Date of Award
Master of Medical and Health Science by Research
School of Medical & Health Sciences
Professor Ken Nosaka
Dr Oliver Barley
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport that includes striking and grappling contested under a unified ruleset. While research exists investigating various physical and physiological characteristics that are potential indicators of greater performance in MMA, there is no consensus on which characteristics are essential to performance and best practice for assessment of such characteristics. Strength has been identified as a predictor of performance in combat sports including MMA, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning has been explored in combat sports including BJJ, judo, boxing, kickboxing, and MMA and have varying relationships to higher-level performance. Characteristics such as repeat effort ability, flexibility and body composition have also been investigated but the literature lacks depth and nuance. It may also be important to consider athletes from diverse combat backgrounds may show a range of physiological profiles, while still being competitive under the same unified ruleset. As such, there are a multitude of technical and physiological characteristics that contribute to competitive success. Developing a single scientific assessment that can predict competitive outcomes poses great difficulty due to the complexity of MMA. While previous research has investigated some important physiological characteristics, there is no accepted best-practice for a comprehensive testing battery. As such, this study aimed to design and utilize a battery of physiological assessments to cover aerobic and anaerobic function, maximal strength, force generation, body composition and repeat effort ability in Australian MMA athletes. Six participants (height: 174.5 ± 5.7 cm, body mass: 84.5 ± 23.4 kg, age: 25.7 ± 4.7 years) with differing competitive experience were recruited. Testing involved one familiarization and three experimental sessions. Experimental session one encompassed countermovement jump assessment and a Wingate anaerobic test, experimental session two included the isometric midthigh pull and repeat sled push test while experimental session three concluded with a DEXA scan and a graded treadmill exercise test. Each experimental session was separated by 48 hours. The battery designed for this study was comprehensive based on the characteristics identified by previous research and considerate of current best practice methods in athlete testing. We found that the comprehensive battery was feasible for athletes to complete within seven days including familiarisation days and could be used in both practical and research settings Results showed that regional Australian MMA athletes possess similar physiological characteristics to elite standards in measures including strength (mean strength 3.32 ± 0.67 N/kg; range 2.44 – 4.09 N/kg), anaerobic capacity (mean average power 614.17 ± 89.15 W; range 510 – 770 W) and aerobic capacity (mean VO2max 54.06 ± 13.83 ml/kg/min; range 31.15 – 70.14 ml/kg/min) while countermovement jumps (mean jump height 27.02 ± 6.3 cm; range 17.85 – 33.34 cm) were well under elite standards compared with values taken from a range of sources. While comparisons to other populations should be seen as speculative due to the small sample size, this is the first Australian-only sample of MMA athletes assessed using these measures. The results of this thesis can help inform athletes, researchers, and support staff alike when deciding upon which testing protocols to use for MMA athletes. Future research should aim to develop normative data using the battery proposed in the current study.
Plush, M. (2021). Understanding physical and physiological characteristics in mixed martial arts athletes. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2429
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