One question we often get from new students is how often should I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We usually recommend new students train BJJ 2 to 3 days per week at most. Some people are a little bit confused by that and expect to train more than that coming in. But I have been around a long time and the students who are new and often come 4 or 5 days that first week rarely work out. They are like the new years resolution people who go to the gym a lot that first week in April, but then get too sore and life gets in the way and they didn't set a strong enough habit to keep with their new activity. When I started training at the University of Michigan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club, I was probably lucky that they only met three times a week on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. So I wasn't even able to train more than three days a week if I wanted to. It gave me plenty of time to think back and reflect on the training sessions and moves I had learned. Plus I had just come off high school wrestling which was a six time a week sport and was probably a bit burnt out. By having that craving to attend more than I was able to I was able to keep healthy and develop that desire to train more. By the end of my first year, I was in great shape and was able to start traveling to attend extra sessions, but I think anything more might have been detrimental to my long term success.
Now I have friends that are world champions that still only train 3 days a week. They supplement their BJJ with either yoga, weights or mobility exercises to help stay strong and healthy for competition. These are not hobbyiest athletes and they are getting the best results from 3 days a week. They have done the 5 or 6 day a week routines and found they had better performances when they cut back their training. So if these full time athletes are doing better on 3 days a week training and as a coach I have found that beginners have longer term success on 2 to 3 days a week, why are you pushing for more? Do you feel like you are going to fall behind the rest of the class? Are you trying to get to your blue belt faster? I think it is probably ego talking and getting in the way there. These thoughts of well if I am getting good going 2 to 3 days a week, what if I went 5 days a week, 6 days a week.
Now when our students get ready for competition, then I usually expect them to bump it up to 4 days a week. If they have extra energy, get in some strength building and if they have more extra energy, get in some cardio. I still only expect them to train hard 3 days a week, but an extra day can help them feel more mentally prepared and get in a bit of extra technique work. Plus if life gets in the way, as it often does, then they can at least hit their 3 hard days of training.
As a coach, I know that not every student listens, so I have schedule my classes to put in rest days for the guys. Mondays and Wednesday nights we have advanced classes and those are usually the "hard" classes for most people where we get in the most training. But when I make Tuesday class a hard day as well, I found the athletes were burning themselves out and their performances went down. So pretty much year round Tuesdays are a lighter day than Monday and Wednesday in the advanced classes. Then I expect our competitors to hit a longer open mat session on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday. Saturday would be optimal because it gives the most amount of rest between the hard Mondays and Wednesday training. But if people have other plans or activities we have great open mats on Thursday and Saturday as well.
Now people see that I am in the academy and on the mats with my students 5 days a week, isn't this going against what you are telling others to do. It is, but I make sure that I am only training hard on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Tuesdays and Thursdays I train with lighter and easier partners and I stick to positional training so that I can focus on areas that I identified that I need to improve. In fact, I do this in a lot of my training, so even if a training session looks to the outside like an open training session you will see me repeat certain positions or sequences multiple times because I can guide the training area that way as a more experienced BJJ practitioner.
Also understand that sometimes life gets in the way of your training. Sometimes you have to take a break because you are sick, or are stresses out because of work or relationships. This is normal and happens to every person. Let yourself get to a good place physically and mentally before entering into full training mode. Just come to easier classes, and let yourself rest up. I have found looking back on my 17+ years of BJJ training that the people who try to push to hard through these little distractions end up having to deal with larger setbacks later. So even if 1 week a month is sub-optimal training, I think that is pretty normal. In fact my strength training program Wendler's 5-3-1 program is based around a deload week every 4 weeks where you lift just a fraction of the weight you are used to. So that is something I am used to in my training. I always think it is ok to have a bad week, I just try to not have many bad months of training.
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