Throughout my time training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu one of the most common points of conversation I’ve had with my training partners is how much training volume to put in. People want to have fun and get better but overtraining has many costs, so finding that delicate balance is of high importance. So I decided to dig deeper and figure out the best way to strike that balance.
Your BJJ training frequency should be tailored to your age, fitness level, and training goals. An ideal training frequency maximizes fun and skill acquisition while avoiding overtraining. Young competition athletes should train daily and older hobbyists should train between 2 to 4 times a week.
There are many factors that determine how often you should train BJJ. Let’s dive into some details on what factors you need to consider before setting up your weekly BJJ training routine and how to do so safely.
You can train BJJ every day if you moderate your training intensity especially when it comes time to roll at the end of class. Practicing a good recovery routine and making sure that you have enough food and rest makes daily training of jiu-jitsu something that most people can achieve.
Many beginner jiu-jitsu students fall in love with the art and try to train every day without keeping an eye on recovery. Unfortunately, after a few months, it is not uncommon to see this over-enthusiastic group of beginners getting injuries or burning out.
On the other hand, the group that doesn’t train often enough risks getting demotivated because they don’t build muscle memory or remember the techniques very fast. They are making progress, of course, but may be acquiring skills a bit slower than their peers.
For beginners, training in moderation is the recommended way to go about learning the art of BJJ. While daily training might sound appealing to many Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts, it could result in diminishing returns for the majority of trainees, as noted above.
Training once a week is not recommended if your goal is to become proficient. Most trainees see BJJ as a means of having fun and a way to relieve the stress of daily life. If it turns into a daily chore, it might be time to take a step back.
Having said that, it’s essential to engage in regular training for sustained and rapid progress. Training at least twice a week and then progressing to 3-4 times is considered ideal. However, if your aim is to become a BJJ professional, then it’s a good idea to engage in daily practice.
For the majority of BJJ practitioners, it’s important to strike the perfect balance. Your training schedule will depend on factors such as:
- Your current level: Are you a beginner or a seasoned grappler? The training needs for these two are very different.
- Your age: A youthful person recovers much faster from the rigors of training than a middle-aged person. Also, as a beginner, you need to strike a proper balance between active training and recovery days to avoid fatigue.
- Your goals: Are you training for fun, learning self-defense, keeping fit, as a refresher course, or aiming to become a professional grappler? The latter needs the most training, where those looking for fun can come and go as they please.
- Your occupation: If you have a full-time job, you’ll most likely have less free time to train in BJJ compared to a student.
- Your level of ability: Some people can’t manage more than two days of training per week as their bodies are not conditioned to jiu-jitsu movements yet, so it is more exhausting until that conditioning gets there. Adding some cardio that involves jiu-jitsu movement into your routine can help to build up that endurance.
- Your learning style: Everyone has a different learning curve, and some might learn faster than others. In the beginning of my training, it took 2 to 3 times as long to learn many things. But eventually, I caught up and even passed some of my teammates in skill acquisition. Keep working even if it takes you a bit longer!
- The class duration: This determines the amount of time you spend on the mat. Some classes take one hour while others could go up to two hours.
The video below goes into more detail about how to work out a proper training schedule for BJJ:
Overtraining in any sport is not advisable. In a BJJ context, you will slow down technique improvements and end up in an overtrained rut. Bear in mind that both your body and mind need to be allowed enough rest to recover for optimal training. Exceeding your capacity will only lead to overtraining.
Some signs that you’re overtraining Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu include:
When you overtrain in BJJ, your body will let you know. If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, it might be time to dial back the training and allow more time to rest. Also, consider your nutrition and make sure you have enough sleep. Both of these factors are just as important to preventing overtraining.
It’s not unusual to experience stiffness and soreness after an exacting BJJ training session, but if your joints are constantly sore, it means your body is not being given the time it needs to recover fully in-between sessions. Frequent soft tissue pain in your shoulders, wrists, and fingers is a clear sign that you are training more than you should.
