calories and more protein.

How to build muscle when training muay thai

Now that we covered the negative side of things, let’s see how to actually build muscle while training muay thai.


A professional Muay Thai fighter will do a lot of strengthening workouts. Strengthening is what you are aiming for since as you gain strength, you are actually building up muscle mass. On top of your basic Muay Thai training, you need to incorporate strength training into your weekly schedule if you want to see quicker results. 


But if you want to grow your muay thai game, you don’t want to jump into a “bodybuilding” program, which might have a negative impact on your performance as it will drain your nervous system and energy. Instead, you should add some functional training such as HIIT workouts AFTER your muay thai sessions


More than the training aspect, as covered above you have to consume more calories than you burn, which means EAT, A LOT. But calm down, don’t jump into that ice cream just yet. You’ll get way more benefits from having a healthy diet to build muscle, which means you’re gonna have to eat the right food. 


Essentially, you need protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, fats, and fiber for a balanced weight gain diet plan. Eating the right food is crucial, here are 26 of the top foods for gaining lean muscle: here.


So to build muscle you will need to eat more than you consume, and if possible, add some strength training after your muay thai sessions.

3 Tips to gain muscle when training muay thai

#1 Rest and recovery are key


That might sound very logic, but if you want to build muscle quickly, your body needs to recover and regenerate after a workout. 

The muscle-building process is quite simple: You break your muscle fibers while working out, then your body will repair it, stronger.

Muscles repair and grow during the recovery period but not when you are working out. This is why you should rest for at least 48 hours before reworking a muscle group.


Also, in order to be optimal, you should aim for at least eight hours of sleep. Sleep is a huge part of your muscle-building process because that's when the natural human growth hormone is released. 

#2 Focus on compound exercises

When working out, you might want to start with those Biceps curl because you want to have big arms, right? Well... That’s really not the optimal way to build muscle. 

Instead, you should focus on compound exercises such as Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Snatches, Burpees etc…


Why? Simply because these prompt the body to recruit more muscle fibers and release more natural testosterone, growth hormone (GF) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) than isolation exercises such as Bicep Curls and Leg Extensions. Which will make huge difference in your muscle gain process.

#3 Eat before and after your training sessions


This is a very general tip to consider for increasing muscle mass in Muay Thai, and this will probably sound obvious, but this very important.


Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better and so, help you build more muscle. Here is a rule of a thumb for your pre-workout meal: it is generally best to eat approximately 1 to 2 hours before you participate in your training session. These meals should be relatively high in both carbohydrates as you’ll need a lot of them to burn off during practice as well as a good amount of protein. 


Studies have shown that consuming carbs and protein before your workout will improve your overall performance and will improve your protein synthesis and so, your muscle growth.


Then, your post-workout meal is also very important when it comes it muscle growth. Eating the right nutrients soon after your exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps your body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
  • Restore glycogen stores.
  • Enhance recovery.

As your pre-workout meal, your post-workout should be mainly comped of protein and carbs, here is an example of what you should eat after working out here.

BONUS #4 Stretch well

When building muscle, especially when training martial arts at the same time, it is very important to stretch after each session. Here is why:

  • Avoid the risk of injuries
  • Help you kick higher
  • Fewer muscle aches after your workout

To do so, having a 10-15 min post-workout stretching routine might help you reach your goal. Also, using a leg stretcher will get you better results and a much better stretch. 

CONCLUSION

Now that we covered the topic, as long as you follow the tips and advice on this page, you should build muscle over the course of a few months while practicing thai boxing. Of course, you should not forget to enjoy training and having fun during your muay thai sessions.

Muay thai is a great way to build an esthetic body while having fun and actually enjoying what you are doing, which makes the entire process way easier.

If you are training muay thai, you are probably gonna love our muay thai shirts! So now on the top of training effectively, you can upgrade your style doing it!

And if you wanna become a better fighter, you can upgrade your training skills with our training tools such as a reflex ball.

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