Injury Prevention for the Mixed Martial Artist
Today I am going to talk about something that every person can benefit from: injury prevention. I have been a coach for several years and I have seen and personally experienced numerous injuries. I hate getting hurt but one thing I hate more than that, is to see my students, friends and fellow classmates get hurt. Especially when it is an injury that could have been prevented by performing some very simple rehabilitative exercises. That being said, the risk of injury will always be present whenever participating in a sport or event in which there are unforeseen variables. My goal with this article is to help you minimize the risk of injury while doing what you love to do.
Injuries occur for many reasons, and I am not going to take the time to explain every single possible scenario; it would be impossible. What I am going to go into detail about is how injuries typically happen when one of the four following factors is in a state of imbalance: flexibility, mobility, stability and strength. These four qualities are the foundation for anyone looking to become more athletic. From the 70 year old grandmother to the 22 year old elite athlete, these four qualities will be the base on which you build your success. Whenever one of these four factors is unequal it creates a very inviting environment for an injury to occur.
Lets start with the easiest to address: strength. Strength is a relatively easy skill set for someone to attain. A basic strength and conditioning program followed several times a week under the guidance of a trained professional can improve your level of strength very quickly. Especially if you already practice a sport which promotes the development of strength, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or wrestling.
Mobility: Mobility is the ability to move a limb or joint through a full range of motion with control. Mobility is voluntary and requires strength to perform the action while flexibility is usually a more passive skill that involves static holds to elongate the body’s muscles. Both mobility and flexibility are important skills for any athletic person to posses but unfortunately many times the development of these skills is neglected during training. The more mobile an individual the more easily and more freely they can execute their intended task. Whether it be throwing a roundhouse kick, passing guard or just picking up a bag of groceries, greater mobility will always equal improved performance.
Every person is going to have unique mobility issues and to combat them I highly suggest meeting with a professional and educating yourself on how to properly treat your specific condition. Some of the more common mobility issues I see frequently at the gym involve impingement of the hips and shoulders. Both Jiujitsu and Muay Thai place heavy demand on these joints and the muscles that surround them. A great way to improve mobility is through myofascial release and various exercises specifically designed to target the proper movement of a joint or limb. Below are two ways to increase the mobility of your hips and shoulders.
A. Myofascial Release of the Shoulder Girdle
Start lying on your side with a foam roller placed above your hip. Slowly roll up towards your shoulder while applying pressure onto the roller. When you feel tightness, stop, take a few breaths, and rock side to side to loosen up the connective tissues. Then continue your way up into the armpit. Once reaching the armpit, roll a few inches from side to side to grind out any tension hidden in the surrounding muscle. Repeat on the other side.
B. Myofacial Release of the Hip Flexors
Start lying on the ground with either a lacrosse ball or a PVC pipe placed in the middle of your thigh. Slowly roll up towards your hip while frequently stopping to rock back and forth to grind out the tension. Once reaching the hip, roll onto your side and apply pressure to the TFL (tensor fasciae latae) located betweeen the front of your hip and your glutes.
Flexibility refers to the range of motion in a joint and the length of the muscles that cross the joints. Depending on what sport or activity you like to do will determine the optimal level of flexibility you will need. Remember flexibility should be treated as a goal and something to be trained and improved with time. Just because you are naturally tight does not mean that you can never attempt a sport. Granted if you are so tight you can’t touch your toes rhythmic gymnastic might not be the sport for you. I’m not trying to shoot down your dreams but lets be realistic here. Below are two stretches that can can increase the flexibility of the hips and shoulder.
A. Stretching the Chest and Shoulder
Start with placing your hands and knees on the ground with one elbow resting on a Swiss ball. Allow your chest to fall to the ground while reaching away from your center with the supported elbow. Think about creating separation in your shoulder socket while holding the stretch. Hold the position for 45 seconds, shake the arm out briefly, and repeat on the same side.
B. Stretching the Hip Flexors
Assume the same stance as you would for a split squat with one knee resting on a pad for some added comfort. Flex your glutes and slowly press the hips forward while maintaining the contraction of the glutes. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds. Relax the glutes and allow the hips to fall forward. Repeat 2 or 3 times until the hips have ceased forward movement once the contraction is released.
Practice these stretches several times a day! If any of you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.