If you’ve recently started mixed martial arts training or you’re considering taking it up, you probably already know that you can’t just jump into it. Whether you’re looking for a hobby, a new fitness method, or a potential future career, MMA is as demanding as it is rewarding. It’s not the sort of thing that you start without a certain amount of preparation.
We’ve already discussed the level of fitness and the mindset that you’ll need as an MMA rookie. Now it’s time to look at the physical equipment you’ll have to bring to the gym. Here are 7 essential pieces of MMA gear that every beginner should have to make your training as safe and effective as possible.
Most gyms will have some spare communal gloves on hand for people who are taking a trial class or just starting out, but if you’re ready to commit to training, it will probably feel (and smell) a lot better to add a pair or two of your own to your MMA gear collection. A pair of 4oz MMA gloves will protect your knuckles when you’re working on your striking techniques and support your wrists during striking and grappling training and sparring. If your MMA training includes a lot of heavy bag work, you might also want to consider a pair of boxing gloves to better protect your hands and wrists from the impact of that kind of striking practice.
Hand wraps aren’t mandatory in all MMA training and sparring sessions, but you will have compete with them, and it’s safer to do bag and pad work with them, so it’s best to get into the habit as soon as possible. Investing in a pair (or multiple pairs) of this small but vital bit of MMA gear and learning how to wrap your hands properly will give you an added layer of protection for your knuckles, support your wrists and the connective tissue of your hands, and help absorb some of the sweat your’ll be producing during training.
A pair of gym shorts will probably get you through your first couple of MMA training sessions, but they probably won’t survive much longer than that. Not only will a pair of shorts specifically designed as MMA gear will have the flexibility that you’ll need to perform kicks and knees, the coverage you’ll need for grappling, and the durability to survive practicing, perfecting, and executing all of the above in sparring and competition.
MMA training can be hard on your skin. You’re constantly shifting along the mat – or against your training partner’s MMA gear – which can lead to a number of skin problems. Wearing a rash guard while training and sparring will help protect your chest and back (and arms, if you opt for a long-sleeved rash guard) from brush burns, scratches, and cuts and help prevent infections like staph and ring worm. Which will help you both look and feel a lot better on and off the mats.
Like rash guards, a good mouth guard has both cosmetic and health benefits. It will definitely keep you from getting your teeth knocked out by a punch (or a stray knee during grappling). It will also stop you from accidentally biting your tongue or cheek when one of the above happens. But recent research on the benefits of mouth guards suggests that wearing one has benefits that aren’t just gums deep. Wearing a properly fitted mouth guard might help reduce the risk of concussions in training and competition by keeping your jaw properly aligned and absorbing some of the shock from any blows you might take to the head.
While we’re on the subject of brain health, you’ll also need a head guard if you’re going to be sparring.
When you’re competing at the amateur and pro level, you’ll have to check and throw your kicks with bare shins. When you’re just getting started, though,, a pair of shin pads in the right size will keep your lower legs protected from any undue injuries that could result from not yet knowing how to throw kicks with perfect form. This MMA gear will also help keep your tibias safe and healthy in sparring as you get stronger and more advanced in the sport.
No, really. We’re completely serious. Mixed martial arts is, quite literally, a dirty business. Training involves rolling around in not just your own sweat, but other people’s. A little stink is inevitable – and you’ll get used to that quickly – but if you’re not careful, you could pick up something a lot less pleasant than a little body odour. Keeping soap in your gym bag and regularly washing your MMA gear in sports detergent won’t just keep you smelling a little better, it will also help to lower the risk of infections and illness in training and competition.