Tag Archives: strength training

Happy Re-construction Day, Right Knee!

Knee 2.0

Two years ago today I had ACL re-construction surgery on my right knee. In addition I also had my medial meniscus sutured. My surgery was an autograph (donor tissue was me, not a cadaver) of the semitendinosus (hamstring) tendon in my right leg.

Since then I’ve had over eight months of physical therapy and rehab (using the hamstring has donor tissue for the surgery has a longer recovery time than the patella-donor-type surgery plus I really didn’t want to rush), six months of prehab (injury preventative exercises) and over seven months of strength training before I started up jiu-jitsu again. Oh, I forgot to mention I even had a second surgery on my knee to remove the screws and anchors that held my “new” ACL in place while everything healed up neat and tidy.

Bionic Man for 1.7 years

Damn, my knee has come a long way.

Over the course of my two year journey I’ve picked up a lot of things, gained a great deal of experience and information in regards to knee injuries, rehab and prehab exercises, lower body – especially the posterior chain – strength training, leg mobility and flexibility, and soft tissue work, which of course includes massages. It’s led me to rediscover my passion for learning all about the human body and what it’s capable of (I was studying to be a paramedic before I found out I was coming to Japan, while I almost finished the program, I never knew how much I enjoyed learning about biology and human physiology until then).

Out of everything, there are a few important lessons I would have never received if I never got injured in the first place.

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Some Info on Knee Injury Prevention and Recovery

My friend Brent “popped” his knee last night during practice. I wasn’t there personally but heard about it from him. He got it checked out and there was some MCL damage. Nothing serious, yet in light of it I thought it best to throw out some basic tips and warning signs to watch out for.

Be Strong
The most pro-active step to ensure that injuries hardly occur is to focus on strength. Now this may fly against the “strength isn’t necessary to succeed in jiu-jitsu” mentality, but proper strength does have its benefits.

Let’s focus on knee injuries for now.

Strengthening all the major muscle groups, and supporting muscles and tissues will lower the chances of an injury. Furthermore, weight training should be applied in an intelligent manner, never blindly. This means that rushing into a gym to do three sets of leg presses till failure or going out running to make gains isn’t the best way of approaching strength.

Exercises should not be solely be quad-dominant, but should especially target the posterior chain as well. The posterior chain includes the hamstrings, glutes (hips) and lower back, and is directly tied to the knee providing support and stablization. The squat and the deadlift are excellent posterior chain exercises.

Other posterior chain exercises include pull-throughs, good mornings and ham-glute raises. Having any or, better still, all of these exercises in your workout routine would be a good step in guarding against knee injuries.

Be Healthy
A history of injuries can be viewed as a way to prevent them as it is a very good indicator of potential future occurrances. Think about it, an injury means an inability to perform at 100%, and any machismo attitude of “training through an injury” is traumatic and damaging in the long run.

There are instances of injuries caused by direct impact – two people collide with great force leaving one person with a torn tendon or a broken bone – however most cases are due to wear and tear. The muscles and tissues are not strong and healthy enough to perform at the desired level, so something gives. An injury should be given ample time to heal and allowing the body to completely recover is very important.

Massages and soft tissue work with either a foam roller or tennis balls are other ways to improve the quality of muscles and overall tissue health. Ideally, these can be done after a workout or any activity for the best results possible and to speed recovery although just taking the time to include enough rest and recover will prolong the amount of time we dedicate to training or to the active things we enjoy.

And in the case of jiu-jitsu, let’s hope that it’s lifelong.

Weight Training – June 16th

Sam was busy so it was solo weight training today.

Just Tell Me ‘Bout Them Lifts, Bro
Deadlifts 5×5, front squats 3×5, lunges and reverse lunges 2×5, and hip exercises.

I should be doing more upper body and shoulder exercises but it’s been a week since the last time I went to the gym and I find the time away takes a huge chunk off of my progress. My deadlifts were the only thing I could maintain, my progress in my other exercises and target areas have stalled.

Pro tip: if you want to slow down and possibly set yourself back, skip out on a day.

Cool Stories for Ya, Bro
Going to the gym provides a ripe opportunity to witness strange behaviour. Far more stranger than anyone I’ve encountered training in the martial arts. Almost.

