The latest revelations of performance enhancing drug use in MMA highlight the significance of competitive advantage in the sport.

Professional fighters will scrutinize every aspect of their training and preparation to find some element that provides an edge over their opponent. So they should. Risking their long-term health and financial well-being, the weight of expectation on these athletes is an unpleasant one that is unlikely to be understood by anyone who does not share their occupation.

One aspect of this endless search that compels trainers like Greg Jackson to establish their training facilities at 5,312 feet above sea level in Albuquerque, NM, is the importance of stamina. Elite mixed martial artists such as Carlos Condit and UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones prepare for their fights at this altitude knowing that the ability to physically and mentally outlast their opponent over five rounds is what made, makes, and will make them a champion.


The Process

Aerobic conditioning is the training of one’s heart, lungs and blood vessels to pump blood around the body more efficiently.

Working as one, these organs and vessels form the cardiovascular system, which transfers oxygen from the atmosphere to muscles and organs. Muscle and organ tissue cells extract oxygen from the bloodstream to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fundamental unit of energy.

By increasing total blood volume; heart muscle size; and contractility, aerobic training conditions the heart to eject a greater volume of blood around the body with every heartbeat.

By developing this ability, known as the stroke volume, the heart does not have to beat as frequently in its resting state, resulting in a lower resting heart rate.

Through rigorous endurance training, professional athletes such as UFC middleweight Michael Bisping and cyclist Miguel Indurain have developed resting heart rates as low as 34 and 28 beats per minute, respectively.

For sustained periods of physical activity that exceed a few minutes, such as running; rolling; or sparring, aerobic conditioning has significant influence on an athlete’s performance. Other dynamics at play include age, cardiac function, gender, genetic makeup, lung efficiency and training status. Unlike some of these factors aerobic conditioning is a variable we can control and develop through consistent training to achieve optimal performance.


The Product

One tool that has helped people, including myself, meet their conditioning goals is the Training Mask, an exercise aid and face mask that simulates different altitudes and the varying levels of oxygen in the atmosphere that accompany them.

By providing added pulmonary resistance and strengthening the user’s diaphragm over time, the Training Mask brings the benefits of high-altitude training to any location.

The product’s most valuable component is its ability to calibrate the air resistance a user encounters with each breath. Using a selection of interchangeable filters, athletes can adjust the mask to simulate heights ranging from 3,000 to 18,000 feet and take in different levels of oxygen.

The Training Mask’s comfortable wear and close fit across the face allows athletes to wear it in cardiovascular drills such as running, Crossfit circuits, kettlebell routines and even grappling.


The Science

When used effectively, the Training Mask pushes an athlete close to their anaerobic threshold. This threshold is the point at which the cardiovascular system cannot provide sufficient levels of oxygen to the working muscles and oxygen debt starts to grow, which is approximately 85 to 92 percent of the maximum heart rate.

An athlete can tap into anaerobic pathways that use the body’s nutrients and carbon dioxide as an alternative to oxygen, however this substitute can only be sustained for a very limited time, typically under two minutes.

By continuously pushing the body to its anaerobic threshold, an athlete conditions their body to adapt to aerobic performance at higher intensities, gaining benefits faster than if they trained at a lower intensity.

The Training Mask procures effect from regular use. Using it to convert regular exercise into high intensity training by limiting oxygen intake, the body progressively adapts to the stress endured to improve stamina over time. As the lungs work harder, their surface area and elasticity of the alveoli increases, raising the subject’s stamina and their ability to transport more oxygen via red blood cells to the body’s extremities.

By helping users maximize their physical output in more challenging conditions, the Training Mask also inflates the residual benefits of general exercise, including the combat of anxiety; diabetes; excess weight; fatigue; heart disease; and mood, helping the user improve their corporal and mental wellbeing.


Getting Started

To measure aerobic fitness, calculate your estimated maximal heart rate using the equation: 206.9 – (age in years × 0.67). Then, monitor your heart rate during maximal intensity exercise and convert this number into a percentage of the previous maximal heart rate figure. The fitter one is, the longer they can maintain exercise at a high percentage of max heart rate. Typically, the recommended upper limit is 85 percent.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.