Specificity in conditioning for MMA fighters part 1
Here’s the latest contribution from one of the Carnegie interns Danny Hague. Danny’s previous article 10 considerations for an effective performance programme was very well received.
This piece is a good overview of the types of conditioning fighters should be doing. Enjoy!
Specific Conditioning For Mixed Martial Arts
In my previous post ’10 Considerations for an Effective Performance Program’ I mentioned the importance of ‘Specificity’. To ensure optimal transfer for your sport in this case MMA, then the principle of specificity must be adhered to.
Usually a fight will be three rounds unless it’s a title fight when there will be five. Each round is five minutes long with a one minute rest period between each round, this creates a huge work to rest deficit. Thus total work time will be either 17 or 29 minutes long.
To cope with the physiological demands of the sport, fighters must possess a wide array of physical qualities, such as strength, power, speed, agility, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, as well as high levels of technical skill.
Each round will consist of very high intensity alactic efforts followed by periods of random lower intensities, all ranging from striking, clinching, wrestling and groundwork.
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the conditioning of fighters is the use of Long Steady Distance methods for aerobic fitness. While fighters do need to possess high levels of aerobic power/capacity it is how they train for this quality that is of paramount importance. It has been tradition in many combat sports to run long distances for aerobic conditioning; however the demands for MMA are very different and training aerobically at a constant pace will do very little for the high intermittent nature of the sport. MMA requires multiple periods of high powered explosive movements interspersed with random periods of rest depending on the fight situation. So in keeping with the principle of ‘Specificity’ is long steady distance going to prepare a fighter for the ring/or cage?
The human body provides energy via adenosine triphosphate (ATP). You can think of ATP as your body’s energy currency, if your body requires energy you have to pay for it with ATP. Your body does all it can to maintain ATP homeostasis within your muscles cells. As force and power increase (higher intensity) the rate of ATP expenditure increases as well, in response to this, your body increases the rate of energy production to match expenditure so that ATP is not depleted within the muscles. In order to best maintain energy balance during periods of highly variable rates of energy expenditure, the body has three energy systems that differ in terms of how fast they can regenerate ATP (power) and how long they can regenerate it for (capacity). These three systems are Alactic (ATP/PC), Lactic (Glycolytic), and Aerobic (Oxidative) with the Alactic, and Lactic being the Anaerobic systems. For high power or strength (force) outputs the anaerobic systems are responsible for producing the ATP required. These systems can provide ATP at much faster rates through non-oxidative means to support maximum power outputs, but only for very brief periods of time. Anaerobic work particularly the glycolytic system causes rapid changes in the cellular environment due to large disturbances in homeostasis, which in turn produces certain by products that cause fatigue and reduction in muscular power, this is why the body slows down and you can’t maintain a 100m sprint pace for 1 mile. Current research states that it is the increase in hydrogen ions that increase blood acidity and a drop in pH levels and not the lactate that is produced through anaerobic glycolysis that is responsible for fatigue. In fact lactate is a valuable fuel source that is used by the aerobic system to regenerate ATP. With this in mind you can see that training at a relatively steady pace for prolonged periods will not prepare the body to improve its capacity to buffer hydrogen ions. So with these points in mind you must train at high intensities to build up your alatic/lactic power and capacity.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series later in the week.