How MMA fighters can benefit from Pilates
Viewers who are captivated by the raw and unhinged fighting that occurs in the Ultimate fighters Club, the most popular MMA leagues, can vouch for the adrenaline rush they get from it. Over the past decade, MMA or Mixed martial arts has gained immense popularity as a sport and entered the mainstream as a recreational activity. As it is a combat sport, injuries are quite common. What can one do to help be in better form to enjoy the sport for a longer period? Read on to find out.
MMA as a sport
MMA is a full-body combat sport involving grappling, striking and ground fighting that combines the techniques of different specialized martial arts such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo, Boxing, wrestling, Judo, Kung Fu, Karate and many more. It wouldn’t surprise you to know that the roots of MMA go back thousands of years. The ancient Chinese, the Greeks and other civilisations practiced combat in sporting arenas and battlefields. Mainly used for self-defence, it slowly evolved into sports.
Those who have witnessed the matches of professional fighters in the biggest MMA organizations like the UFC know how these players are in fantastic shape, are agile and can inflict damage on their opponents swiftly. These fighters go through a well-designed training program to ensure strength, safety, and speed. Like in any other sport, under the guidance of professional nutrition and fitness coaches, they gain extensive training to be professional fighters.
Great fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have inspired many to take up the sport, learn the skills, techniques and endurance that is required for MMA. Whether you are a professional or like most of us, amateur enthusiasts, looking to blow off some steam, there are some things you need to work with to get the best out of your MMA training at the gym.
Due to its complexity of movements, it is a very interesting for recreational training. With MMA, you learn to defend yourself along with improving your general fitness and strength levels. The techniques of the game are for the experts in that field to share, however, we can tell you how to improve your form, improve your strength and recover quicker from injuries by complementing your practice of MMA with Pilates.
How Pilates complements MMA
Almost every movement that you do in martial arts, begins in your core. And as it is known world over, Pilates works on the core. Joseph Pilates who developed Contrology, which is known today as Pilates, was a man of many interests. From gymnastics, body building and yoga to Jiu Jitsu and boxing, Pilates practiced and studied all these forms. He also studied animal locomotion and the mind-body connect. He made it his life’s purpose to work with the mechanics of the physical body. Thus, this scientific approach of movement can benefit you as well:
This is a no-brainer, the weaker your core is the less power you can produce in your punch or your kick. Having a strong core means higher level of agility, more speed, better reflexes and even helps you get back on your feet quickly. In addition, improving your core training leads to a faster development of stronger bigger muscles. If your mid-section gives up in grappling, your opponent will take advantage will pin you down. Therefore, high-level fighters are taking on Pilates in order to develop their core muscles.
Posture and Alignment:
With good posture and a strong core the body is less susceptible to injury. Exercising on the Pilates equipment improves the posture and alignment of the body. Proper posture is key to longevity and sustainability in the game. Striking and grappling can take a toll on the posture, which can be balanced out by doing Pilates.
Pilates is a combination of strength training and unilateral work. Every human body has some kind of imbalances, and these can be cause for injury. It can interfere with functional ability, gait pattern and restrict normal joint ranges, causing pain. So, if you’re weak in one area, you will also be off-balance in that region too. Pilates’ focus on unilateral work is great feedback, letting you know where your weakest links reside. Then you can work on strengthening your weaker points.
If you aren’t naturally very flexible you’ve probably discovered how difficult and sometimes painful it can be to work your flexibility. Good flexibility will give you better range of movement, reduce muscle imbalance and prevent potential injuries from MMA training. Being flexible will lead to increased stamina, explosive power, superior conditioning and quick recovery after training.
In both everyday scenarios and in MMA fights balance plays a very important role. Pilates exercises are great for improving your balance and proprioception.
Focus and concentration:
Understanding the body language of the opponent, while anticipating his or her next move, and planning your strategy requires a lot of focus. One of the salient principles of Pilates is the focus on breathing. We do lateral or intercostal breathing, where one breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth, while filling the deepest corners of our lungs. Your Pilates instructors will constantly cue your breathing. This repetitive reminder to breath slowly and in a controlled manner while moving is a great way to make sure you are getting consistent oxygen to your brain, brings awareness to being present which allows the mind to be calm and agile.
MMA is more a mental sport than physical
Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda rightly said, “Before the battle of the fist, comes the battle of the mind.”
MMA matches are high-pressure situations which require performance till the end. One can find grounding and centring only through breathing. Stamina is key, but one can really last long if one is breathing right.
You will (or must have already learnt) learn multiple techniques to attack like jabs, hooks, punches, elbow strikes, round kicks and leg kicks. And also techniques to defend yourself while being punched in the gut or when being held down in awkward positions. Your body will be twisted into weird angles and awkward positions. The technique to lock the opponent, get out of sticky situations and ultimately go for a takedown will be taught by your MMA master coaches. But a stronger mental resolve, the mind-body connect, activation of the core to brace yourself and swiftness in movements can come from your practice of Pilates. The combination of lean muscles, strong core, flexible form, and strong balance will make you a tough opponent in the game. And like Po said, “There is always something more to learn, even for a master.’
Watch the video below for a workout tailored for MMA fighters.
Written with Laila Ali.
A writer and Pilates instructor by profession, and a lawyer by education, Tarannum is passionate about art, travel, fitness and food. She has been practicing Pilates for the past five years at Moushu’s Pilates Studio and has experienced the transforming effects of it on her body, firsthand.