Body composition of elite Olympic combat sport athletes

Reid Reale*, Louise M. Burke, Gregory R. Cox, Gary Slater

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
242 Downloads (Pure)


Physique traits of a range of elite athletes have been identified; however, few detailed investigations of Olympic combat sports (judo, wrestling, taekwondo and boxing) exist. This is surprising given the importance of body composition in weight category sports. We sought to develop a descriptive database of Olympic combat sport athletes, compare variables relative to weight division and examine differences within and between sports. Additionally, we investigated the appropriateness of athletes’ self-selected weight classes compared to an internationally recognised classification system (the NCAA minimum wrestling weight scheme used to identify minimum ‘safe’ weight). Olympic combat sport athletes (56♂, 38♀) had body mass (BM), stretch stature and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry derived body composition assessed within 7–21 days of competition. Most athletes were heavier than their weight division. Sport had an effect (p <.05) on several physique traits, including; lean mass, lean mass distribution, stretch stature and BMI. BM was strongly positively correlated (r > 0.6) with; fat free mass, fat mass and body fat percentage, however, was not predictive of total mass/weight division. The Olympic combat sports differ in competitive format and physiological requirements, which is partly reflected in athletes’ physique traits. We provide reference ranges for lean and fat mass across a range of BM. Lighter athletes likely must utilise acute weight loss in order to make weight, whereas heavier athletes can potentially reduce fat mass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-156
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Issue number2
Early online date28 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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