The Narcissist
In Japan the word narcissist – typically seen in katakana as「ナルシスト」- has a deluted meaning. More akin to being poking fun at others than anything else. There’s was an older gentleman training who would fit the Japanesey term perfectly.

He looked to be in his late 50s/early 60s, sported a lifting belt and wore the classic far too tiny pumping-iron tank top which he didn’t come close to filling out.

After every set, no matter what exercise he did, he flexed his biceps, chest and quads in front of the mirror. Sometimes he’d do them right in front of me while I was doing my lunges. Sheesh. Way to make me lose count.

The Bicep Guy
Yup, you know him. The bicep guy. That’s all he does. Seated bicep curls, db bicep curls, barbell bicep curls. Several sets.

The only difference is this guy was pulling 9 kg at the most. Oh no, wait. He was curling a 10 kg barbell, that’s heavier than 9 kg. Oh no, wait. That’s 10 kg shared over both arms.

ಠ_ಠ See that? That look of disapproval is for you bicep guy.

Let’s hope I run into them next week. I’ll try to strike up a conversation and see what’s up with them. Whee! Gym is fun!

Weight Training – June 5th and 9th

Looking back at my posts I realized that I missed a workout session. Yikes!

June 5th Lifts, Bro
Standard leg warm-ups and stretches. Front squats 3×5, snatch grip deadlifts 3×5, lunges 3×5 and my hip exercises.

June 9th Lifts, Bro
Standard leg warm-ups, deadlifts 5×5, DB rows 3×5, Upright rows 3×5, pull-ups (3) and dips (7) followed by my hip exercises.

Gimme a Finisher, Bro
It feels like I’m settling into my weekly routine. I like the way my body feels after weight training a lot more than I do after jiu-jitsu practice. Well that makes sense cause I’m not sparring in class, not very long nor at full intensity. But I really enjoy the feeling of being tired the next day from lifting. On a day I don’t feel tired it seems like I have heaps of energy just pouring out of me, which usually happens on a jiu-jitsu day and makes sitting on the sidelines far more worse than it is.

For the most part, I’m really have to say is that my right leg feels strong. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t bother me. My flexiblity is slowly coming back though it’s not at pre-injury levels yet. Surprisingly my right leg feels better than my left leg. Before I had surgery I casually mentioned that my left knee was bothering me as well – nowhere near as bad as my right knee at that time – but after two years of my right leg taking center stage I’m finding that my left leg is starting to remind me of its current condition. Nothing really to worry about, just something to keep an eye on.

Other than that, I’m feel amazing. I wonder how much better I’ll feel with a couple more weeks of front squats and lunges under my belt.

Exercises for the Ages – the Deadlift

The deadlift. In fitness circles it’s argued, usually against the squat, as the single greatest exercise that benefits health and strength. As a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups it should come as no surprise why it’s widely adored.

In simplier terms, it’s a full body exercise.

For those of us looking to get healthier, lose a bit of weight and be more fit, adding the deadlift to a sensible diet might be just the thing.

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Weight Training – June 2nd

Went weight training with Sam on Thursday.

I don’t know if it was the weather we’ve been having (hot then cold then back to hot again) or something but both Sam and I weren’t feeling it. We were just sluggish and tired for some strange reason. I felt really good on Wednesday, even after jiu-jitsu practice, and I really wanted to weight train then but knew that I have Thursdays with Sam so I waited a day.

Just Tell Me ‘Bout Them Lifts, Bro
New stretching movement warm-up for my knee, deadlifts 3×5, bench 3×5, db rows 3×5, upright rows 3×5 and only seven pull-ups. Didn’t even feel like doing front squats.

I felt like I really didn’t work that hard, no DOMS, but when I got to my third set of deadlifts I barely finished it. I took it as a sign that it wasn’t going to be a good lift day. I just couldn’t pull the weight. Diet, weather, rest or recovery time – whatever the reason it just wasn’t happening.

Gimmie a Finisher, Bro
I’m a tad disappointed in myself. Strength training is not as difficult as jiu-jitsu, slighty easier, not much though, but just as demanding.

Perhaps it might have to do with my very light snatch grip deadlift session last time. I was a step backwards for me. Maybe it’s due to my jiu-jitsu training. I did go twice in a row but I didn’t spar. I should be well rested. Sigh.

Whatever the case I hope I’m in better shape/condition for next time.