Before you start reading this article, have you read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in the series?
Performance testing is a critical, but all too often overlooked aspect of training in mixed martial arts. An effective program of testing and monitoring can help fighters and coaches judge the effectiveness of a training plan and evaluate the potential for over-training or under-training. Various physical and psychological tests can be used to assess any number of performance factors, or to identify a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses, or to classify their skill status and ability level. Below you’ll find an overview of some simple tests that the MMA Training Bible recommends. For a full description of each testing protocol, check out our article on performance testing.
The MMA Training Bible recommends that fighters regularly monitor their mood, as it can be a sensitive measure of overtraining. For example, feeling apathetic (having no interest, no feeling or no concern) or having a depressed mood, decreased self-esteem, feeling emotional unstable, restless, or irritable are all associated with over-training. The Brunel mood scale questionnaire (BRUMS) is a psychological tool that can help you measure your mood, and help to identify your potential for overtraining. There are several other psychological tools that The MMA Training Bible uses to help fighters and coaches monitor performance. Performance profiles, for example, can help you reflect on and become more aware of the performance qualities necessary for successful MMA performance; they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of technical development, physical conditioning and psychological skills.
Fighters should also monitor flexibility. The sit-and-reach is probably the most widely used flexibility test. It provides an assessment of the flexibility of the hamstrings, hip and lower back, which are important for many MMA related movements.
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Because MMA is a weight class sport, it is essential that fighters and coaches are familiar of the most common methods to assess body size and composition. Body size refers to things like your weight, height, body mass index (BMI) and the circumference of various limbs (i.e. chest, arms). Body composition refers to the distribution of fat and lean muscle tissue around your body.
MMA is a sport made up of explosive offensive and defensive techniques, many of which require a high degree of muscular power. There are many ways to assess muscular power, but the vertical jump is a simple assessment of lower body power, and the seated medicine ball toss can be used to simply assess upper body power.
MMA involves a lot of wrestling and grappling, which requires a high degree of muscular strength. Strength is simply the maximal force a muscle can generate, and unlike muscular power, time is not a factor. There are lots of different ways to measure muscular strength. On great way to assess upper body strength is using a bench press test, and a squat test for lower body strength.
MMA also involves a lot of sustained movements, like prolonged combination or submission attempts and defences that are largely influenced by the endurance capacity of your muscles. Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a muscle or muscle group to repeatedly exert sub-maximal force against a resistance for a certain period. There are a lot of ways to measure muscle endurance, but the use of calisthenic-based assessments are both simple and effective. Calisthenic exercises are simple movements that require little equipment and technical expertise. These movements have long been utilized by athletes and coaches to assess muscular endurance in a field-based setting. Because callisthenic exercises are body-weight dependent, muscular endurance is assessed by the number of repetitions performed in a given time or until failure, or the according to the duration of time that a static contraction is held. The MMA Training Bible recommends the partial curl-up test and the push-up test as simple measures of muscular endurance.
MMA is a sport characterised by repeated high intensity, short-duration efforts, interspersed with brief recovery periods. Because this kind of activity is influenced by anaerobic and aerobic energy system you need to perform tests that assess both. One of the more established tests used to assess your ability to perform repeated high intensity anaerobic efforts like those required in the cage is the running-based anaerobic sprint test. Alternatively, the Balke 15 min track run is a test that can assess your aerobic fitness. The MMA Training Bible recommends you do both.
Finally, The MMA Training Bible recommends a sport-specific test that attempts to better replicate the demands of a typical bout of MMA. The ‘Fighters Drill’, along with all of the previously mentioned tests are described more fully, along with detailed data collection sheets, can be found in this article.
If you’re looking for a strength and conditioning program that puts together all of these tests in a periodized way, then check out our Peak Performance Course.