Monday, June 30, 2008

Spinal Flexion & Mixed Martial Arts

One of your recent posts about crunches said, “Can you think of anything in sport that emulates a crunch"? I know that you are a BJJ/MMA coach and practitioner, so wouldn’t you say that BJJ requires an athlete to constantly be in a flexed spinal position, especially in the guard position? I would think that you would know firsthand that ground fighting puts you in many odd and awkward positions? I train MMA and place many crunching variations in my strength program. I believe these help me in my training.

Good question. But I think it is a bit too easy to say that because something happens in sport, we should train it. You should actually look at it from the opposite point of view. “There are many things that happen in sport that we should NOT train for". In MMA, we get kicked in the head and knocked out…..we don’t train that. In BJJ, we sometimes get our arms popped from an armbar……..we don’t train that. In football, 300 lb lineman blind side you at a ridiculous speed………we don’t train that. And in life, car accidents happen…….I hope no one trains for that!

I actually look at the whole spinal flexion thing, in regards to combat sports as “pattern overload”. Constantly repeating movements is a very common way to produce an injury. Because we are in flexed posture so often, I choose not to repetitively flex my athletes spines. Based on research, I cannot see how that can keep an athlete healthy long term. I am not anti-flexion. I am anti-repetitive flexion, loaded flexion, flexion with back pain present and any other time that flexion poses a risk.

Far too many people have not read Stuart McGill’s research. Do yourself a favor and read it yesterday.