Core Conditioning for Muay Thai

Muay Thai Core exercises

Muay Thai fighters without core strength and conditioning is a recipe for failure, but luckily for most fighters, simply training the activity that they love will give them the conditioning required, with only a little extra core-focused training.

Developing strong or shredded abs is often a tedious task, with people frequently trying different machines or fads. But ask yourself, how often do you see a Muay Thai fighter without a shredded core (aside from some heavyweight fighters)? Practising Muay That not only encourages us to strengthen our core to become unaffected by body shots, but it also creates strong abs and obliques through the movements that are performed while practising the sport. Almost all movements are performed with partial use of the core muscles, therefore practising them with intensity will create that athletic body that is so often desired in summer.

Any fighter competing as a professional or as an amateur is going to be looking to get any sort of advantage over their opponent that they can. This results in the majority of fighters doing extra abdominal work as a part of their Muay Thai training routine so that they have strong enough core muscles to brace against the impact of punches and kicks delivered at maximum intensity.

Here are some exercises that will help Muay Thai practitioners get their core in optimal condition:

This instructional video further explains the movements of all the exercises below.


Starting on you back feet in the air, knees bent at approximately 90 degrees, bring your head and shoulders up off the ground towards your knees. Return to the original position and repeat.

*do not pull your head with your hands, keep hands at the side of your head. This ensures you use your abs to lift your head, instead of your arms.

Heel touches:

*if you can touch your heels without having to engage your core, straighten your legs slightly to increase the distance to your heels

Side crunches:

Both knees bent at 90 degrees, left leg on the ground, right knee pointing upwards. Laying on left hip, lift right shoulder towards right knee (this will lift both shoulders), and let them both back down again.

*do not use the elbow to help lift shoulders, keep arms away from the floor.

Raised heel touches:

Laying on your back, lift both feet in the air and cross one foot over the other, allowing a slight bend in the knees. Reach up with both hands to reach your heels/toes, lifting your shoulders from the ground, and release back down to the ground.

*do not bend knees to bring feet closer to shoulders, the idea is to lift the shoulder from the ground. If you can’t reach the heels or toes, touch as high as you can on your shins.

Medicine ball drops:

This simulates an opponent punching your stomach. Start in pushup stance, with medicine ball positioned under your stomach. While tensing your abs lower yourself down onto the medicine ball. If this is quite easy you can lower yourself faster, getting to the stage where you can let yourself drop without controlling your body with your hands.

*also turn your body to the sides to land on your ribs to condition those areas against punches as well.

Body shots:

Have a partner wearing gloves punch you in various places of the stomach while you tense your core. Make sure your partner starts light and you can ask them to increase the power as you become used to the strikes. They should make your body feel uncomfortable, without causing pain.

*if this is still too easy, bounce lightly on your toes while they punch your stomach.

Beginners example routine:

30 x crunches
30 x heel touches
25 x side crunches (25 per side – 50 total)
30 x raised toe touches
20 x medicine ball drops
1 minute of body shots

Have 1-minute rest and perform routine again from start to finish. If you don’t have a partner, skip the body shots at the end of the routine. Perform full routine 3 times per week.

Fighters example routine:

50 x crunches
50 x heel touches
50 x side crunches (50 per side – 100 total)
50 x raised toe touches
30 x medicine ball drops
1 minute of body shots (partner giving firm punches to your core while you bounce on your toes)

Have 2 minutes rest and repeat the full routine. Perform routine at least 3 times per week.