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Speed Training for MMA & Combat Athletes

Currently there is no research that provides an estimate of the average striking speed that occurs in Mixed Martial Arts Fighting, so our best reference is that of boxers (as MMA fighting involves various boxing techniques and punches).

Researchers [1] in a study that looked at the punching speed and power of Olympic level boxers found that the boxers hand velocity (punching speed) was measured at 2.14 meters per second, whilst a group of scientists at the university of Manchester measured the punching speed and force of former world champion boxer “Ricky Hatton” His average punching speed was measured out at 40km/hr (11.11 meters per second) which practically means his opponents have less than one tenth of a second to move out of the way of his punches!

Increasing the fighters striking speed is a key objective, and as it is documented [1,2] that the speed at which a punch or kick is delivered can play an important factor in the knockout potential of any strike delivered. An excellent justification for the need for speed training among the other more common training components of a typical conditioning program, comes from the “la Bounty et al. 2011 article” [2] were it is argued that the total measurable kinetic energy of any strike (kick or punch) is exponentially related to the velocity, whereas only arithmetically related to the mass of striking ., (Ek = (1/2)mv2]), Therefore by increasing our fighters striking speed, we are increasing their ability to knockout more opponents, well theoretically this may well be; but as we know there are many factors (some un-measurable) that contribute to a fighters ability knock out opponents.

The traditional concept of speed training for team sports needs modification as the major requirement for speed in mixed martial arts is not related to running movement, but rather striking movements. Therefore the focus of a speed training program needs to be based on the sequential development of striking (both punching and kicking) speed.

Punching velocity can be increased through exercises that enhance the athletes rate of force development [3], exercises such as plyometrics that replicate punching (medicine ball throws ect) and kicking can be utilised as they ensure maximum acceleration through the whole range of movement [3].

We must be mindful that actual neuromuscular recruitment patterns used in non specific strength training exercises may not carry over to enhance the Mixed martial artist striking pattern and speed, therefore aim to keep the exercises and activities as specific to the striking patterns targeted [3].

Striking acceleration speed can be enhanced through the inclusion of resistance band punching & kicking techniques, researchers suggest that by using resistance devices such as strength bands, striking speed and drive during initial acceleration phase can be improved, thus assisting in improving an athlete’s ability to reach maximum speed as fast as possible[3,4].

Having the fighter practicing various punching and kicking techniques with strength bands attached to the hand or ankle and aiming for maximum acceleration and speed for each repetitions is crucial, always stop once striking speed or quality of technique decreases. This type of speed training activity is well complimented to strength and power based training sessions, preferably at the beginning so the impact of fatigue on the nervous system is limited.

Luke Delvecchio

  • Accredited Sport Scientist
  • Accredited Exercise Physiologist
  • MSc. (Exercise Science)
  • Post Grad. Dip (Exercise Rehabilitation)
  • Post Grad. Cert (Diabetes Education & Management)
  • BSc. (Exercise Science & Nutrition)
  • Associate Nutritionist

References:

  • Waliko, T.J, Viano, D.C. Biomechanics of the head for Olympic Boxer punches to the face. Br J Sports Med. 2005. Vol 39. pgs; 710–719.
  • La Bounty et al. Strength and Conditioning consideration for mixed martial arts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning (NSCA). 2011. Volume : 33(1).
  • Turner, A. Increasing the impact force of the rear hand punch. Journal of Strength & Conditioning (NSCA). 2011. Vol: 33(6).
  • Warpeah, C.H. Principals of Speed Training. NSCA Performance Journal. 2007. Vol 6(3), pgs: 6-8.

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