Heart Rate, Oxygen Uptake and Anaerobic Thresholds During a Maximal Treadmill Test with World Class Mixed Martial Arts Fighters


  • Gabriel J. Sanders University of Cincinnati
  • Mason Howard Northern Kentucky University
  • Rebekah Carpenter University of Missouri
  • Corey A. Peacock Nova Southeastern University
  • Peter Byers Nova Southeastern University




performance, energy systems, competition, high-intensity training, mixed martial arts


Measuring heart rate responses during a competitive mixed martial arts (MMA) fight is not feasible; therefore, a method is needed to assess physiological responses in MMA fighters outside of competition. Quantifying and evaluating heart rate, oxygen uptake, and anaerobic threshold during a maximal treadmill test can provide interpretation for in-competition physiological responses of MMA fighters The retrospective analysis was conducted on 20 world-class MMA fighters predating the beginning of their fight camps (ages 29.0 ± 4.8 years old). A maximal treadmill test utilizing a ramp protocol was conducted eight weeks prior to a professional competition. Fighters’ data were divided in two groups based on weight status: lighter, < 185 pounds (n = 12) and heavier, ≥ 185 pounds (n = 8) weight groups. Heart rate (HR), anaerobic thresholds from respiratory exchange rate (RER-AT), and oxygen uptake (VO2max) were recorded and compared between weight groups. VO2max was the only physiological variable measured that differed between lighter (53.4 ± 4.5 ml . kg−1 . min−1) and heavier (48.1 ± 5.7 ml . kg−1 . min−1) fighters (p = 0.033). Previous literature has commonly used 1.0 RER to determine the breaking point in anaerobic thresholds. All other variables were not different (p ≥ 0.204) between groups. Differences in VO2max between lighter and heavier fighters is likely due to differences in body mass. While there were no differences in heart rates at RER-AT or time to exhaustion between weight status groups, using RER-AT at 0.95 or 1.0 RER may be a valuable way to ensure an MMA athlete achieve anaerobic training in fight preparation. Performance coaches may utilize physiological variables such as RER-AT acquired from maximal treadmill testing to guide the training demands of MMA competition.

Author Biographies

Gabriel J. Sanders, University of Cincinnati

Gabriel J. Sanders, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Exercise Science Department at the University of Cincinnati. His research interests focus on wearable technology, daily workloads and fatigue in athletes.

Mason Howard, Northern Kentucky University

Mason Howard is a graduate student pursing an MS in exercise science at Northern Kentucky University.

Rebekah Carpenter, University of Missouri

Rebekah Carpenter, PhD, is an assistant teaching professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Missouri.

Corey A. Peacock, Nova Southeastern University

Corey A. Peacock, PhD, is a professor, chair and program director of Health and Human Performance at Nova Southeastern University. His research focuses on mixed martial arts performance.

Peter Byers, Nova Southeastern University

Peter Byers is a graduate student in sports science at Nova Southeastern University. His research interests include mixed martial arts and sports science.


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