The realm of martial arts has been around for ages, with its origins in Western culture dating back to the 19th century. To this day, people continue to engage in various forms of this sport, including karate, boxing, jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai to name a few.
In 2011, I joined a gym in Laval with a friend and started practicing boxing and Muay Thai. For the last six years, I have been working with these athletes and have found that the sport offers many physical and mental health benefits. Throughout this time, I have learned the most effective methods to improve stamina, athleticism & overall performance of an athlete through MMA conditioning.
Being a CAMPT-Certified physiotherapist, I became very passionate about integrating my practice into the sport and showing athletes how orthopaedic physiotherapy can help them, whether they are trying to become stronger or suffer from any injuries. Below I will outline the three ways mixed martial arts (MMA) can improve your overall health, the common injuries that can occur in the sport, and how orthopaedic physiotherapy can help you overcome the inevitable wear and tear and ensure you will continue performing in MMA to your maximum potential.
The Main Health Benefits of MMA Conditioning
Mixed Martial Arts is a high-intensity sport demanding a sharp focus, strong physical demand and willpower to succeed over your opponent. Through this process, your body will become more athletically conditioned and your overall physique will significantly improve. Below are three ways you can expect your health & wellness to change for the better through consistent training:
MMA benefits the cardiovascular system
First, speed is an essential component of MMA conditioning and often beats size in a one-on-one fight. In order to improve the speed of your kicks and punches, you need to work on your endurance and conditioning by doing workouts such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as well as plyometric training (ie. Burpees, Squat Thrusters, etc.). Engaging in high intensity interval training can help improve metabolism and performance.
MMA helps to improve body strength
Mixed Martial Arts is a full-body workout that uses many muscle groups which requires a high level of strength and power, especially in the core area. Furthermore, to execute complex kicks, punches and throws, a great amount of stability, flexibility and force transmission throughout the body is required. Not only this improve your strength, but your overall explosiveness.
MMA has positive effects on mental health
In addition to having positive effects on your physical health, martial arts also offers many mental health benefits. Primarily, it requires a great deal of mental concentration; you have to analyze your opponent, read their body language and anticipate their actions in order to dominate the match. Through this process, mental acuity is heightened and improved, allowing you to maintain a sharp focus. This also supports stress relief, as it requires you to control your breathing and to rid your mind of unnecessary distractions so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
While MMA conditioning will provide you many health benefits, the sport is also very physically demanding; and like any high-performance physical activity, both traumatic and overuse type injuries can happen. The following are three of the most typical injuries I’ve witnessed to fighters:
Shoulder injuries are very common, especially in boxing, due to the fighting posture. Further, because there is a lot of repetition in terms of the movements, you are using the same muscle groups to achieve them. Repetitive punching can put great strain on rotator cuff muscles that help provide stability to your shoulder joint. Once injured or inflamed, simple shoulder movements can become quite painful and limited.
Pelvis and hip injuries
In Muay Thai, pelvis and hip injuries are common due to the kicking motions, because they are are the most high-impact and energy consuming techniques. In order to execute a proper kick, you must be able to transfer a rotary force from your trunk to your hips and knees. This requires good technique and adequate mobility in all these areas, and if not done properly, can result in injury.
Lower back injuries are also seen quite often in Muay Thai fighters. If the hamstrings are not properly stretched, you compensate for it by using your lower back muscles. It also requires a lot more explosiveness, which is related to lower body injuries.
How Orthopaedic Physiotherapy and a CAMPT-Certified Physio Can Help
As mentioned above, while practicing MMA, your body can be subject to health benefits as well as occasional injuries. But fortunately, there is a solution for recovery, maintenance and injury prevention. These are the most critical procedures and steps that a CAMPT-Certified Physiotherapist, such as myself, will perform in order to ensure you are at your peak level of performance:
Assess the Injury
A manual therapist can properly assess your injury, by analyzing your strength, flexibility and mobility. As a CAMPT-Certified physiotherapist, I really focus on assessing the entire body to figure out the issue and pay great attention to detail.
Assess Movement Patterns
Martial art techniques are full body movements; therefore, a lack of strength, flexibility, or poor coordination can lead to compensation and could result in injury. For example, a person suffering from a shoulder problem may be lacking mobility in the thorax, which would then need to be addressed.
Effective Techniques for Strength and Recovery
Ultimately, I use a combination of techniques on my patients that are very goal-oriented. If I see that there is a lot of tension build-up, I use soft tissue and myofascial techniques that help to relax contracted muscles. I also mobilize specific joints. Additionally, I create specific exercise programs for each patient in order to strengthen the muscles that have become injured or stretch muscles that have tightened. Prevention of injury is another big component of the treatment plan. I aim to ensure that athletes have adequate movement patterns and strategies to allow them to perform their sport.
Regardless of the discipline of mixed martial arts, every athlete is unique with their own individual style, muscular profile and consequential needs. I have witnessed the progress of the fighters that I have worked with and the significant impact to their athletic abilities. I would strongly recommend MMA conditioning and orthopaedic physiotherapy to any athlete looking to increase their performance and longevity in their mixed martial arts career.
In this video, Sabrina shows how a CAMPT-Certified physiotherapist, that has an extensive education on the musculoskeletal system, can help diagnose, treat and prevent injuries associated with this popular sport, ensuring these athletes have the necessary mobility, stability, and strength to continue their sport.
About Sabrina Ianni
After graduating in 2008 with a degree in Physiotherapy from McGill, Sabrina Ianni went on to do her Masters and CAMPT certification at the University of Western in 2012. She has been a CAMPT-certified Physiotherapist in Laval, Quebec for the last five years and works with a range of clientele at CBI Concordia Physio Sport clinic. For more insights and tips, or to book an appointment, email Sabrina at [email protected]