Can You Do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu With A Bad Back?

Around 85-90% of people will have lower back pain because of desk jobs, too much sitting down, and not enough exercise. But can you do BJJ with a bad back, is it even possible? I decided to find out.

You can do BJJ with a bad back, but it puts a lot of stress on the lower back and lumbar spine which can expose pre-existing back issues. Lower back pain is usually a weakness of the hamstrings, glutes, and core. Consult a registered physician before beginning to train as your back pain could be disc or vertebra damage.

I recommend before training BJJ you should make efforts in dealing with your lower back pain as the sport can be quite intense! You can also ask your BJJ instructor if they will be able to accommodate your back issues during the class.

I will explain what causes lower back pain in life and how you can fix it!

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

To understand how to prevent and treat lower back pain, we must understand the root causes. 80-95% of people will suffer lower back pain in their lifetime. It is a BIG problem in the developing world.

To see if you can do BJJ with bad knees check out my post here.

Do You Have A Slipped Disc?

Did you have an accident that caused your lower back pain? If this is the case then everything I recommend, like strengthening or stretches, will probably not fix the root issue. Consult a registered physician to confirm if you have a back injury, otherwise you’ll just be guessing

Your spine is made up of bones known as vertebrae which are stacked on top of each other. You have disks which act as a buffer between these bones. An injury such as a fall or motorcycle accident, can cause the inner portion of the disc to tear or leak. This is known as a slipped or herniated disc.

Symptoms Of A Slipped Disc

  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Neck pain
  • Problems bending or straightening your back
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain in the buttocks, hips or legs if the disc is pressing on the sciatic nerve (sciatica)

How To Fix A Bulging Disc

You may have heard you need surgery to fix a bulging disc known as a laminectomy, but did you know 98/100 can fix the problem without going under the knife! It’s true, see Athlean X’s video above.

I will outline exactly how to fix a bulging disc. This video is split into three sections. Remember DO NOT stretch as stretching movements could give temporary relief but flexing the spine will make the disc protrude, so be careful!

  • 1. Decompress The Spine. Hang from somewhere like a pull-up bar which you can buy from Amazon here and point your toes down which drops the pelvis and creates room for the disc in a static position.
  • 2. Lean away from the pain. Only do this step if you find yourself leaning away from the pain. Put your shoulder against the wall and make your hips and shoulder level. Take the other hand on the outside and push your hips to the wall. Repeat this for 10-12 reps and use something like a medicine ball or clothes to get a better range of motion
  • 3. Work on hip extension. Lie down on your stomach, hands shoulder-width apart, press up to stretch your lower back, hold for 15-20 seconds. If this is too challenging in the same position just rest on your elbows and do something like watch TV for 10 minutes for the same benefits.

Please watch Athlean X’s original video for a visual explanation of all these exercises, repeat each exercise twice a day and within days you will see a BIG improvement with your lower back. Check the video comments to see how many people with back pain have been helped by following this routine!

4 Reasons You Have Back Pain & How To Fix It!

Before you do ANYTHING mentioned here, please do the aforementioned Athlean X bulging disc routine, to stop any bulging disc issues you might have.

1. You Have Mobility & Flexibility Issues

My Dad has lower back pain, and a big part of it is him watching TV for hours upon hours every day. This is quite common in modern times and is why lower back pain is an issue for so many people.

A common theme in lower back pain is having tight hip flexors which weakens your glutes (butt muscles) causing your hamstrings and lower back to do more work which results in lower back pain!

This is the condition most people have. Luckily for you, getting mobility in the hips and hamstrings is quite easy, but why not strengthen your abs, hip flexors, and glutes in one WHOLE movement!

Fortunately for you, this movement exists, and it’s demonstrated in the above video. I’ve done it myself and seen a big improvement over my pelvic tilt and posture.

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells. If you don’t have a pair these are on Amazon for a great price
  2. Step forward and preload the glutes and have the dumbbells over your foot
  3. Come straight up and SQUEEZE the glutes, notice you’re getting a hip flexor stretch on the opposite side!
  4. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg and do it every day for the best results.

On researching this topic, I found this is the best way to treat every problem associated with back pain! This hits the glutes, core, and dynamically stretches the hip flexors. You CANNOT do a better exercise.

You will find better results doing this exercise than relying SOLELY on stretching. See this article why strengthening is better than stretching for injury prevention. Do you need to be flexible to be good at BJJ? Check my post here to find out!

2. You Have A Weak Butt!

As a registered physical therapist, Athlean X, aka Jeff Cavaliere, (video) says the first place you should look for an injury is above, and below in this case your lower back is overcompensating for your weak butt!

Imagine if at work you had to cover for someone and work twice as hard, how would that make you feel? It’s the same thing with your lower back.

It has to do the hips and glutes job when they are MORE than capable of helping themselves. The butt is one of the strongest muscles of your body so learn to use it in the video above.

If you cannot do a side plank for 30 seconds then your butt is weak and likely causing your lower back to overcompensate for the structural weakness that is your butt.

How to fix it? Just do the following exercises and SQUEEZE! My butt has gotten a lot stronger recently because I squeeze it hard on every rep and I’ve seen the difference and already noticed my posture improving.

Make sure to SQUEEZE your butt hard on every rep and your butt and lower back will thank you!


Exercises For Weak Butts

  1. Glute Bridge

2. Squat

3. Step Up

3. You Are Sitting Down Too Much!

Can You Do BJJ With A Bad Back?

Ironically I am sitting down writing to you to tell you sitting down is causing you a lot of health problems! Sitting down is known as the new smoking. It increases your risks for chronic health problems and even some cancers!

Check this WedMD article on 13 reasons why sitting too much is bad for your health. One reason is you guessed it, it’s horrible for your back! Even worse if you slouch as many people do, and it gets worse!

Even if you do exercise for 3-7 hours a week, more than the recommended amount, this doesn’t undo the negative effects that sitting has on insulin levels and blood fat levels. Sitting is just bad for you and especially for your lower back and posture.

How To Sit Down Less

  • At home or work regularly get up from your computer every 30 minutes to give your spine and lower back a break
  • Try to do chores while standing when watching TV
  • Park far away when you use your car so you spend more time walking and less sitting
  • Try to stand up as much as you can and not sit down when you don’t have to
  • Invest in a standing desk that allows you to work seated and standing. Check out the health benefits of standing desks here and see the best desks on Amazon here. For me? I can’t wait to buy one as I spend a lot of time sitting down at work and I know it isn’t good for the body.

4. You Have Weak Feet! (Poor Foundation)

If you bought a house and suddenly it had started having cracks where would you look. The foundation is where you would look and your feet are the foundation of your entire body! Everything starts below -at the feet.

Everything is connected. If you start walking funny because of an accident your body will reinforce these bad movement patterns, which can affect the hips, glutes and lower back, you get the picture!

Just like in BJJ where fundamentals are super important to everything you do, having misaligned feet will alter how your entire body moves and functions.

Check the video below for 3 simple exercises to fix your feet. Consider buying a lacrosse ball (which you can view on Amazon here) to roll and strengthen the feet and attack Plantar Fasciitis!

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