ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao knows a thing or two about bodyweight exercises.
At the start of his martial arts journey in rural Thailand, Nong-O was forced to rely solely on bodyweight exercises during training until he was picked up by a major gym in Bangkok.
Despite that minimalist approach to Muay Thai, he experienced tremendous success and went on to dominate the bantamweight division in ONE Super Series.
Below, the Evolve MMA standout shares his world-class workout tips so you can get the most out of your bodyweight routine.
Focus On Form
The old adage that more reps equal greater gains is no longer the consensus. Fitness experts now agree that doing fewer, properly-executed reps is more beneficial than doing more reps with poor form.
Nong-O, who recently defended his gold against compatriot Saemapetch Fairtex, couldn’t agree more.
“Most of the time, people are too focused on putting in a large number of reps. When the program says to do 10 push-ups, a lot of people try their hardest to get to 10. But in turn, they sacrifice a lot of technique to do so,” Nong-O says.
“I like to tell people that five quality push-ups executed with perfect form and technique are better than 10 sloppy ones. It’s a little cliché, but it’s also very true.”
It must be working for the skilled striker. The 33-year-old finished Saemapetch by KO in their battle at ONE: EDGE OF GREATNESS last November – and there’s no doubt that proper form on his push-ups helped him pack the finishing punch.
Modify The Exercises
Most fitness enthusiasts know how to use their weight to their advantage. But Nong-O suggests modifying your bodyweight exercises to make them more effective.
Instead of doing two-legged squats, for example, try one-legged squats. Not only will it make you stronger, but it’ll help with your balance too, which is important for Muay Thai.
“Single weight exercises are much more difficult to do than normal. Challenge yourself by stepping out of the box and doing something out of the ordinary,” the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion says.
“It may seem difficult at first, but then your body will eventually adjust, and you’ll get stronger.”
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Go For Half Reps
You may think only full reps will benefit your strength-building efforts, but the next time you’re doing push-ups or pull-ups, try half reps.
With push-ups, for instance, stop halfway up and hold that posture for three seconds before completing the rep. On the way down, try the same thing.
“They’re definitely hard. Even the strongest and fittest individuals will have a difficult time with these. But they’re also extremely satisfying,” Nong-O says.
“Push yourself to the limit and see how far you can go. See how strong you can get. More than the physical pain of such intense workouts, your mind will always be stronger. Power yourself through the pain and you’ll be surprised with what you are capable of.”
With a mindset like that, it’s no wonder the man from Sakon Nakhon was able to endure so much on his way to achieving greatness on the global stage.
Stretching is one of the most overlooked aspects of training; too many people consider it an afterthought.
Truth be told, though, stretching is just as important as bodyweight exercises when it comes to getting stronger.
“Stretching is a must,” Nong-O says. “Building muscle and achieving fitness is not enough. You have to enhance flexibility too.
“Personally, as an athlete and as a professional Muay Thai fighter, flexibility is one of the most important things for me. And stretching has to be done on a regular basis. Without stretching, muscles will become short and tight, and we don’t want that.”
How do you think the bantamweight king is able to stay so fluid under the heat of the bright lights in the Circle?
Incorporate Martial Arts
“There are so many martial arts you can try. From BJJ and boxing to Muay Thai, each discipline offers a unique approach to physical fitness. And it’s all fun and engaging, which is the best part.”