Thursday, September 23, 2010

Training and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete: part 1 regular training.

Buckle your chin-straps folks, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
I have read dozens of blogs, training programs, and talked to.. well every BJJ player I have ever met about training. Coming from a high level athletic background, having trained my way through some serious injury issues, I see a lot of my training partners and folks on the internet doing a lot of things that are heading to injury and a shortened career.
I decided to come up with a a two part post (and they are going to be pretty damn long) that are guidelines for preparing your body for jiu-jitsu. It is a two part series because pre-competition training is very different from what needs to be done to maintain the week to week integrity of your body.. but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
So here's what I've come up with:

Assumptions: (These are IMPORTANT)
We are talking about the general BJJ player between competitions.
You are male (females tend to respond better to more volume, and have less wear from a lifetime of contact sports)
You were not a NCAA wrestler.
You are not training for any other activity (soccer, triathlons.. whatever)
You are not a pro fighter, and there is no assumption that you will become one.
You are over the age of 25
You are under the age of 50
You have a job, bills, perhaps even a wife and kids, and thus the olympic model of:
wake, eat, train, eat, sleep, train, eat, massage, eat, go to bed is not an option.
You intend to compete, but not more than 1-2 times per year.
You have been training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for at least a year.
You are in this for the long hall, at least a decade past your black belt.

Mistakes in assumption:

You should be competition fit year round.
Let's kill this one from the jump. You do not have the time and training capacity to be competition fit year round. Yes you. How do I know this? Because the top athletes in the world at every sport take time off, and they don't have to hold down a day job. Hell, even the guys taking PEDs take time off. Training for most of the year should be built about keeping you healthy, and strong for the long road of a lifetime of jiu-jitsu. If you train like it's competition time all the time, you will break down, or burn out. Remember, the black belt is the beginning, not the end.
Cardio, you should do lots.
Let me be clear, I'm talking about long slow aerobic training. This is bunk for several reasons. The first is aerobic base is bunk. The second is the SAID principal. SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. To put it another way, I have never seen a runner roll to get in shape for running, so why run to get in shape for rolling?
If you are outside of the competition prep window (depends on age, injury history, belt level, and personal preference.. usually 8-12 weeks)Forget 'cardio,' Jiu-jitsu is your sport, so why waste training time and recovery doing another method of cardio, which isn't going to apply any way? Besides, it takes a goddamn long time to do. I have a job, and a kid, I'd rather save my long training sessions for class. Make sure you get in at least one long-ish roll per training session, and your aerobic fitness will be fine (for most of the year).
Anerobic training isn't important.
Most people get this backwards. They train "cardio" outside of class, and only train their anerobic systems in class. The problem is in class you need to be clear enough to stay relaxed, and focus on technique while moving quickly. If you're at your anaerobic threshold that's nearly impossible to do. If your anaerobic system is fit, then you can movemovemove then relax and recover. If you're all aerobic you can move constantly, but slowly.. less than ideal. I'd rather mount my opponent and catch my breath than be able to slowly squirm under mount for a long time.
Strength training is for fighters, and meathead fighter wannabes.
I love the leverage and strategic nature of the gentle art. I really do, but I also recognize that being strong is the secret to longevity in any sport. Appropriately applied muscle mass stabilizes joints, and strength training conditions the connective tissue to take the repeated stress of people trying to unseat them. Also an appropriate strength training program can counter act the constant spinal flexion that jiu-jitsu requires. Targeted mobility work and strength training is your best weapon against nagging long term injury. If you have sore shoulders, sore back, sore neck, you probably need to strengthen something, and mobilize something else.
Mobility means stretching hamstrings, and low back
Most of us have day jobs that involve sitting at a desk, our hip flexors (rectus femoris and psoas) get shortened. This pulls our femurs out of alignment, which makes our hamstrings, glutes, and lower back FEEL tight. The problem is that the more we stretch those muscles the more we misalign ourselves and make our problems worse. Work on hip mobility and you'll get long term relief.
What's a 'recovery?'
BJJ is the only martial art where you train at 100% all the time. We all get beat up, bumped, bruised, tweaked, cranked. We need recovery modalities to restore our bodies so that we can do it again.. and again.. and well you get the idea. SMR, contrast showers, massage, sleep, nutrition, and strategic deloads are important. Yes even from jiu-jitsu. I am the only player I know that consistently drops his training volume from time to time BEFORE I get injured. Go to class, and do technique but don't spar. Drill but don't roll. Reduce your lifting volume, reduce your weight training volume. Something, let your body recover, or eventually you'll become a laundry list of injuries, and be forced to take time off.
Gotta do eleventy hundred crunches.
Granted, I am baised. I have had a back injury pretty much since dirt was new, but all of the clinicians tell us that too much flexion=ow my back hurts. Since we pretty much fight on our backs in flexion, does it make sense to spend more time doing it? Not to me.
I understand that if you can't sit up into your opponent you can't fight, but anyone who's been doing this for very long has that baseline fitness, and gets plenty from drilling, sparring, and rolling. We don't need a conditioning drill that does the same thing without the skill aspect. It's simple training economy. Why spend 20 minutes (and burn 500 spine flexes) doing sit-ups when I can use the same "training currency" working on my arm-bars from guard?
We all need to train the same way.
I have been injured.. alot. My 'training age' is very high, and I know what my training capacity is. There is a young guy at Ballard who is 19, strong, fit, fast, and never been hurt a day in his life. Even at the same weight class we'd have to train very differently. I'm older, stronger, have a significantly higher training age and injury history. My strength program is dialed in, I have my recovery dialed. I go to class warm-up, drill, roll and do a little extra conditioning here and there. He can handle a much higher volume of strength training and sparring. He doesn't need to deload as often (if at all), and can double up rolling and conditioning in the same day. If I did that, something would break. You have to find what kind of training volume your body can handle. Look at your nutrition and recovery. Monitor your moods, and stressors outside of your training life. You cannot blithely wander through this life and expect progress. It has to be measured to be managed.