Overtraining will cause your body to stay in a constant state of exhaustion. In this case, you may experience low energy levels and find it takes a lot of effort to perform ordinary activities. If this goes on for a while, you might need to put your training on hold for a few days to allow your body to recover in full.
It’s easy to recognize obvious signs of fatigue, such as a lack of enthusiasm or motivation. Rather than feeling motivated and excited to attend a class, you may find yourself avoiding training and making excuses not to go. This is not a physical symptom but rather a mental one. You have become overstimulated, and you need a time out.
An overtrained body could quickly regress in performance. This will not happen overnight, but you will begin to notice a difference in your performance with time. For instance, you might find yourself getting slower, less coordinated, and exhibiting reduced precision when executing your favorite techniques. All this means that your body needs to take a break. Often times you return after your time off and everything starts to go right in terms of performance when you return to training.
A jiu-jitsu white belt should train 2 to 4 times a week on average and prioritize fundamentals classes. These classes are more likely to have lower intensities suitable for beginners and smooth out progression and prevent overtraining. If there are no recovery problems, daily training is okay.
White belt is the first rank in BJJ, and all beginners start here. As mentioned earlier, two times a week is the recommended minimum training frequency at this stage. Unfortunately, a high number of white belts train a bit too often and end up burning themselves out, and many quit.
Training twice a week prevents regressing and allows for skill acquisition, and training three times a week allows more jiu-jitsu motor pattern development and increases the rate of progress. I personally think that training three times a week is ideal for about six months.
Several trainers believe that the training ought to focus on defensive positioning and escapes. As a white belt, you tend to fight from inferior positions, especially when training with experienced grapplers. Training so often from these disadvantaged positions makes it a lot harder on your body while you are at this skill level, which is a big reason why lower frequencies make sense for a beginner.
More advanced BJJ students can increase their training frequency with less risk of overtraining. This happens because your movements are more efficient and you spent more time in advantaged positions that are easier on your body. Training 3 to 5 days per week is sustainable for most.
Overtraining is always a possibility, so focusing on recovery becomes an integral part of jiu-jitsu training if you go above 3 training sessions a week. Monitoring your rest, nutrition, and recovery routines are vital to make sure you can get the most out of your training sessions. If you overdo the training and start to feel the effects, a simple break of a few days is usually all it takes if you catch it early.
Still, other factors such as your age play a role here. For instance, older practitioners should avoid pushing their bodies beyond a certain point. The process of recovering from overtraining can be long and tedious, and overexerting yourself could cost you your progress. To avoid stalling in your BJJ journey, aim to train for the number of days that you can recover from without too many issues.
If you are an advanced belt with an eye on becoming a competition grappler or a professional grappler, you’ll need to carefully structure your training intensities and recovery routines to sustain daily training and potentially twice-daily training. This is physically possible for many people, but it isn’t easy for people who have full-time jobs and other responsibilities.
An optimal training schedule for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is the maximum you can support without hitting any of the signs of overtraining. The most common answer you will get from an instructor is likely three times a week since most students can recover from that training volume.
Since BJJ is a hobby for most people I wouldn’t stress too much about nailing an optimal training schedule just train as much as you can and still feel motivated and recover. Anybody who trains at least once a week will gain more than somebody who doesn’t train at all.
Regular and consistent training helps speed up your progress. Therefore, an optimal BJJ training schedule for an average BJJ student usually will look like this:
- Beginners: Two times a week at the very beginning will deliver decent returns and you’ll improve your fitness levels and grappling coordination. It’s also easier to link together lessons learned from one session to the next. After 3-6 months you can start trying three classes a week.
- Advanced learners: 3-4 times a week is usually the best option for most grapplers looking to avoid burnout but still make good progress. At this point movements on the mat will be natural, and paying attention to intensity and recovery while working on nuances will be the norm.
- Competition-level grapplers: Daily or twice daily training with moderate intensity is a good idea for most competition-oriented grapplers. You can progress on less, but moderating the intensity of rolling is extremely critical. You should train with high intensity around once a week and try to create a season of sorts to peak for competitions that you want to do. Focus on recovery is paramount.
