Sore muscles and recovery from BJJ / Grappling

I am in so much pain from all the Strength and Conditioning work we did at the CFS - BJJ team get together last Sunday (a full review to come) so I thought I would share some of the tips I have learnt over the years to help my muscles recover from hard work out that fill them with soreness and aches.
Of course while I did study anatomy, physiology and biochemistry at university, I am not a doctor nor a dietitian so these are simply my own tips and tricks. Speak to a qualified person to research your own.

This is by no means an extensive list either and there are many other ways to aid your recovery (massage, compression, sleep and medication to name a few). I look at these tips as my starter-kit.

Remember, when you are weakened, you are an easy target for bullies!

Drink water
Well, kind of. Water is great and drinking lots of water throughout the day (in addition to before, during and after the session) ensures that you walk into the session hydrated. I drink a watery protein shake throughout any BJJ or grappling session that lasts more than 60 minutes. I remember reading that if you hydrated throughout the day, sessions shorter than 60 minutes don't require any water breaks (still drink plenty AFTER these, but you shouldn't need to drink DURING).

Prepare and exit the session properly
Some might think that a good warm-up and investing some time and energy into a proper cool-down routine is something for professional athletes only. That couldn't be further from the truth. Us Part Time Grapplers have a life to return to. When I woke up at 5.50am on Monday morning (following the Sunday seminar in London) my whole body begged me to get back to bed and recover some more, but I can't. I simply have a job and other commitments to go to. It is vital that we take some time before grappling and BJJ to slowly and gently wake the body up (desk workers, anyone?) and gradually ease into the physiological demands of the work-out (build up a gently sweat, lubricate all the joints, wake-up the eye-hand and eye-foot coordination...etc.). Here's a quick one:

1. I perform circular motions with all my joints starting with the fingers and wrists and work my way through all the way to the ankles and toes
2. I jog for 2-3 minutes
3. I perform Jumping Jacks for 2-3 minutes
4. I perform the famous Box Drill or any combination of shadow grappling drills (see this video of Christian "The BJJ Globetrotter" Graugart for inspiration)

Bodymechanics drills for BJJ from Christian Graugart on Vimeo.

and for the cool down:

1. I jog, while performing circles with the arms
2. I slow it into a gentle walk, continue moving the arms in different directions and stretching the chest and shoulders
3. I perform a few static stretches for the legs, the torso, the neck and the core.

Food: Grappling nutrition
Immediately after your grappling / BJJ session is the best time to have a 3:1 ratio or thereabouts of carbs to protein plus plenty liquid. A simple fat-free chocolate milk will do just super!

When muscles work during grappling, oxidants form and they are harmful. Oxidants can be neutralised with anti-oxidants. Vitamins C and E are great for this and while most will tell you that natural sources are the best, I haven't noticed much of a difference. I use effervescent Vitamin C pills (well, half a pill will give 500 mg which is plenty plenty!)

I try to make sure I walk onto the mat fully hydrated and with some nutrients flowing around in my blood and inside my muscle and brain cells (yes, plural!). Since food takes time to digest, if my session starts at 6pm, I make sure I eat a light meat at around 3.30ish.

Nutrition doesn't stop being important the day after a session. Have a good balanced breakfast of protein and slow carbs (I usually have a protein shake at 6am then couple of eggs and some beans at 10 am). This will help your recovery from the previous grappling session but also prepare you for the next time you step on the BJJ mat.

Heat and Cold
A hot shower is a wonderful luxury so I make sure I indulge after training in grappling / BJJ in a hot shower with short periods of cold water. It rejuvenates like no other! Don't just take my word for it.

Don't skimp on the 8 hours of sleep. No one wins and you will definitely lose. Go to bed on time and get your rest. If you can't sleep, lying in bed with closed eyes will do you much more good than lying on the sofa watching mindless TV.

I hope this helps. As I mentioned, I have other tricks up my sleeve (creatine, anti-inflammatory meds, yoga, superfoods...etc.), but you should research for what works best for you.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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Stephen Adams said...

Thanks for this advice, I too went to the CFS event on the Sunday, arms and legs (mainly the arms from the 100 press-up 'warm up') ached so much.
I'll remember this advice for the next time.


Stephen (from Letchworth CFS)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks Stephen. The event was just plain awesome, but the exercises were killers!!