Should You Be Stretching Before BJJ?
A pretty common question I get in the Jiu-Jitsu world is "should I be stretching before rolling?" Or better yet "what are your thoughts on foam rolling before I training?"
Well, the answer is...
There are generally 2 factions of people when it comes to this question. And any answer I give usually upsets someone.
This side of the coin are your extreme corrective exercise nerds (I can say this because I was one) that obsess over foam rolling, soft tissue work and stretching.
You can spot them spending 30-45 minutes foam rolling and stretching before a training session.
IMO THAT is a waste of time.
Does foam rolling and stretching have it's place?
But think about this...
What is foam rolling actually doing?
It's treating a symptom right?
But doesn't it increase flexibility?
You see, when we create bad movement habits like sitting or even extensive flexion while training Jiu-Jitsu, we begin to develop compensations.
Those compensations lead to adhesions (aka knots in the muscle) and adhesions lead to muscle tightness.
So when you foam roll, you're just temporarily smoothing out the muscle to regain muscle length before stretching.
But what do you think happens after a few hours?
Yep, you guessed it, those adhesions come back... why?
More than likely we returned to sitting and re-created those compensations in the first place.
so what do i do then?
Here's the thing...
Mobility / flexibility without stability is pointless.
If you re-gain muscle length (through stretching and foam rolling) and you don't back it up with stability, your body will return back from where it came.
As we develop as infants, we come into the world with mobility and we have to "earn" our stability.
Which leads me to:
These are the crazy and extreme / anti foam rollers...LOL!
How do I know?
I used to be one (I still am a little).
You can spot them always crawling around on the floor.
On this side of the coin they believe all you need to "is move" on a daily basis and you'll never need to foam roll / stretch.
For the most part they are right (for the reasons I mentioned above).
But here's the problem with this extreme methodology.
Keep in mind that I "mostly" follow this same methodology and stretch
or foam roll--like never.
But not because I choose to... but because I don't need to.
I've been able to maintain high levels of mobility and flexibility by following this method of movement.
Most people are highly de-conditioned, move VERY little and are more than likely immobile with a TON of movement compensations.
So even if you tried to put them on the ground to perform some segmented rolling, they may not be able to because of how locked up they are from the thoracic spine.
Here's what would work best for this person...
A little foam roll (like 2-3 minutes) on the upper back and the lats will give you a big enough change in muscle length to then re-enforce that new range of motion with stability.
Remember, after restoring new ranges of motion (e.i., flexibility / mobility) you must back it up with stability to make lasting changes and get the pattern to stick.
So when I'm asked if an individual should foam rolling or stretching before training Jiu-Jitsu (or even weight training)...
...my answer is always
Or as Chief Instructor Mr. Brett Jones of StrongFirst® puts it... "Show me the client."
See you on the mat!