The ability to pace oneself in any physical activity (whether in training or competition) is critical to achieving successful competition results, as well as training in a fashion conducive to optimal outcomes and minimising the risk of overtraining. For endurance training modalities, developing a pacing strategy is fairly straightforward. In multi-faceted activities such as combat sports, however, the recording activity loads presents a significant challenge. The use of accelerometry is one proposed method of recording activity athletes and subsequently guiding pacing strategies.


This current study involved re-analysis of a previous study. Whereas the previous study provided data by individual round, this looked at the data by each individual minute. 6 elite-level male MMA athletes participated in a 5-minute, 3-round sparring session. 

Each athlete was fitted with a Minimax X3 110HZ triaxial accelerometer (Catapult innovations) at the T3/4 vertebrae level. The findings from the accelerometer were referenced with time motion analysis camera footage. 


  • Accelerometry was correlated with overall athlete performance as measured by time motion analysis, and was not biased between modalities (grappling vs striking).
  • Accelerometry was not able to distinguish between different intensities of activity. 
  • Analysing this data by minute allowed the researchers to identify specific trends in activity:
    • A decline in activity from rounds 1 to 3
    • A decline in activity from minutes 1 to 4, followed by a spike in activity in minute 5, in the 1st round.
    • A spike in activity in the third round, followed by a decline in activity in the last 2 minutes of round 2.
    • A decline in activity in the last 3 minutes of round 3
    • Winners displayed superior pacing strategies throughout the bout


Whilst conducted on a relatively small sample size, this study delivered promising results in terms of accelerometry methods being an effective way of tracking player load in mixed martial arts. This technology does, however, need to become more accessible to athletes and gyms before realising widespread use.

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About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert