Monday, August 14, 2017

Movement Efficiency in Mixed Martial Arts - Part III

Last week, we started our discussion about how we assess movement efficiency in the MMA athlete and how that may guide some of our training.  As we described last week, core strength is critical in mixed martial arts for both performance and injury prevention.  The side plank test is an exceptional test for assessing the strength and endurance of the core and is often an exercise that is also used as a part of our training.  This is a great exercise as there is a lot of EMG activity of the gluteus medius, internal obliques, quadratus laborum and transverse abdominus.  During this movement, the EMG activity of the gluteus medius is very high and this is a critical muscle in stabilizing the core/hip/lumbar spine.  The gluteus medius is the muscle that assists in stabilizing the pelvis during single leg activities.  Here we see an athlete demonstrating a retrotrendelenburg, where you can see an arc from his upper body to lower body.  This should be straight and when performed in this fashion this a movement pattern that adds to weakness of the gluteus medius.  If this poor movement pattern is repeated over and over with every repetition and every training session, then this results in the athlete not training the muscles he is setting out to train and the impact on performance will be less than optimal.

This week we will continue this discussion as we look at assessing power generating movements and single limb performance.  Considering this, one of the first movements we want to look at is the squatting motion.

Squat – In this test, the athlete is asked to perform 20 repetitions of a body weight squatting motion.  During this test, you are assessing the ability to perform a squatting motion without a lateral shift (if a plumb line from cervical spine to sacrum is envisioned, the hips should remain equal distance from the plumb line throughout the motion).  If there is deviation to one side or the other, this is referred to as a lateral shift.  

Video – in the following video analysis we see an Olympic athlete demonstrating a right lateral shift during the squatting motion.  This same motion is carried over to training and athletic performance.  

Rational:  The squat is a critical motion for athleticism.  Improvement in the efficiency of the squatting motion has not only been shown to be associated with a reduction in injury risk but also associated with improvement in vertical jump and sprint speed.  Reduction of a lateral shift results in symmetrical force attenuation and improved symmetrical force production.   For the MMA athlete, this means greater force which can be generated with kicks and faster and more explosive takedowns.  In addition, a lateral shift can indicate loss of motion in the ankle, knee or hip on the side they are shifting away from.  This can guide preventative techniques which aid in reducing non-contact injuries during training and fights.  In this picture, we see the athlete from the video shifting to her right side which could indicate a loss of motion in the left hip, knee or ankle.

Training Impact:  For training purposes, the athlete is asked to squat using a resistance they can control throughout their range of motion without a lateral shift.  If an athlete has a lateral shift, simply loading that and allowing them to continue with will result in greater variance in asymmetry right to left, bigger impact on athletic performance and increased injury risk.  Once proficiency is maintained at a given weight, the athlete is then progressed through progressively increased loading.  If a loss of motion is considered, this could also guide some additional mobility exercises that can be performed.  If there is a suspected true loss of motion at the ankle, you would most likely see an asymmetry in the ankle motion in the plank test discussed previously.  This will appear as an increase in plantar flexion on the suspected side during this test.  In the training example here, this MMA athlete is doing a weighted squatting motion with kettle bells.  Although this is a great exercise, the problem is that he is shifting to his left side during every rep. Allowing him to do this during his training is just adding to the problem and accentuating his asymmetry.

Next week, we will begin the discussion of single limb testing and look at ways we can assess these athletes and how this can guide our training.  If you enjoy our blog, please share the passion and follow us on Instagram @BJJPT_acl_guy or on Twitter at @acl_prevention.

Dr. Nessler is a practicing physical therapist with over 20 years sports medicine clinical experience and a nationally recognized expert in the area of athletic movement assessment.  He is the developer of an athletic biomechanical analysis, is an author of a college textbook on this subject  and has performed >5000 athletic movement assessments.  He serves as the National Director of Sports Medicine Innovation for Select Medical, is Chairman of Medical Services for the International Obstacle Racing Federation and associate editor of the International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training.   He is also a competitive athlete in Jiu Jitsu. 

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