While the above outline describes the optimal training schedule for learning BJJ, it is not cast in stone. It, therefore, shouldn’t discourage you if you are unable to follow a specific training schedule. Join the training anyway and make the most of your time on the mats.
If you used to train regularly, but work got in the way, try to keep going. Even sparse training time helps to keep your skills fresh and prevents regression. It isn’t hard to maintain your skills and isn’t especially difficult to add them back after a layoff as compared to learning everything for the first time.
Becoming proficient in BJJ calls for consistent training, which allows you to progress in your skills week after week. Again, continually applying the techniques you learn each time builds on your experience until the techniques become an integral part of your BJJ game. However, always remember that if you train more often than recommended, you might suffer diminishing returns.
How To Recover Faster for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Optimizing your recovery routine for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to include high-quality nutrition, hydration, sleep, and active recovery will sharply reduce your overall recovery time for jiu-jitsu. Maintaining good self-care will also increase your ability to train more frequently.
A high-quality recovery routine that will help you recover faster for BJJ will usually include elements of the following:
- Sufficient Sleep
- Good Nutrition
- Massage or Foam Rolling
- Cold Therapy
The mileage you will get from improvements in each of these areas will vary by individual. Some people will respond better to different recovery protocols, so experiment with these to figure out a good individualized routine.
Rest and recovery are two huge issues that BJJ grapplers struggle with. You train hard during practice, yet you are unable to recover fast enough. As a result, you feel tired during your next session, and your techniques feel sluggish, which is enough to demotivate you. But is there a way to recover faster?
Training is stressful on your body, and too much of it can make you experience burnout. If your training is too intense, you will need more time to recover. Remember, you don’t have to go all-out in every BJJ session. Training at such high intensity tends to correlate with more injuries.
Your recovery strategy should first focus on how intense your training ought to be so that you can strike a healthy balance between training and recovery. Next, use the below tips to aid fast recovery whenever you train intensely. They will also enable you to make the most out of the next session:
- Quality sleep is vital to recovery because inadequate sleep hinders the release of the hormones that regulate muscle growth. These hormones help to repair minor damage taken during training. Besides, you always feel better and well-rested after a good night’s sleep.
- Good nutrition is essential for good health, enabling your body to recover much faster from a BJJ workout. Also, always refuel your body 30 minutes post-workout by consuming protein, carbs, good fats, and vitamins as well as minerals to commence rebuilding your body.
- Massage promotes proper relaxation and helps to minimize muscle contractions. Using techniques like foam rolling can also help in active recovery by reducing muscle soreness and improving stretching and flexibility.
- Rehydrate to avoid loss of concentration, muscle fatigue, muscle cramps, fatigue, and dehydration. Always ensure to rehydrate well before and after each workout; ideally, one and a half times more than the amount of sweat you produced.
- Taking a sauna provides many health benefits, including accelerated muscle recovery and reduced cortisol levels. Heat therapy also supports fast recovery.
- Immersing your sore body in an ice bath boosts circulation, promotes faster healing, and relieves muscular pain. Start slow, staying in only as long as you’re comfortable. Over time, it should become easier.
- Always cool down and stretch post-workout to relax the muscles, prevent blood pooling, reduce adrenaline and avoid injuries. This should be done right after the workout to be beneficial.
- Mobility warm-ups are fundamental to BJJ techniques and should be thorough before a workout to aid in proper movements, such as your range in hip motion. This includes squats, leg curls, smashing movements using a foam roller, and stretching after a workout to cool down—try hip extensions with a resistance band.
- Yoga practice emphasizes flexibility and mobility, just like BJJ. For instance, the static holds promote stability, boost hip and shoulder motion range, and develop your isometric strength. Yoga mindfulness also complements Jiu-Jitsu well.
Everybody’s progression and ideal training frequency are unique. We went over some common frequencies that jiu-jitsu students should build their schedule around, but ultimately we are trying to find the line between the highest training frequency we can support in our lives and avoiding overtraining and its associated risks.
Focus on listening to your body and making recovery a part of your routine and finding the balance that is right for you.
For more check out How Many Times a Week Should You Train Martial Arts?