A purple belt mentioned to me that running would be a great way to strengthen my leg for jiu-jitsu.
Huh? What? Right…
Running on its own is an incredible exercise and a respectable sport. As it pertains to the legs, it targets the quads, hamstrings, hip flexiors, and the calf muscles. Plus it is an excellent way – along with a sensible diet – to burn fat and help with weight loss.
Unfortunately, it is a terrible exercise for jiu-jitsu.
Limited Range of Motion
Take a look at this video of Dr. Marc Silberman of the NJ Sports Medicine and Performance Center.
Pay attention to his running form; he makes use of proper body mechanics, no heel strikes, good use of his hamstrings to lift his feet, and his alignment is straight on.
Exactly when does that running motion happen in jiu-jitsu? Oh, yeah. It doesn’t.
We’re not running in jiu-jitsu. Running is one force vector, straight ahead. Jiu-jitsu deals with multiple vectors. For instance, we fight from our knees, we stand up to pass, our legs go out in strange angles, our bodyweight shifts in different directions, and depending on the person we spar against there is a wide range of resistance to deal with.
The range of motion in running also hinders our hip movement. While running does make use of the hip flexiors, it does not use it to the extent that we see in jiu-jitsu. Nor does it help out as much in the hip extention department. We’re dependent on hip movement. Running isn’t gonna cut it.
Additional Unnecessary Trauma
Running places stress on all parts of the leg, especially on the knees. Pain found in the patellofemoral area is more commonly known as Runner’s Knee. There’s also shin splints, stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, and various types of sprains that can occur to people that run on a regular basis.
Without the proper conditioning and preparation beforehand, and the proper care afterwards, running is just extra icing on the traumatic cake. According to Rachel Cosgrove, a fitness trainer and an endurance athlete, running a mile is roughly the same as doing “1,500 reps with a load of two to five times your bodyweight.”
If I’m doing an activity that already exposes me to all sorts of potential injuries, I’m not going to train for that activity by doing a separate activity that equally does the same thing. I want to limit as much trauma to my body as possible, because jiu-jitsu already comes with trauma waiting in the wings.
I’m also definitely not lifting 120 kilos over a thousand times. That kind of workout is damaging.
Extra Benefits Don’t Transfer
Finally, there the belief that running also helps with conditioning and cardio, which is true to a certain extent.
While I tend to somewhat agree when it comes to taxing VO2 max levels or doing anaerobic exercises that running is a necessity, any cardiovascular programming gained from any type of running, even sprinting, will be specific only to that task.
Running makes you better at running. More jiu-jitsu makes us better at jiu-jitsu.
If we want to make strength gains we should add resistance training to our workout routines. Even runners have to weight train with respect to their sport.
Sorry, Mr Purple belt. I am not a runner. I’m a jiu-jitsu practitioner.