Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jiu-jitsu and weight training

About half a year has passed since I've injured my knee badly enough to require surgery.  I remember a very sharp and sudden pain following a pretty loud pop : the sound of my medial meniscus giving up as I was playing open guard.

To be fair, a white belt kicked me hard a few weeks back as I was standing to pass, and I had pain for a few weeks before. On the day of the second injury, I remember my body needing a rest, and I didn't listen to it. In the BJJ community, we are used to minor bruises, and that's what I thought that was. Bit big bruises can turn into big ones, that was my first lesson.

Thinking back, I am actually not angry anymore, and I don't regret it having happened to me. I've  learned that my quadriceps muscles needed to be strengthened post-surgery, as a way to delay the onset of osteoarthritis. They say that a 10% increase in knee extensor strength reduces the onset of OA after 25 years by 20%. So far, I've probably increased my strength by at least 50%.

I therefore had to change my training a little bit. I had to sacrifice two days of jiu-jitsu in order to hit the gym. Since I've learned the value of using my whole body when working out, I naturally gravitated towards free weights, and compound exercises specifically. This, despite the fact that a mixed of open and closed cycle exercise rehabilitates after a knee injury faster (machines and weights). I've discovered the deadlift, squat and clean and press, and I'm very thankful that I did.

The deadlift felt odd at first. I was surprised by how little weight I could support. My back was definitely weak. As the weeks went by, I've increased the weight gradually, and to be honest, I have never had such a stable core in my entire life. Almost gone also is the pain I had between one of the vertebrae in my lower back. The squat gave me significant increases into my leg power, and I could feel the difference when I skated just today. I know also understand why my passing has improved so much with so little training. Sweeping me got a little harder than it used to.

Finally, the clean and press, is for me, the exercise I feel the most beneficial. I use low weights and high reps, and since it's basically a combination of deadlift, upwards pull (clean) and a shoulder press, it works pretty much every muscle I care about, while also giving me a solid anaerobic cardio workout. It's hard to complete four sets without going out of breath.

All in all, I have changed my perspective about training jiu-jitsu. I strongly feel one should complement it with some other sport or activity in order to protect against injury. I recommend everyone to evaluate their body, and strengthen it accordingly if participating in full contact sports such as jiu-jitsu, judo or wrestling.