Your shoulders take a beating.
Especially when your training partner knows 99 ways to hyper extend the joint to cause enough pain to make you tap before ligaments & tendons begin to tear or the joint becomes dislocated.
It’s not just your opponents attempts to submit you, but the general posture of a fighter that can stress the shoulder joint. Having a rounded (kyphotic for you anatomy nerds) upper back encourages the shoulder blades to “wing”, which stretches out the muscles in the mid and upper back region preventing then from doing their job.
And their job is to control the scapula (shoulder blade) whose job it is to keep the shoulder joint stable.
Poor scapula control leads to poor shoulder stability and a vastly increased risk of shoulder injury.
You must keep the upper back strong and get the muscles firing.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Joe DeFranco, but he’s one of the world’s top strength coaches and an influence of mine.
It’s through his work that I learned of an exercise called the handcuff drill. It’s the first drill featured in this clip:
The other exercises shown are also of great value for resetting the shoulders and strengthening the upper back, but the handcuff drill, being equipment free is one that should be added to your BJJ warm ups, in fact I feature it in the Fighting Back manual when I discuss how to warm up.
As part of your supplemental strength work for the upper back, there is a one drill that is a must.
It is the Inverted Row, ideally on rings or a TRX unit.
The Inverted Row is classed as an upper body horizontal pull. Which if you think of the direction of pull used most in your BJJ, it’s against an opponent to the front of you, so mostly horizontal.
But why this drill really works is that it is closed chain. That means your body is moving through space.
Using the rings allows the hands to rotate and move relatively free which will allow the scapula to retract as you pull and protract as you lower. Add a 2-3 second pause at the top of the pull and you’ll feel your rhomboid muscles scream for mercy!
Here’s a clip:
Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints across the athletic spectrum, but in a sport like grappling where it is actively attacked.
Take care of your upper back as a priority, your training efficacy and longevity will appreciate it.
As a wee bonus, here’s a video of European BJJ Champion Seb going through a conditioning set incorporating the Inverted Row:
Have you got your copy of Fighting Back yet?
Click the image: