Guest post by Will Safford C.S.C.S a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach who trains under Andre Galvao at Atos Jiu Jitsu. He received is purple belt in December of 2013 and competes occasionally in the heavyweight division. Will specializes in mobility training, injury prevention, and kettlebell strength and conditioning. Visit his website at http://www.ironwillathletics.com/.
Let’s face it. If your doing Jiu Jitsu you’re going to get hurt. We train hard day in and day out, and subject our bodies to awkward positions, intense sparring, and dangerous joint locks. Bumps and bruises are inevitable, however, you can do a lot to prevent serious injuries that will keep you off the mat indefinitely. The key is to commit to injury prevention and listen to your body if you want to stay on the mat for the long term.
Always Warm Up
Most academies include a good full-body warm-up before training, focusing on Jiu Jitsu type movements to heat up the muscles and elevate the heart rate. These warm-ups are great, however, not everyone is the same. Some people may need more of less of a warm-up to get going. For example, if you know your lower back is susceptible to injury, it’s smart to add your own drills and exercises before class.
The same goes for any personal injury-prone area you may be dealing with. If you had a bad neck injury in the past, take a few extra minutes to do some neck work. Or, if you just came from sitting at the office all day, dedicate time before class to loosening up your hips and thoracic spine. A good warm up should last at least 10 minutes and focus on mobilizing joints, stretching dynamically, and bringing heat into the muscles.
Check Your Ego
We’ve all heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. Practice time on the mat is just that – time to practice and explore new positions. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques that may leave you vulnerable to attack. It will only improve your game in the long run. If you find yourself caught in a deep submission, don’t risk an injury by holding on, trying to muscle out of it. Just tap. Brush it off, start again, and don’t make that mistake again. Your ego may be sore but at least your joint isn’t.
There have been numerous studies to show that strength training helps prevent injuries. Your joints become more stable, your bones become more dense, and ultimately, your body more resilient to debilitating injuries and setbacks. Always use proper technique and don’t lift beyond of your capabilities. Don’t go too heavy too fast, rather build up over time. Two or three sessions a week is enough to build strength and prevent injuries without overtraining.
It’s also smart to develop your small stabilizer and postural muscles at the gym. Although they’re not very glamorous, they will pay dividends in preventing injuries and combating the damage we do to our bodies on the mat.
Get It Checked Out
If you went to the doctor’s office for every single ache and pain you got from training you’d basically live there. Minor pains typically heal up in time, but there are those few nagging issues that never seem to go away. If an issue is persisting and won’t heal up on its own, get to the doc. If you train through the pain you’ll likely make the situation worse.
If you’re afraid of what the doc might tell you, like you need surgery or something serious, realize you can get a second opinion before making a decision. In the long run, most doctors know what’s best for you and handling your issue now will keep you on the mats later in life.
This one seems obvious but a lot of people adopt the old school mentality of all work, no rest. You might be able to get away with this for a while but it will certainly catch up to you. Schedule full days off in your training schedule. Typically, Sunday is the day to not do a damned thing. However, if you’re feeling especially run down, take more time off. Your body recovers and comes back more able to perform after good rest. Most injuries happen when the pedal is constantly to the floor.
Have Light Days
This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. The most intelligent athletes have de-load days, weeks, and even months. Your performance will suffer if you’re engine is always going full speed. If you train multiple times a day, or even week, have a day or two where you don’t spar and only work technique or drill. You’ll reduce your chances of injury while still getting in quality time on the mats.
Always Cool Down
This is a big one that a lot of people skip. When you’re exhausted after training the last thing you want to do it stretch and cool down. You’re usually ready for the water cooler and a shower. When your muscles are warm and elastic it’s the perfect time to stretch. Spending time doing a full body stretch after class will help with recovery time, soreness, and prevent tensing up later in the day. Static stretches, where you hold for periods of 30 seconds or longer, ideally two minutes, are the best approach for after class.
When the word mobility comes up most people think of stretching the muscles, which is actually flexibility. It definitely pays to be flexible for Jiu Jitsu, however, having full mobility of your joints, or range of motion, is what will keep you out of the doctor’s office. Over stretching your muscles will lead to unstable joints and eventually pain and injury. Yoga and post-training stretching is always a good idea, but working on mobility may be more beneficial for Jiu Jitsu from a movement and injury prevention standpoint. There are many resources online to develop mobility so do some research and incorporate these drills before class or as their own session.
The last thing we all want is to be watching class from the sideline. Injuries are demoralizing, frustrating, and put the breaks on our progress. Accidents do happen, although and sometimes can’t be avoided. However, you can apply these tips to increase your chances of avoiding things that may otherwise put you out. The trick is to commit to injury prevention and incorporate it into your daily routine. Use your head and listen to your body to ensure your time on the mat.