Sunday, August 29, 2010

Martial Arts is bad for your muscles?

Interesting.  The physiological and psychological stress of sparring creates a hormonal response which is catabolic.  Testosterone goes done....cortisol goes up.

So by all means train in martial arts, but be careful of the level of stress - physical and psychological - that you are using.

Hormonal response to Taekwondo fighting simulation in elite adolescent athletes

Exercise training efficiency depends on the training load, as well as on the athlete’s ability to tolerate it. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of fighting simulation (3 fights, 6 min each, 30 min rest between fights) on anabolic (IGF-I, LH, FSH, estradiol, and testosterone) and catabolic hormones (cortisol) in elite, male (n = 10) and female (n = 10) adolescent (12–17 years) Taekwondo fighters. Blood samples were collected before the first and immediately after the third fight. The fighting simulation practice led to significant (p < 0.05) decreases in IGF-I (males −27.1 ± 25.6, females −22.4 ± 36.3 ng/ml), LH (males −0.7 ± 1.2, females −2.3 ± 3.3 U/L), and FSH (males −0.9 ± 0.5, females −1.5 ± 1.1 U/L), and to a significant increase (p < 0.05) in cortisol (males 141.9 ± 30.1, females 64.1 ± 30.6 mcg/dL) in both genders. Fighting simulation decreases in testosterone (males −1.9 ± 1.6, females −0.02 ± 0.06 ng/mL), and free androgen index (males −20.1 ± 21.5, females −0.3 ± 0.5) were significant (p < 0.05) only in male fighters. Exercise had no significant effect on estradiol, sex-hormone-binding globulins or thyroid function tests. Our data demonstrate that the physiologic and psychologic strain of a Taekwondo fighting simulation day led to a catabolic-type circulating hormonal response.


Bryan said...

I am curious if you think that this is consistent across all martial arts.
The reason that I ask is that Tae Kwon Do sparring may be more stressful due to the nature of the art and how points are scored?
As with most "traditional" arts, there is a great degree of emphasis on the "correct form", rather than just knocking the guy (or girl) out.
How do you think this contributes to your findings if at all?

Bryan said...

BTW, very cool and informative site.

Billy Oblivion said...

It's not martial arts that's the issue, it's the sparring. You can't train effectively to fight without fighting, but it would be interesting to see this replicated across various disciplines--striking v.s. grappling v.s. arts that use different methods to stress test.

Asclepius said...

I would echo Billy Oblivion here. sparring should not be 'fighting'. Sparring should be used to work on technique and as a courtesy to your partner (NOT opponent), you should spar to their level (or they to yours - whomsoever is of the lower ability).

Interestingly though, this post makes me think of other sports and games. I wonder how stressful something like chess is where games can be long and demanding, and where there is an extreme element of competition?

Anonymous said...

it would be interesting to see a broader study particularly of those who practice the mental aspects of the art. traditionally that is said to be important as the physical. Maybe the study is evidence of this. Also, using the evolution perspective human beings are not really designed for continusous pressure pot fighting - may be the tolerable upper limit was just exceeded in this study.

Nicola said...

Very interesting to read, thanks - agree with anonymous re broader study

Chris D said...

The study does not indicate how long the cortisol, testosterone and androgen indexes remained altered. Would be interested to find out.

Otherwise it could just be a temporary side effect, or could correspond with an increased testosterone response post workout.

Cortisol could also just be going up to regulate blood sugar.

John Sifferman said...

Remember that the body cannot differentiate between a real physical threat, or simply a perceived one that may arise from an activity such as sparring.

The hormonal response cited in the study is not unique to Taekwondo or martial arts, but to anything that invokes the fight or flight response.

Adam said...

Once again Chris, another excellent post.

Without subcribing to the page and reading the full article the results you have ncluded here prompt many questions.

How competent were the TKD practitioners? Were they confident? Were the sparring sessions very hard and full on?

Much of the hormonal releases during the practise of martial arts and combat sports are stimulated by mental stressor rather then the actual physical exertion. This is a key difference between normal strength and condictioning and S & C in say, a bjj match or even MMA match. Hormaones released via mental ressures are said to have far more degenerative effects than during simple S & C sessions such as slow motion time and tunnel vision to name just two.

I am not at all surprised by the results as combat, and even a simple TKD sparring session, is a toxic environmant, especially for the mind.

John said...

Bad for muscles? No I am sure of that martial arts is never bad for the muscles except if you allow it to hurt so much and have bruises. It can even be a great way of exercising while improving the physical strength of every player or individual joining this. :) For me martial arts rock! Try it and you'll see.

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