Running For Muay Thai: Time To Stop?

April 22, 2022

The Thai’s spend hours pounding the pavement to build their aerobic gas tank. It’s rooted in their training tradition. Since the best Thai boxers run, you should too. Right?

Running is not necessary to have great Muay Thai cardio. Hitting a bag, pads, and sparring provide the same adaptations. However, you can run for Muay Thai conditioning if you enjoy it.

Why is it that running isn’t necessary for Muay Thai?

Is Running Good For Muay Thai?

Running can be good or bad for Muay Thai, depending on how you use it. It is good that it can provide variety to your Muay Thai conditioning but bad for taking time away from Muay Thai. Running is a low-cost activity you can do just about anywhere to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness.

However, this does not mean you must run for Muay Thai. It is a strong tradition that many won’t stray from. One of the main arguments for running is the repeated impacts from running that help improve the bone density of the legs.

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Sure. But kicking a bag, pads, and other humans also improves bone density. Not to mention jumping rope and other plyometric and weight training exercises that do this. Safe to say, while running may have some benefits, it is not necessary.

Benefits Of Running For Muay Thai

While running may not be necessary for Muay Thai, you can benefit from it if you enjoy doing it.

Targeted Energy System Development

Running is a simple way to control the intensity of your conditioning. It can be challenging to hit the bag lightly or continue to flow spar without the intensity increasing dramatically. On the other hand, you can maintain a constant pace when running to target the aerobic energy system or do high-intensity intervals to target higher outputs.

Get Away From Muay Thai

Graeme Morris on the Sweet Science of Fighting Podcast states the main benefit of going for a run is getting outside the gym’s four walls and seeing the sun and getting fresh air.

There’s something to be said about the mental side of being out in nature and providing some variety outside of constant Muay Thai training.

Disadvantages Of Running For Muay Thai

Doesn’t Match The Biodynamic Structure Of Muay Thai

This is the main reason why I deem running unnecessary for Muay Thai. Muay Thai is a full-body sport that requires striking with the upper and lower body along with isometric upper body strength when clinching.

No amount of running will prepare you for the rigors of the clinch and having to throw strikes afterward. That is why I recommend manipulating the intensity of your specific Muay Thai conditioning to get the desired adaptations you want.

For example, easy circuits of shadowboxing, jumping rope, and bag work are a simple way of replacing running and stimulating aerobic adaptations. Another option is to flow spar.

While this is more on the high-intensity end, clinching can be done as flow sparring:

Added Training Volume Away From Muay Thai

If you are training 5+ times per week of Muay Thai, then spending some time away from it by running makes sense. However, if you only train a few times a week, any extra conditioning should be geared towards getting better at Muay Thai.

That means shadowboxing, pad work, bag work, and flow sparring. These will develop and reinforce the skills you learn during class while providing a conditioning stimulus.

How Often Should You Run For Muay Thai?

Is Running Good For Muay Thai

If you are going to run for Muay Thai, I would recommend 1-3x maximum per week on top of your Muay Thai training. Because Muay Thai is already so intensive, adding more cardio eventually has diminishing returns.

Should You Run Before Or After Muay Thai?

Ideally, running will be a separate session at least 6 hours before or after your Muay Thai class depending on your schedule. If you must run directly before or after your Muay Thai session, I would advise doing it after so your skills are performed when you’re fresh.

Is Muay Thai Considered Cardio?

Muay Thai is considered cardio and is why I recommend spending most of your conditioning time doing Muay Thai. That means shadowboxing, hitting the bag, pads, and flow sparring. Your typical Muay Thai class is an hour-long form of cardio, so you don’t need to do extra cardio if you are doing it for general health.


Running for Muay Thai is an accessible, low-cost conditioning modality. Still, it is not necessary if you don’t enjoy the activity. Further, if you are only training a few times a week of Muay Thai, running is not the best use of your training time, and you’re better off using Muay Thai drills in a continuous training format.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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