Protecting My Lower Back As A Guard Player

My lower back flared up yesterday.  Coming up through the ranks I heard upper belts casually mention lower back issues.  I have long legs and stay cognizant of body positions.  For some reason I felt these problems wouldn’t affect me.

After nearly 8 years in the sport, and focusing especially on my closed guard intensely for the past 2 years, my lower back has started to feel a little dinged up.  After doing some research and experimenting with different regimens I found two movements that really seemed to help.

I’m not a doctor, or a physical therapist or anyone to prescribe any time of physical regimen.  I just wanted to put out there what I have found to work for my body to deal with this trauma.  Consult with an expert and see if any part of this is right for you.

Rener Gracie’s Lower Back Routine.

I came across this a few years ago and the benefits were instantly noticeable.  I usually feel immediate relief after doing this routine. Whenever I travel, I will almost always hit this series a few times as soon as I can after getting out of the car.
 I will use Rener’s series as a warm up for Jiu Jitsu class before I walk out the door after a long sedentary day.  I also will periodically work this movement throughout my day as I take breaks from work and move around.
With both feet on the floor I feel it in my tight hip flexors for the first few reps.  As my hips warm up, I can feel the workload transfer to my lower back muscle panels.  Once I switch to the side version I feel the maximum back benefit.
This series also really helps me warm up for the squat series next.

Ido Portal Squat Routine 2.0

(Yes, that’s the guy who worked with Conner McGregor in the park…with the ponytail)

I have added this to my daily morning routine.  After a little warm up and a few shallow squats, I get right to it. On days I perform this workout I feel way better.  I spend most of my day sitting and working in front of a computer and I feel a major difference in my body if I skip these squats.

Mobility For General Lower Back Injury Prevention

I focus on mobility as one of the most important aspects of injury prevention.  I think about mobility in terms of warming up properly, cooling down properly, and overall flexibility.
Warming Up
I try to always warm up my joints first with no impact, circular motions (wrist circles, elbow circles, shoulder, torso twists, hip circles, knee circles, etc).  Once my joints seem ready, I focus on getting some blood flowing to my muscles with more sport specific movements.
Here, I focus on my problem areas.  If my lower back has been bothering me, I make sure that I am getting it extra prepared for the day.  You can read more about properly warming up for tournaments in a previous post.
Foam Roller For BJJ
Foam Rollers And Lacrosse Balls Are Must Have’s For The Jiu Jitsu Athlete
Cool Down
This is the part that I need to do a better job of performing regularly.  I tend to hop off the mats after training and rolling hard, and feel the euphoria of physical activity.  After dressing out, I help close up the gym, and hop in the car to go home.  About halfway home the lower back stiffness starts to set in.
When I do cool down properly, I get in a good stretch as I cool down at the gym and I feel better that night and the next morning.
Tension And Overall Flexibility
Everyone has movements with more flexibility than others.  My hamstrings have always been especially tight.  The more I can stretch them (when warm, and NOT right before training to avoid injury), to better my lower back feels.  I also carry tension in my shoulders and neck which I am constantly working on improving.Protect Your Lower Back Rolling So You Can Have More Fun
Be smart with your lower back.
Longevity is the key to success in the sport.  Limit damaging movements.  Beware rolling with people much larger than you, and make smart positional choices when you do.  When working break falls and other movements, make sure to avoid landing on your sciatic nerve (land on the side of your hip for side break falls instead, etc.).
Injury is one of the biggest reasons people end up quitting.  Don’t quit training Jiu Jitsu.
Warm up, cool down, drink plenty of water.  See you on the mats.