Ask any bar-room expert which sport produces the fittest athletes and you’ll likely get a great many perfectly valid answers: Decathletes are great all-rounders, triathletes have amazing cardiovascular fitness, weightlifters are the strongest…it’s a hard question to answer. I am going to throw my hat into the ring and say that I believe that mixed martial artists are the greatest fitness all-rounders in sports.
The sport of MMA is relatively new and has seen some interesting changes recently. Not so many years ago, MMA was more about seeing which fighting style was best and boxers fought judo players, karate experts fought kung fu experts and sumo wrestlers fought Thai boxers. Current MMA fighters often come from one specific martial art but now train in multiple arts so that they posses the best fighting techniques available. The same is true of their fitness training. MMA requires a high level of all the components that make up physical fitness.
Aerobic fitness – not just the reserve of runners and cyclists, fighters need good lung and heart conditioning too. Bouts may often be over in just a few seconds but, if an early knockout does not happen, a fight may last 10 minutes or more. This sustained effort requires a high level of aerobic fitness.
Anaerobic Fitness – MMA bouts are fast and furious. Periods of aggressive attack are often balanced by periods of recovery. This is especially true for bouts fought in rounds. Anaerobic fitness describes your ability to work at a high level of intensity while minimizing the build up of lactic acid – the stuff that makes your muscles burn. Being aerobically fit means that you will move into anaerobic energy production later than someone who is less fit. Anaerobic fitness encompasses local muscular endurance.
Strength and Power – punching, kicking, blocking and throwing an opponent requires strength and power. Strength is your ability to generate large amounts of force while power is your ability to generate that force quickly. Overcoming the mass of your opponent, especially if he outweighs you, requires optimal development of all your major muscles.
Flexibility and Mobility – flexibility is the range of movement of your muscles while mobility is the range of movement of your joints. Both are inter-connected and essential in MMA. High kicks, keeping a low centre of gravity, being malleable enough to be able so joint locks are less effective all requires a good level of flexibility and mobility. And, as we all know, flexible muscles and mobile joints are less prone to injury.
Coordination, balance and proprioception – having a strong, fit body is one thing but you need to be able to move well and respond to the actions of your opponent if you want to be successful – both in MMA and in life. Robotic, stiff movements are easy to read, anticipate and counter. MMA fighters now how to use their body as a synergistic unit and not as a bunch of individual body parts that fail to work harmoniously.
As there are many MMA fitness components, there are also many MMA training methods. An MMA fighter’s workout schedule will encompass a huge number of training styles with no single method more prevalent than another. For many, this means two or more training sessions per day. For us mere mortals, it is possible to adopt some of the methods used by MMA fighters to achieve a similarly broad level of fitness, minus the danger of getting punched and kicked! The MMA Circuit Workout (next page) ->