The neuromuscular qualities of higher- and lower-level mixed-martial-arts competitors
Human Kinetics, Inc.
School of Medical and Health Sciences
To determine whether the maximal strength, impulse, and power characteristics of competitive mixed-martial-arts (MMA) athletes differ according to competition level.
Twenty-nine male semiprofessional and amateur MMA competitors were stratified into either higher-level (HL) or lower-level (LL) performers on the basis of competition grade and success. The 1-repetition-maximum (1RM) squat was used to assess lower-body dynamic strength, and a spectrum of impulse, power, force, and velocity variables were evaluated during an incremental-load jump squat. In addition, participants performed an isometric midthigh pull (IMTP) and 1RM bench press to determine whole-body isometric force and upper-body dynamic strength capabilities, respectively. All force and power variables were expressed relative to body mass (BM).
The HL competitors produced significantly superior values across a multitude of measures. These included 1RM squat strength (1.84 ± 0.23 vs 1.56 ± 0.24 kg BM; P = .003), in addition to performance in the incremental-load jump squat that revealed greater peak power (P = .005–.002), force (P = .002–.004), and velocity (P = .002–.03) at each load. Higher measures of impulse (P = .01–.04) were noted in a number of conditions. Average power (P = .002–.02) and velocity (P = .01–.04) at all loads in addition to a series of rate-dependent measures were also superior in the HL group (P = .005–.02). The HL competitors’ 1RM bench-press values approached significantly greater levels (P = .056) than the LL group’s, but IMTP performance did not differ between groups.
Maximal lower-body neuromuscular capabilities are key attributes distinguishing HL from LL MMA competitors. This information can be used to inform evidenced-based training and performance-monitoring practices.