In the culture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu it is encouraged for the athletes to train more and more. Athletes are training Jiu Jitsu every evening and lifting weights every morning or vice versa and doing two sessions a day at least five to six days a week. If you are training this way yet feeling like you are not necessarily progressing because you have no explosive power, your timing is off, you are constantly feeling tired and have difficulty retaining the information taught, then most likely you are overtraining. Many chronically overtrained athletes come my way feeling like this and to top it all off they are frustrated because they can’t lose weight even though they are training so much.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a complex sport that is very taxing on the nervous system. It involves the constant activation of multiple muscle groups all the time with both big movements and small subtle movements. The rolling round at the gym can be up to 8 minutes long and black belt matches are 10 minutes long so muscular endurance and cardio fitness is necessary with the need to be explosive within that timeframe as well so BJJ requires all energy systems to be ‘firing’ at one stage or another.
Negative effects of overtraining:
There are methods for increased recovery such as ice baths, meditation and good nutrition. Deep sleep also is one of the best ways to deal with overtraining because it allows the central nervous system to relax and begin the repairing process. What many don’t understand is it’s the nervous system that takes much longer to recover than other systems in the body (such as the muscular system). It’s due to the nervous system that muscle firing is slow which affects reaction time, speed, grip strength, and explosive power. Ironically once our nervous system is fried it’s hard to sleep, yet it’s what our body needs the most when we are constantly training to recover.
Even though ice baths, meditation and good nutrition etc will help mitigate some of the negative effects of chronic overtraining, eventually it will catch up at some stage with two intense sessions a day.
Structuring your BJJ and strength training:
For long-term success in the journey of Bazilian Jiu Jitsu training needs to be periodised and structured. If you want to train on the mat every day then there needs to be days selected for hard rounds and other days selected for more flowing rounds focusing on more of the technical aspect of the sport. Strength training should only be performed about twice a week and should be done on the days that you are doing flow rolls.
Make the strength sessions count and perform with intensity then give your body time to recover. Don’t go to the gym and go through the motions just because you think you should – which so many of us do. Push yourself to make those gains and make each session count. Perform with purpose.
What do do in the gym:
Due to the culture of body building (where gyms came about in the first place) ‘lifting’ is most often performed in a way that might make your muscles big but this way of lifting is not necessarily conducive to performance athletes who need to work compound movements, multiple muscle groups at one time for coordination, core strength for balance, power, speed and muscular endurance.
Getting creative is the key so try and mimic the movement patterns of BJJ as closely as possible. Think outside the box.
Here are some fabulous exercises to perform back to back that will benefit any performance athlete.
- Pull ups with the gi to increase grip strength (add photo of me doing pull ups with a towel)
- Kettlebell swings (add photo of me with kettlebell swings)
- Plank holds and variations (add photo of me doing plank)
- Stability ball exercises to increase proprioception. (add photo onf me on the ball, blue top)
Performing the workout in a circuit based format with little rest is ideal which helps to build muscular endurance and build on cardiovascular fitness also.
Aim to do big full body movements that activate the core to build overall full body strength, then spend the remainder of the day resting if you can or doing only technique and/or flow rolls. Limit these effective and intense strength sessions to only about two days per week.
Once a week allow a full day of rest to allow your muscular system, and your nervous system and joints to recover and recharge. Start the following week strong and repeat. Also by adding rest, this reduces your stress levels which will help to keep you lean. Athletes who are chronically over trained are highly stressed and as a result they are holding onto body fat and water. Train intensely with less overall volume, rest to recover and to, de-stress and you will be leaner in the long run.
To sum it up:
For most of us to embark on this beautiful journey of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we want to be in for the long-haul. In order to keep progressing and to keep your body healthy and strong, training smarter and not necessarily harder is the way to go.
To sum it up, aim for three hard BJJ sessions a week and two hard intense strength sessions a week, and one complete rest day a week. This schedule will give you the recovery you need to keep working towards your goals without fatigue or burnout so that you can keep progressing and keep you on track to the road to black belt.