Also referred to as Thai boxing, Muay Thai is a martial art from Thailand. Executing it properly requires you to condition your body with techniques such as running, jumping rope, shadowboxing, and abdominal exercises. Since Muay Thai makes use of many of your muscles, you might wonder whether this sport can make you bulky.

Muay Thai does not make you bulky. Although it involves intense muscle exercises, Muay Thai alone cannot increase your muscle mass. The main reason for these exercises is to tone the body and build strength.

In this article, We’ll discuss a few topics related to this question, including why Muay Thai alone will not make you bulky and what you can do to add weight. Also, we’ll share some of the physical and emotional benefits of learning Muay Thai.

Why Muay Thai Doesn’t Make You Bulky

Like other martial arts, you can learn Muay Thai as a professional sport for fun or self-defense. You may believe there’s not much difference between Muay Thai and bodybuilding since practitioners of both tend to have well-toned bodies and well-defined muscles.

However, Muay Thai doesn’t grow your muscles. Instead, the exercises often used by practitioners of this martial art are designed to increase your endurance and improve your ability to maintain strength and movement throughout a match.

Muay Thai Exercises

Muay Thai exercises include aerobic and anaerobic body conditioning.

  • Aerobic body conditioning: These exercises boost your body’s oxygen intake rate to ensure you don’t get breathless with increased activity. The idea is to strengthen your body without raising your heart rate to dangerous levels.
  • Anaerobic body conditioning: These exercises train your muscles to function even when they’ve exhausted their lactic acid. They strengthen the twitch muscle needed for short bursts of energy throughout a match.

Below are specific Muay Thai exercises and how they work on your body.

Distance Running

Running is excellent for training and keeping your heart rate up. However, it doesn’t require speed, so jogging is usually enough. Most trainers recommend at least 30 minutes, but you can add two minutes each week if you’re so inclined and if you have extra time.

Skipping Rope

Skipping is usually a warm-up exercise during Muay Thai, although it’s not as intense as other exercises. If it’s not challenging enough, you can increase the number of rounds. In any case, ensure you maintain proper form and use a rope that works in proportion to your weight.

Pad Work

Pad work is good for aerobic conditioning and enhances timing and speed. It’s also an essential exercise, as it prepares and strengthens your reflexes. Muay Thai trainers recommend at least 5 rounds of 80 -100 pad work without breaks within one to two-minute intervals.

Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing helps you improve strength, power, and speed. Additionally, it’s good for shedding excess fat, since you break a sweat while doing so. You can lose as many as 400 calories (1670 kJ) when shadow boxing. It works best when you combine punches, elbows, knees, and kicks to improve hand-body coordination.

Heavy Bag Training

The continuous kicking in this exercise involves anaerobic body conditioning. Ideally, you should do something like 100 kicks per leg for about 5 rounds within four to five minutes. By doing this regularly, you build strength and condition your muscles to work longer.

heavy bag training


Sprints are great anaerobic exercises for Muay Thai fighters. Therefore, they should be high intensity to improve your lactic acid threshold. In addition, sprints are suitable for the hamstring muscles since they improve your power and ability to put strength into your kicks.

Push Ups

Push-ups are essential for Muay Thai fighters as they strengthen the chest and shoulders. In addition, they provide anaerobic conditioning, especially on the hands, for more robust and faster punches. If the standard push-up is too boring for you, you can change it up with other variations.

What You Can Do To Become Bulky

Most Muay Thai trainers will tell you that you can’t be bulky and become a successful Muay Thai fighter. When you’re chubby, your body is heavier, and you lose the speed crucial in Thai boxing. On the other hand, bulkiness is best for bodybuilders since they have to appear bigger.

If becoming bulky is your priority, here are some things you can do instead:

Weight Lifting

Traditionally, weight lifting wasn’t a part of Muay Thai exercises. However, some fighters use weights to complement press-ups and push-ups to build muscle strength. It’s worth noting that Muay Thai fighters use smaller weights to avoid muscle growth that causes bulkiness.

To become bulky, you must focus on weights that build strength and endurance. The weights should be 9-15 reps, though you should note that these don’t contribute much to muscle strength.

Instead, focus on lower reps within the 6-8 range to gain muscle mass and strength. Also, ensure the rest intervals are less than two minutes.

weight lifting


The truth is, you can’t build muscle mass on weightlifting alone. You have to change your diet to include high calories and more proteins. For starters, carbohydrates contribute to body sugars and fats that are good for muscle mass. You can also include protein shakes during exercises.

Benefits of Muay Thai

Whether you take it as a profession or a hobby, Muay Thai has many benefits. Contrary to popular opinion, Muay Thai isn’t dangerous when done right. Instead, it molds you physically, emotionally, and socially.

Here are the advantages of Muay Thai:

  • It boosts physical health. It involves many exercises, promoting physical fitness.
  • It improves mental health. It’s a great stress-relieving strategy and expends negative energy.
  • It boosts relationships. Muay Thai encourages respect for each other, helping you nurture friendships you may not have otherwise.
  • It builds body strength. It boosts body strength and physique, thereby also boosting your self-confidence.
  • It’s suitable for self-defense. Muay Thai equips you with self-defense skills and is ideal for most, including children.
  • It’s a leisure activity. It’s a great way to have fun and socialize.

Final Thoughts

Muay Thai is an interesting martial art with a lot to offer, and you can take it up as a hobby or professional sport. However, it doesn’t make you bulky because the exercises contribute to toning and strengthening the muscles instead of building muscle mass.

If you want to become bulky, you can do heavy weight lifting for bodybuilders. It may help if you accompany it with a high protein diet to increase muscle mass.

Benefits of Muay Thai include:

  • Improving discipline
  • Improving physical and mental health
  • Boosting self-confidence
  • Enhancing social interactions
  • Stress relief