Jiu-Jitsu Times: What should BJJ guys be doing in terms of supplementary exercises or mobility exercises as a preventative measure against injury?
Dharma Shay: Here are five steps I recommend all BJJ practitioners in their 30’s and up to start implementing.
- Show up early and stretch. Though stretching does reduce overall basic strength output and does not reduce injury rates in many cases, flexibility is one of the key traits of top tier BBJ athletes. If you tend to be tight in a particular muscle group, such as having a tight hamstring impinging your ability to perform, release your hamstring before you start warm ups.
- Five Minutes of light mobility. Implementing a full body mobility drill as soon as class starts may reduce the frequency of injuries related to tight or damaged joints significantly. The best time to implement such a drill is during the initial warm up phase. This may look like having your class do one hip movement (lizard pose with side-to-side switches), knee and quadriceps movement (active pretzels stretch side-to-side), knee and glute/hamstring movement (cross lunge with switch), shoulder and core movement (caterpillar crawl in place), and neck and back (controlled Granby roll back and forth at a slow pace focusing on scapular articulation), and full body movement (high plank to squat at bottoms active to stand, repeat).
- Don’t rely on braces long term. Braces are an excellent tool to help provide “external” stability within a joint, but long term use of braces with no rehabilitative or stability increasing exercise shows no long term benefit for the overall performance of the joint. Instead, learn a few rehabilitative exercises or if you are worried about being injured in that area start doing some preventative exercises. For people who wear a joint as a reminder or psychological anchor, remember do not let the brace become a crutch for neglect of maintenance. No matter how much duct tape you put on a broken car, the car is still broken.
- Be aware of stylistic strengths and risk. Every style has it benefits that should be considered in what areas you want to strengthen to increase your performance, but also be aware of the risk associated with the use of the style. Practitioners who prefer a leggy high guard setup should consider doing exercises that increase their back mobility and strength. Practitioners utilizing a heavy top game should maintain shoulder and arm mobility and strength. Practitioners utilizing leg locks often want to focus on lower limb muscle flexibility, knee stability, and back and leg mobility.
- Ask for help from a professional. So here is the thing: I have trained with so many guys and girls who would prefer to “work through it” than actually rehabilitate an injury. If you have an injury that won’t go away, go see a local physical therapist, athletic trainer, or a personal trainer who is familiar with athletic development. I would also advise talking to your PCP for a referral, but it is likely that this will not be your PCP area of expertise. I could have prevented all of my injuries if I took the time to talk to a kineisiology professional, saving myself over $20,000 in surgery expenses and being bed ridden for several months.
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