How MMA Two-Weight-Class Champion Conor McGregor Used DEXA Scans to Monitor Body Composition

Body composition is a key performance indicator for a fighter. It is, however, very tricky for a fighter to hit his target weight for a fight, while maintaining a good body composition. This requires careful planning and strategy so the athlete can change weight by losing body fat, while maintaining as much muscle as possible. Achieving both goals at the same time requires masterful training and nutrition management. The best way to learn how to do so is to start by knowing your body composition. There are few ways an athlete can measure body composition, but in order to leave no room for errors, it is highly recommended to use clinical-grade equipment: the DEXA scan of the BOD POD test. Both tests can be scheduled by fighters nationwide through Fitnescity’s wide network of test locations.

According to McGregor's FAST program, Conor’s plan was the following:

  • Daily: Conor used the bathroom scale to measure his weight on a daily basis. While this does not provide reliable information on body composition (bathroom scales tend to be inaccurate), it does provide a relatively good indication of the athlete’s body weight relative to the weight division of his next fight. Changes in hydration levels and the time of the day may affect the results though.

  • Monthly: Conor kept track of his level of subcutaneous fat —the type of fat that sits right under the skin— using a skin fold calipers. It’s important to know that the margin for error here can vary a lot depending on the experience and knowledge of the technician who helps you with your skin fold measurement.

  • Pre-fight: McGregor, along with other UFC athletes that Fitnescity has worked with, uses the DEXA scan, which is a far more accurate and reliable way of tracking changes in body composition. DEXA / DXA Scan is also used at the new $14 Million UFC Performance Institute, and is widely considered as one of the most accurate and comprehensive body composition tests. The DEXA scan utilizes dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). The test looks beyond your weight and the traditional body mass index (BMI). It determines your total body fat percentage, total fat mass and fat-free mass. Most importantly, DEXA body composition technology provides regional body fat results (trunk, arms, legs, pelvis and android/gynoid regions). This not only is important for pinpointing the areas where your fat level is high, but it is also crucial for spotting any muscle imbalance or asymmetries (left and right), which might be the sign of a previous injury or a potential weakness that may lead to a new injury.

    Alternatively, the BOD POD test also provides body composition analysis with the same level of clinical-grade accuracy.