Are Massages Beneficial For Jiu-Jitsu?

Jiu-Jitsu is an activity that can be quite physically demanding. However, a good massage can be an athlete’s best friend and the cure-all for muscle soreness and lack of flexibility.

Massages are beneficial for Jiu-Jitsu because they can help the muscles prepare for training and aid in recovery by increasing circulation, working out knots, enhancing flexibility, and even reducing stress. Athletes are encouraged to visit massage therapists and use foam rollers at home.

Many studies have uncovered different types of massages best for the Jiu-Jitsu athlete. If you have struggled with muscle-related injuries, you are certainly not alone. Read on to find out precisely what you can do to make yourself less susceptible to injuries with massages. 

The Physical Demands Of Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a physically-demanding demanding martial arts style. Participants engage in ground-fighting, incorporating a variety of holds and grappling techniques designed to subdue their opponent. 

The Center For Neurosomatic Studies describes Jiu-Jitsu as “a high-intensity combat sport that places unique stresses on the body leading to atypical injuries and muscular imbalance.” 

Participants with a history of lower back pain are particularly susceptible to injury; this is because reductions in the hip’s range of motion can cause the athlete to overcompensate, leading to further damage. 

Massages present an opportunity for full muscle recovery between sessions; this is critical for those seeking to progress in their training.

General Benefits Of Massages For Jiu-Jitsu

Every athlete is aware of the importance of stretching before and after an athletic event. However, few may realize the many benefits that massages have to offer for Jiu-Jitsu participants: Massages can help the athlete both prepare and recover from these physically-exerting events.

Massages Wake Up The Muscles

There has been a concern in some circles that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be hazardous, particularly to participants using an incorrect form; an athlete’s risk of injury rises dramatically once they begin to use improper form. This is a result of the athletes bending and unnaturally twisting muscles.

It is difficult to engage in proper form if you have not adequately “woken up” your muscles first. Participants must prepare their muscles for the rapid movements of Jiu-Jitsu. Although stretching is undoubtedly required, adding periodic massage sessions to the routine can be a real game-changer.

Massaging before athletic events have many benefits; according to MIT:

  • It increases blood flow and circulation.
  • The muscles become more relaxed and less stiff.
  • Metabolic waste products like lactic acid are removed from muscles that are sore from previous workouts.

Massages Increase Flexibility

The massage therapy industry has evolved with the increasing demand for sports injury treatment and prevention. There are now specific types of massage therapy that are designed specifically for athletes. These techniques have even been shown to improve flexibility.

Comprehensive research published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine has found the following:

  • Massages can significantly increase the range of motion and flexibility in athletes.
  • Results suggest that DSTM (dynamic soft tissue mobilization) massages are most effective for achieving flexibility.
  • DSTM techniques are used in sports massages, where the therapist focuses on areas of tension with deep strokes.

Massages Reduce Soreness

Athletes participating in martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu report experiencing excessive muscle soreness. Strenuous exercise in combat sports like Jiu-Jitsu is said to lead to biochemical and cellular changes in muscle that can quickly lead to deterioration. 

According to the University of Minnesota, massages are believed to increase both blood circulation and lymph circulation. As a result, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles is enhanced. Metabolic waste products can be removed during this process, and swelling is reduced in the tissues. In turn, soreness is reduced. 

What Kinds of Massages Are Beneficial for Jiu-Jitsu?

Jiu-Jitsu athletes are encouraged to seek out massages that can break up any muscle knots or soreness and promote greater flexibility to improve performance during matches. Otherwise, you are likely to enter your next sparring match at a competitive disadvantage.

Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage’s primary purpose is to break up muscle knots and improve the patient’s overall flexibility by manipulating the deeper layers of the underlying connective tissue known as the fascia. In other words, a great deal of pressure is applied to the muscles to work out any kinks or knots.

Research from the Center for Neurosomatic Studies suggests that deep tissue massages effectively treat injuries and strain from Jiu-Jitsu. 

The 40-year-old participant in this case study was experiencing a herniated disc in his back. After five weeks of biweekly deep tissue massages, significant improvements were observed. The athlete’s range of motion in his shoulder, elbow, and hips were all measurably increased.  

Generally, deep tissue massages are effective at treating:

  • Sports injuries 
  • Whiplash 
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Strain injuries

Before a deep tissue massage from a massage therapist, they will fill you in on what to prepare for. If you have never had a deep tissue massage before, you might be surprised at how intense and focused the pressure is. These massages also tend to be performed at a slow pace, precisely because of the amount of attention focused on working out muscle knots.

Communication between you and your massage therapist is key to get the most out of a deep tissue massage. It will allow your massage therapist to fin your problem areas quickly and apply the appropriate pressure.

Sports Massage

One of the best ways to improve one’s progress in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program is to get a sports massage. This alternative to more traditional massaging methods is specifically designed to enhance muscle recovery and flexibility for athletes.

There are several reasons that you would want to seek out a sports massage:

  • To prepare for a Jiu-Jitsu tournament or competition
  • Become more flexible 
  • Minimize potential issues
  • Muscle recovery 
  • Improve endurance

If you ask for a sports massage from a massage therapist, the muscle-tendon junctions will be the point of emphasis; this has even been shown to improve the hip-flexor range of motion, which is essential for Jiu-Jitsu athletes.

Swedish/Relaxation Massage

Swedish massages can be quite beneficial for the Jiu-Jitsu athlete. The techniques employed in this method provide an opportunity for the participant to address both physical and mental stresses in one fell swoop. 

There are many benefits to Swedish massages for Jiu-Jitsu athletes:

  • Better circulation
  • Reduction in stress
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Break up muscle knots

Believe it or not, there is mental stress associated with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This varies in magnitude depending upon the athlete, but there will usually be at least one source of stress or anxiety. Athletes can become more anxious as tournament dates approach or if they have difficulty progressing in their training.

Swedish massages offer athletes a chance to step back and relax. They can come back to training and competition with a refreshed mind and body. There is some degree of overlap in the techniques used in Swedish massage with those of deep tissue and sports massages, but the most significant difference is the gentleness of the style. 

Where Do I Go To Get Massages?

There are some locations that specifically market massages for Jiu-Jitsu athletes. Licensed and certified massage therapists will usually offer both sports massages and deep tissue massages as part of their repertoire. These methods are commonly requested by athletes from all backgrounds.

You can also do some massages on your own using a sports foam roller. Foam rollers provide you with an opportunity to work out any muscle knots that you may notice after a tough day of training. The best part is that you can carry them anywhere, utilizing these recovery tools immediately before and after tournaments and training sessions.

Foam rollers come in a variety of styles:

Additionally, using a lacrosse ball can simulate a deep tissue massage by focusing more on an area more precisely than a foam roller.

Here’s the roller and lacrosse ball I use to massage my muscles after class.


Massages can be a real game-changer for the Jiu-Jitsu athlete. Deep tissue and sports massages are particularly useful for promoting muscle recovery and can help improve participants’ range of motion. The relaxation that comes with massage is also essential, given the rigors of training and tournament play.