Returning to Jiu-Jitsu Training After Injury or Illness

Aug 5, 2023Jiu-Jitsu

Returning from Injury

Jiu-jitsu is a martial art and combat sport that involves grappling and ground fighting. As with any physically demanding activity, injuries, although avoidable, can occur among jiu-jitsu practitioners. Illnesses like a cold or flu can also cause people to take extended time off the mats. When it’s time to return to training after an injury or illness, the transition can be physically and mentally challenging. This article guides how to safely and effectively resume jiu-jitsu training after time off due to injury or sickness.

Consulting With Healthcare Professionals

The first step is to get clearance from your doctor or other healthcare providers before returning to jiu-jitsu. They can evaluate your readiness to resume full contact training based on the specifics of your injury or illness. Don’t try to “tough it out” and return too soon—that often leads to re-injury or complications. Be patient and make sure you’re fully healed.

For injuries, getting assessed by a physiotherapist or sports medicine doctor who understands jiu-jitsu is ideal. They can design a tailored rehabilitation program to address any weaknesses or imbalances. This helps strengthen the affected area and prevent future injuries. If your regular doctor isn’t familiar with combat sports, seek out a specialist.

Setting Realistic Expectations

It’s essential to be realistic about your capabilities when coming back from an extended break. You won’t be at the same level you were before the time off. Expect some regression in cardio, strength, flexibility, and technique. Please don’t get frustrated; it will take time to rebuild these attributes. Focus on consistency and gradual progress.

Avoid comparing yourself to where you were before the layoff—it’s an unfair standard. You may even find that you come back stronger in certain areas after concentrated rehab and training. View it as an opportunity to develop new skills.

Starting Slowly and Progressing Gradually

The biggest mistake people make when returning from injury or illness is ramping up too quickly. This often leads to overuse issues or setbacks in recovery. Take a gradual approach instead:

Solo Drilling

Before live sparring, begin with solo drilling of techniques to re-familiarize your body with the movements. Go slowly and focus on proper form. Don’t strain or force techniques that cause pain. Solo drilling allows you to control the intensity.

Light Rolling Sessions

When cleared for contact, start by rolling light with trusted training partners. Avoid intense sparring sessions early on. Ask your partner to flow roll or roll at 50-75% intensity. Positional sparring can also be beneficial when coming back.

Monitoring Training Volume

Slowly increase your training volume over several weeks or months. Don’t go straight from 1-2 sessions per week to your old 5-6 session routine. This will help avoid overtraining injuries. Consider taking an extra rest day if needed.

Choosing Partners Wisely

Don’t roll with intense competitors immediately—the risk of re-injury is too high. Stick to cooperative training partners who will keep the intensity controlled. Higher belts are often a good option for managing intensity.

Training Around Injuries

If certain positions or techniques aggravate your injury, avoid those in your initial return to training. This might mean staying off a healing limb or not playing open guard if your fingers are hurt. Discuss with your physiotherapist or coach what modifications make sense.

You can also use training handicaps to reduce risk by only allowing back attacks or no leg locks. Just make sure your partner understands and respects the limitations. Getting repeatedly put in risky positions will delay healing.

Maintaining Fitness During Time Off

Don’t go completely sedentary when injured or sick. Performing some active recovery keeps your fitness level up and prevents compensatory movement patterns from developing. Options include:

  • Light cardiovascular exercises like walking, cycling or swimming
  • Gentle mobility work like stretching or yoga
  • Simple strength training with bands, bodyweight or light weights

Avoid activities that aggravate your injury obviously. Work closely with healthcare providers to determine what’s safe. The goal is to maintain baseline fitness without overexertion.

Optimizing Cardiovascular Endurance

Losing cardio is inevitable with extended time off the mats. Rebuilding your gas tank is crucial before ramping up intense training again.

Perform low-intensity steady state cardio for longer durations. Stay below your lactate threshold where you can maintain a conversation. Going too hard is counterproductive when rebuilding your aerobic base.

Live rolling is not the optimal way to improve cardio conditioning after a layoff. The unpredictable nature makes it hard to control the intensity and duration.

Incorporating Strength Training

Strength training is vital for injury prevention and performance in jiu-jitsu. Focus on exercises and ranges of motion applicable to grappling movements. Talk to a strength coach or physiotherapist about developing a program tailored to your needs.

Ideally, combine strength work with mobility sessions to ensure you have the requisite joint range of motion. Lack of mobility increases injury risk even if the area is strong.

Pick modalities you enjoy and will stick with long-term like barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, resistance bands, etc. Consistency with suboptimal programming beats perfect programming that isn’t followed.

Paying Attention to Pain and Soreness

As you return to training, monitor pain carefully and don’t ignore warning signs. Some muscle soreness is expected, but sharp joint pain is not normal. Have low thresholds for easing up or stopping training if something doesn’t feel right.

Communicate openly with coaches and training partners about limitations or concerns. Don’t let ego push you into situations that could re-aggravate healing injuries. It’s better to tap early and often when returning from time off.

Seeking Help for Chronic Issues

If an injury lasts longer than several weeks without improvement, get it reassessed by a healthcare professional. Left untreated, minor injuries can turn into more serious chronic issues. Don’t keep trying to “train through it.”

Persistent pain likely indicates a compensation pattern or mobility restriction has developed. Address the root cause instead of just managing symptoms. Injuries rarely resolve on their own if the underlying dysfunction isn’t fixed.

Embracing the Comeback Process

Coming back from an extended break is challenging mentally as well as physically. You’ll likely feel frustrated, discouraged and impatient at times. This is normal—try to keep your expectations realistic.

Focus on celebrating small wins and enjoying the process. Appreciate the opportunity to rebuild your body and skills. Use the time to develop attributes that you previously neglected due to lack of time.

Stay consistent with training and rehab efforts. Results will come slower than desired, but your patience and perseverance will pay off in the end. Trust the process and keep showing up.

Returning to Training After Injury

Returning to jiu-jitsu training after injury, illness or other extended time off requires patience and diligence. But by gradually utilizing healthcare expertise and modifying training appropriately, you can rebuild your fitness and skills safely and sustainably. Avoid rushing the comeback process at all costs. Consistency and resilience are essential. If you stick to intelligent training practices, you can return to the mats stronger than ever. Just focus on the day-to-day progress and let the long-term results take care of themselves.

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Team Apex MMA Martial Arts Coach
Apex MMA is a specialist mixed martial arts gym focusing on Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Led by an experienced team of instructors, Apex MMA offers comprehensive training programs for students of all ages and skill levels. With Apex MMA's systematic teaching methods, passion for martial arts, and strong community relationships, you will gain the tools to succeed in the gym and beyond.
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