Conditioning And Preventative Maintenance For BJJ – Part 1

I had a malingering knee injury that severely limited my rolling for over a year.

Nearing the age of 50, I figured there was nothing I could do about it and I just wrapped and iced it every week. Then I was fortunate enough to meet trainer Dharma Shay, who gave me a few simple pieces of advice on rehab and corrective exercises.

I thought “Why not try it?” And to my delight and surprise it worked! My knee is now largely pain free and I gained a new respect for the art of preventative and corrective exercises.

I want to introduce the readers of Jiu-Jitsu Times to Dharma in a short series of articles on mobility, preventative maintenance, conditioning for BJJ, and athletes over 40.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: First of all Dharma, can you start by giving us an idea of your background? What do you specialize in?

Dharma Shay: I was born in Oakland, California, and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, where as one of the sons of an acupuncturist, I was introduced to traditional Chinese and Japanese martial arts. Around age 14 I got involved in Muay Thai and no-gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu as part of my intermediate schools self-defense club, and a few years later I was introduced to internal martial arts. Since that time I have lived and trained martial arts in America, China, South Korea, and Vietnam. My two most recent experiences working with BJJ was with Saigon Luta Livre and BJJ in 2015 and working with the Brave Fitness No Gi BJJ team here in Hawaii over the past year.

Currently I own and manage a multifaceted functional fitness gym in Hawaii, The Brave Fitness, where I specialize in rehabilitation, strength, and conditioning, and martial arts instruction. Additionally, I hold a bachelors in psychology and health administration and hold a master in sports and health science with a specialization in optimal performance. To further my understanding of BJJ I focused my masters project on the biomechanical analysis of BJJ and how such analysis would benefit overall BJJ performance.

In the past seven years I have suffered from several major injuries including a lumbar disc rupture (with partial paralysis), a cervical disc rupture, a full rupture of the left Achilles, and a severe tear of the rotator cuff, and I have fully recovered from all of my injuries and returned to training. Being involved in martial arts from age seven has provided me with a unique perspective when it came to learning about the kinematic and kinetic dynamics that are involved in injury rehabilitation and preventative exercise related to our musculoskeletal system. I started off knowing how manipulate and break points of the muscle skeletal system and now spend the majority of my time teaching others how to prevent injuries and return from them triumphant.

JJT: What should BJJ practitioners know about conditioning for BJJ? What are the most important areas for them to concentrate on?

DS: Originally, BJJ was considered a martial art that proved technical expertise could be the most effective means of competitive performance for a one-on-one bout, but time and research have proven that both strength and conditioning play a large part in the top tier levels of BJJ ability to perform. Because BJJ is a predominantly aerobic sport with moderate activation of the glycolytic system, when training BJJ athletes it is important to provide sports specific aerobic conditioning. When considering the biomechanical dynamics of a contact sport like jiu-jitsu a lot of small micro-movements make a huge difference in contrast to contact sports like boxing where the strongest movements are characterized by large movements. This leads to producing a system of conditioning exercises that improve work capacity and allow technical improvement of technique execution.

When it comes to strength significance in BJJ, skipping leg day may actually be acceptable (somewhat, I will get to this later). Now I wouldn’t advise skipping leg workouts all together and generally would recommend a healthy balance of upper and lower limb exercise, but when it comes to BJJ strength, performance trainers need to focus on core and upper body pulling and pushing strength. What this may mean is that you as the professor or instructor need to develop conditioning routines that involve pulls and pushing.

Many BJJ gyms will focus on strength endurance, which is important, but when it comes to an area that needs-basic strength, students will benefit from picking up and pushing heavy object. A good example would be doing partner deadlifts, partner pushups, basic pushups, pull ups, assisted resistance drags using single arm, and others. When it comes to legs in BJJ it is important to have medium leg strength but great quadriceps endurance. A rule of thumb to avoid moving into an endurance area of strength is to find exercises that are challenging with a max of ten reps. Make sure you know the difference between strength development and power development (power should be a secondary consideration in comparison to static and basic strength).

The strength endurance or aerobic aspect of the training should be technique specific. Most BJJ gyms are likely already utilizing such drills such as shrimps, crawls, x guard transitions, and others. This should likely be as long as the strength phase if not longer.

And always remember phasing in programming means everything. Set your conditioning up in the right order. Traditionally workouts start with a warm-up, strength circuit, endurance circuit, technique, active rolling, and cool down. I have never been to a BJJ gym that does an active group cool down, but I think it would be helpful to have a printout with some useful mobility drills and stretches to help lengthen muscle, tendons, and ligaments after a solid rolling session
Instagram : @dharmayourway


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