Performance testing in mixed martial arts– Part 2: Psychological profiling & mood states


By Dr Jason Gillis

Regularly monitoring the physical and psychological factors that influence your performance in the cage is one of the most basic, but most often overlooked, aspects of training in mixed martial arts (MMA). An effective testing and monitoring program can help fighters optimise their physical and psychological preparation, and their performance on fight day. A good monitoring program can accomplish a lot. It can help coaches profile the skills, strengths and weaknesses of their fighters; it can help you monitor physiological and psychological adaptations to training, which can help you avoid undertraining and overtraining; and the results of performance tests can be used to identify training objectives and guide future training.

This article series is all about giving fighters and coaches the tools and information that they need to regularly and effectively monitor physical and psychological performance factors throughout the year. In the first article of the series, we discussed the fundamentals of performance testing. Although we didn’t cover any actual tests, it’s probably the most important article, because it lays out the guiding principles that will improve the reliability of each test you run. For this reason, I suggest you start your reading there if you haven’t already.

The present article will teach you how to use a few tools from sport psychology. The first set of assessments are ‘psychological profiles’, the second assessment is a mood state questionnaire.  Psychological profiling is a very important tool that fighters and coaches can use to quantify strengths and weaknesses in areas such as physical conditioning, technical development, and psychological skills. Building your awareness in each of these areas can help you identify training objectives and guide your training plan all year round.

The MMA Training Bible also suggests that fighters regularly monitor their mood, as it can be a sensitive measure of overtraining. For example, feeling apathetic (having no interest, no feeling or no concern) or having a depressed mood, decreased self-esteem, feeling emotional instable, restless, or irritable are all associated with overtraining. The Brunel mood scale questionnaire (BRUMS) is a psychological tool that can help you measure your mood, and help to identify your potential for overtraining. When used together, both the performance profiles and the BRUMS can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your testing and monitoring program. In the remainder of this article, we shall explain how you can start using these psychological tools immediately.

Performance profiles

Performance profiles can help you reflect on and become more aware of the performance qualities necessary for successful MMA performance; they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of technical development, physical conditioning and psychological skills. The performance profiles used by the MMA Training Bible were derived from the work of Butler & Hardy (1992), but we adapted them to better suit fighters and coaches in MMA.

To get stated, the first thing you need to do is download and print off your own copy of the performance profiles here. Using each of the profiles, rate your current perception of your ability in each quality using a scale of 1 (lowest possible ability) to 10 (Professional ability) by shading in the pie sections to the appropriate level. It is advisable that both the coach and the fighter complete their OWN profile, then compare the results as a team, and identify the most important areas of improvement. These areas of improvement often become your training objectives, and should provide focus to your overall training plan. As a general rule, fighters and coaches should aim to fill out these profiles every month or so, or as needed.

Performance profiles Performance profile tec devPerformance profile phys condPerformance profile psych skills

Fig 1. Performance profile for technical development, physical conditioning and psychological skills. Download and print your copy off here.

The Brunel Mood Scale

Psychological tools that measure your mood can help to identify your potential for overtraining. The Brunel mood scale questionnaire (BRUMS) serves to describe current mood states using 24 mood descriptors, such as angry, confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, happiness and vigour. You assign a score to each descriptor using a 5-point scale (0 = not at all, 1 = a little, 2 = moderately, 3 = quite a bit, 4 = extremely). The questionnaire takes a few minutes to complete and can be used to monitor overtraining.

First, download and print off your version of the BRUMS here. Remember, the BRUMS is a list of words that describe feelings people have. Please read each one carefully and then circle the answer that best describes HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW. Make sure you respond to every word. After you’re done, add the responses to each of the 32 questions according to the subscales on the right hand side of the page and arrive at a final score for each subscale. The total score for each subscale is what you’re after. As the months go by, you can monitor how your mood changes and this can give you some indication as to whether you are overtraining.

BRUMS-QFig 2. The Brunel Mood Scale Questionnaire. Download and print your copy off here.

Take-home message

Regularly monitoring the physical and psychological factors that influence your performance in the cage is one of the most basic, but most often overlooked, aspects of training in MMA.

Performance profiles can help you reflect on and become more aware of the performance qualities necessary for successful MMA performance; they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of technical development, physical conditioning and psychological skills. Using each of the profiles, rate your current perception of your ability in each quality using a scale of 1 (lowest possible ability) to 10 (Professional ability) by shading in the pie sections to the appropriate level.

The Brunel mood scale questionnaire (BRUMS) serves to describe current mood states using 24 mood descriptors, such as angry, confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, happiness and vigour. You assign a score to each descriptor using a 5-point scale (0 = not at all, 1 = a little, 2 = moderately, 3 = quite a bit, 4 = extremely). The questionnaire takes a few minutes to complete and can be used to monitor overtraining.

Keep your results in a safe place and compare your results over time.

References

  1. Butler & Hardy Sport Psychologist 6:253-264 (1992)

Want to reference this article? Here’s how:

Example of an in text reference:

Gillis (2013) said that regularly monitoring the physical and psychological factors that influence your performance in the cage is one of the most basic, but most often overlooked, aspects of training in MMA.

Overtraining is common in mixed martial arts because the sport demands a high degree of technical ability in multiple disciplines (Gillis, 2013)

How to list this article in the reference list:

Gillis, DJ. (2013). Performance testing in mixed martial arts – Part 2: Psychological profiling & mood states. Retrieved (enter date) from (enter URL)

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