Weight training for joints and bones


By Chandra N. Vandry, RN

BJJ can be tough on your joints, especially knees and shoulders.  I hear a lot of groaning about knee and shoulder pain on the mat and I am always surprised when I ask if they do any weight training, that the answer is no.

In addition to the proper minerals and collagen supplements, one of the best things you can you do for your joints is weight train.  Joints like shoulders and knees are surrounded by supporting muscles.  When any one of those muscles is weak, stability of the joint is compromised and you will be more prone to injury.

I learned this lesson first hand in college when I injured my knee.  It took 6 months of physical therapy to get back to normal, and weight training was a big part of that recovery.

I weight train once a week even though I think weight training is one of the most boring things in the world.  I feel the same way about the treadmill and elliptical machines; that is why I train BJJ and kickboxing for exercise!  But, as far as your bones and joints are concerned you have to do weight bearing exercises.  Weight bearing exercises will also prevent osteoporosis as you age.  So tedious or not, you should find time to do it.

Weight training does not need to be a long drawn out affair. You don’t need to do separate days for lower and upper body unless you are bodybuilding.  I get in, do the entire body, two sets of ten on each machine, and get out.  I don’t do super heavy weights, just enough so I can comfortably make it through both sets.

For the knees you need to make sure and hit the hamstrings (most important), quads, and inner and outer thighs.  I actually stay away from the leg press as I find it puts an uncomfortable amount of pressure on my knees.

For the shoulders, it is important to work the rear muscles, particularly lats and delts.  Pretty much every thing we do all day; sitting at a computer, driving, eating, rolls the shoulder forward, so weight training should focus on the exercises that help pull the shoulders back.  I always do the rows, lat pull down, as well as the chest press and pull ups, then the free weights for biceps and triceps.

I do ten minutes of warm up, five minute cool down the on the treadmill, and some stretching and am done with the whole work out in less than an hour.  There is no need to do multiple reps on each machine, for making it quick keeps it from getting too boring.

If you train BJJ, I highly recommend you find one day a week to add some weight training, your joints and bones will thank you for it in the long run!

Chandra N. Vandry, RN

11 Comments on Weight training for joints and bones

  1. Great article on points of joints. Especially the part on hamstrings. I agree with Chandra on the need to stress joints to make them stronger, and her point on stretching.

    William Vandry

  2. Chandra,

    I couldn’t agree more with you on this one. I’ve had several knee issues in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I quit lifting weights prior to this time with my legs. I told myself after playing football that I would never go near a squat rack again. I thought that it would be more advantageous to work on flexibility than to lift weights. I would lift weights as a part of my rehab after having my knee scoped, only to quit lifting after I felt normal on the mats again. Big mistake. After the last time my knee was scoped I decided to start lifting again and heavy. I try to stick to once a week for a quick leg workout to keep the muscles around my knee strong, although I do find myself making excuses a lot to skip.

    I do think sometimes with lifting and BJJ my body feels tired a lot. I try to only lift on days I don’t train Jiu Jitsu, but sometimes I feel like my body never gets a rest. Is there an optimal schedule as far as BJJ & weight lifting? Do you think lifting heavy is the reason for this? Perhaps go lighter with more reps? Curious to know your thoughts on this. Thanks for posting, I enjoyed reading.

  3. Great arictal!! Wish could of read it before and start lifting weights. This week I hurt my knee during by bjj class with a hook guard. I was reading how important is to strength our joints specially our shoulders and knees. I thought all this time I was strong enough to handle any type of movement. But you are right Chandra at list once a week we should lift weights and take the proper minerals and supplements. Also very important to stretch before and after the workout. Once again thank you for a great article…..
    Jesus Armas

  4. Chandra makes a good point about joint strength with weight training. She obviously can reach to people who have had bad knees.

  5. Good stuff- perfect timing. Been thinking this past week about getting into a weight training routine- after a few months of healing up right shoulder and now having left shoulder pain/injury- figure I need to make some adjustments to help strengthen some muscle groups. Appreciate your points shared!

  6. A favorite topic, thanks, Chandra for sharing your insight and practice.

    I love lifting weights. My dad having been a menacing devotee during the “Ahnold” heyday in the 70’s, he (my dad, that is, not Ahnold) gave me two gifts on my 10th birthday: a barbell and a monolithic Webster’s dictionary – I think the dictionary’s heavier. To date, my most cherished material possessions, and I regret not having children with whom I might share said heirlooms. (4 dogs, though – whaddayagonnado?)

    On subject, I try to move quickly between machines and/or free-weights, in rapid succession to mimic pacing of athletics, in our case, Jiu-Jitsu. I’m with you on the 1 hour window, in fact, I’m usually out in 45, including a 10 minute treadmill jaunt to get loose and queue up Pandora to rock to the Oldies!

    Well-heard regarding joint support; I’m afraid to stop lifting. My predominate, “Curls for the Girls” motivation has long since succumbed to the nuisance of pre-arthritis – somehow, my rickety knees and shoulders feel best only when taxed with weight-bearing exercise.

    So many choices of lifting methods, routines and combinations, 35 years into it, I’m still searching for optimal practice and performance – sounds like another activity we’re fond of, no?

    Thanks, again Chandra!


  7. Love this article Chandra!

    I love how you make the point that you do not do super heavy weight!! I believe that on any weight lifting exercise we need to warm up with light weight.(around 30-45% of our 1-rep max) Only to increase our weight to moderate levels (60-75% of a 1-rep max).

    I have been using weightlifting to keep my knee strong after an injury. I really like the results I get from hamstring machine curls.

  8. Chandra,
    What a great article! I started looking into the benefits of weight training to support yoga & BJJ as part of my education & for personal means as well. Training to support the muscular system as well as joints are crucial to optimal performance & longevity. Weights, tension bands, & other resistence exercises foster the mobility & flexability needed to correspond with muscles & joints used in Yoga & BJJ, amongst other sports. For optimal performance I agree that along with healthy diet, supplements assist in the overall foundation to sustain optimal health, usage & free mobility. Supportive Supplements include but not limited to the following; MSM 1000, Collagen, Chrondoiton, & Glucosamine.
    Again, fantastic article & Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the community!
    Sincerely, Sue Kimball

  9. Good read Chandra. I have been trying to make a plan/routine to include strength training and BJJ each week. I am curious what Professor’s routine is like.

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