So what should we do?

To be clear I am not advocating being lazy. To be good at jiu-jitsu you need to have a base level of fitness. You need to go to class and train hard. You need to get in the gym and lift like the structure of your very body depends on it.. because it does.

So what do we need?
At a minimum, remember your personal work capacity may be different, but the below is the minimum price of admission.

We need to go to class and drill and roll 3-6x per week (depending on what you can recover from)

We need 2-3 strength training workouts focusing on posterior chain (upper back, lats, glutes, hamstrings) and some high rep work for the shoulders and elbows. If you already have posture issues, or injuries make sure your strength training targets them.

We need to recover every day: good nutrition (zone, paleo, Gracie diet, whatever just eat real food), good sleep, take a long walk/do some yoga and stretching/mobility/SMR.

2-3 sessions of intense anaerobic conditioning. These can be done either as 'finishers' to the strength workouts, training sessions in class, or by themselves.

Every few weeks/couple of months (particularly before beginning competition prep, or after a meet) take some time down. It doesn't have to be off, but reduce your workload, and recover more.

That's a minimum of 7 workouts a week plus recovery. Hardly a lazy man's schedule, but you'd be amazed at how many folks will skip a solid 2/3s of the above and then run 3 miles do 200 crunches and tell themselves they've done their homework. Maybe they'll be able to keep that up for 20 years, but most people cannot. The answer lies in the middle, in looking at your own capacity honestly, and not falling into the trap of doing what you like/want/are good at/have always done because that road ends in the orthopedists office.

Coming up next part 2: training for competition.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thank you, useful thing.

I am getting a TON of freaking comment spam here. Most of it doesn't even pretend to be anything but, the best are the ones that try to appear like a regular comment. I love the strange word usements they structure.
It's practically be-bop.

I think this is going to be another wash-out week of training. Monday was a light day at BJJ. Technique and 1 roll. Yesterday was spent putting the final spit polish on the condo to get it ready to sell, and today I don't know if I'm going to make it to class for a multitude of reasons..
blah. I'll do some light conditioning work at home tonight, and see if I can sneak in a class on Friday.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sleep, and Kool-aid.

I've been in training all week drinking the Microsoft Kool-aid, and the grizzly has reached a fun little milestone called the "4 month sleep regression" which is doctory b.s. for:
He stops sleeping.. and so do you! how fun!
So tired.
Last night was better.

Training updates.. good grief it's been almost two weeks:
on Friday the 3rd I did deadlift clusters:
315x5(rest 10 sec)x3(same)x2
This was good, got some volume in without risking the possible complications of deadlifting the day after a bout of stomach upset.
BJJ I taught the no-gi class (the Professor is out of town). Taught the spiral ride which is very effective for BJJ. Good control, good movement, and the ability to open space to get the hooks in.
Sunday: off
Lots of single leg work. Ton of lunges, step-ups, and split squats. High volume.
Off drove to Portland for work.
Lots of front squats, light.
Clean and presses 5/5 at 26, 5/5 at 35, 5/5 at 62 x3
BJJ once again I taught no-gi. Front headlock (see Matt Hughes v. Ricardo Almeda) and escape.
Sunday off.
My training has been garbage this week. I can't train at work because I'm not there. I haven't gone to bjj because of some commitments the wife had. So this week has been a wash.
I've trained once (mostly just mobility work and some high rep posterior chain stuff: rows, chins, hip thrusts, kb swings) I'll go to bjj tonight, lift tomorrow (similar stuff) and go to class again on Saturday.

This song makes me laugh:

Friday, September 3, 2010

There's poo everywhere! What'r we gonna do?!?

Stomach bug infected my entire house hold.. ok.. that's not entirely true.. the cat was fine.
We're all on the mend today.
No training yesterday, gonna keep it light today.
Have a good labor day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

UFC 118

What a barn burner.
Wrestler's rule. Everyone who was able to take his opponent down on Saturday won. Wrestling has become (again.. remember everything new is old again) the most important skill in MMA.. for now.. until someone figures out another foil for it.

Joe Lauzon looked great. I'm glad to see him back. Hopefully with a tougher opponent he'll continue to look as good.

Marcus Davis is in trouble. His hand speed and reactions are failing him. He's a smart guy, and would be a good boxing coach for an MMA camp. Might be time for a new line of work.

Nate Diaz drives me nuts. Million dollar talent, five cent head.

Gray Maynard (full disclosure; one of my favorite fighters since his stint on TUF) will finally get a title shot.. one that I think he can win.

I like Ken Florian a lot. He's a Gracie Barra blackbelt, he went to Boston College (the wife's alma mater) but he made a classic mistake. He got ready for a power takedown guy (Gray 'the bully' Maynard) by stuffing the shot of a speed takedown guy (GSP). Tactically and technically very different. That's like training jiu-jitsu with Roy Nelson to get ready for Anderson Silva's guard.

Mario Miranda looked like a classic case of 'looks like Tarzan, fights like Jane.' I hope this was a case of getting thrown into the deep end too soon, because he's a Seattle guy and I'd like to see him do well.

Damian Maia looked great. His wrestling was super sharp, he took Miranda down at will. He's always had good takedowns in the gi. I'm glad to see it starting to transfer.

I love Randy Couture. He did what any wrestler in his right mind would do when facing a boxer: Oklahoma State style low single right off the jump. Ps.. I'll give you three guesses where Randy wrestled in college.. It shouldn't take two.

James Toney learning to sprawl is not enough, you still need to know how to get up off the mat.. hopefully this will never matter again. You were a great (all be it lazy) boxer.. stay that way.
Or go to Japan where they'll make fights you can win.

B.J. Penn lost because he refuses to be anything but the top dog in his camp. If he had an impartial coach, and training partners he'd know what to do when he wasn't the fastest guy in the ring. He'd learn to shorten up, smother and cut off the ring. Instead he continues to train with lesser athletes, and gets beat every time he is at a disadvantage in speed.

Frankie Edgar is a good dude, and I'm glad he decisively won the belt. I don't think he can answer Maynard's bullying style. It's just a bad match-up.