Best Practices For Maintaining Joint Health In BJJ

Best Ways to Maintain Joint Health in BJJ

As a BJJ practitioner, taking care of your joints is essential for career longevity . Your joints are the area where two or more bones meet together. With its structure, it allows you to move your knees, ankles, hips, elbows, shoulders, and wrist in different directions. It bears your weight and gives stability to your body. Each joint has specialised functions to control the range of your motion where it is located.

There are three main types of joints in your body: fibrous or immovable, cartilaginous or partially movable, and the synovial or freely movable joint. In Jiu-Jitsu, you should be more concerned with your highly mobile synovial joint which is made up of bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, and the synovial fluid filling your joint cavity.

There are six types of synovial joints:

  • Pivot joint  - the joint in your neck which allows for the rotational movement of your head to move side to side.

  • Hinge joint -  enables you to bend your limbs which can be found in your elbows and knees. It allows for a swinging motion either to flex the bones closer to one another or farther apart.

  • Ball and socket joint - provides rotation such as the hip and shoulder joints.

  • Condyloid joint - gives you the range to twist and bend which can be found in the wrist and ankle.

  • Saddle joint - moves just like the hinge joint but with more range of motion. An example of a saddle joint is the thumb.

  • Gliding joint - or plane joint is associated with your wrists and ankles where the bones slide along beside one another and give flexibility to the joint.

Synovial joints are the most movable in your body. Injury, lifestyle including your diet, and age contribute to the wear and tear of your joint cartilage. Imagine how much damage grappling and ground fighting can do to your joints especially on your knees and elbows. Your body could not readily repair this damage, it needed reinforcements.


An injury such as twisting or overextending your hinge joint can easily happen in BJJ or any sort of grappling. The hinge joint is likely forced to move beyond its normal range or direction to cause an injury. Keeping yourself safe, your bones strong, and your ligaments and cartilage flexible spell a difference to the outcome of your game.

1. Knee and Elbow Pads

While training with lingering injuries, always ways wear your knee and elbow pads when rolling and in tournaments to reduce the stress or pressure on your joints from kneeling, squatting, grappling, or ground fighting. It also gives cushion by absorbing or expelling the force to protect you from blows and collisions. You may choose a thin material for easy movements so you may not feel it’s even there.

2. Weight Management

With excess weight, you put extra stress on your joints. To achieve optimum joint health, you need to maintain your ideal weight. A 10-lb increase in weight has the corresponding 30 to 60 pounds increase in force on your weight-bearing joints. According to a study, for every pound that you lose, there’s a four-fold decrease in loading forces on every step that you take.

3. Low-Impact Exercises

Take low impact-exercises to complement your BJJ training such as swimming, yoga, cycling or just simple brisk walking. This gentle type of exercise minimizes the stress on your joints caused by the wear and tear of Jiu-Jitsu. Yoga in particular, will greatly aid in the development of strength, balance, and flexibility with its different postures and breathing techniques.

4. Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises condition the muscles, bones, cartilage, and ligaments that support your joints to increase stability and keep them strong. The tricky part is finding the right program for you if you have specific needs or mobility issues. It’s recommended to find a good trainer so he could develop customised exercises and teach you the correct form. Lifting weights and strength training will build large amounts of muscle around your joints. Muscle acts as protective padding around sensitive joints and will also act as joint-reinforcements, making it more difficult to over extend yourself.

5. Range-of-Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises move your joint in different directions to improve function. By moving your joint to its full range of motion you improve balance and strength, make it flexible, and reduce pain. There are three types: passive, active, and active assists. Add stretches to your workout to relax your muscles and lubricate the joints, thus increasing the range of motion.

6. Warm-Ups

When you warm up before your workout, you increase your body temperature and in turn increase the blood flow to your muscles. Warm ups lubricate and relax your joints while preparing them to execute sudden movements. Even just a simple 5-minute warm up reduces muscle soreness, lessens the strain on the joints, and lower the risk of injury.

7. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

When you have joint pain from jiu-jitsu, you need to evaluate the food that you eat since it has an impact on your overall joint health. Choose an anti-inflammatory diet regime to help relieve pain and swelling. Avoid fried and processed food, sugars and refined carbohydrates, dairy products especially cheese, salt, preservatives and alcohol consumption.

8. Vitamin D and Calcium

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”  is needed for calcium absorption. With the deficiency in vitamin D, your body could not fully metabolize calcium which may result in low bone density and increase the risk of bone fracture. You can buy over the counter calcium and Vitamin D3 to supplement your diet. Early morning sun exposure is also a good source of Vitamin D.

9. Hydration

Water keeps the mucosal membranes moist and lubricates joints. In fact, your cartilage is composed of approximately 60% water and lubricated by synovial fluid. If you don’t hydrate properly when you have a joint injury, there would be less production of synovial fluid which puts you into greater risk of friction pain and cartilage deterioration.

10. Stress Management

When stressed-out, it can trigger an inflammatory response that affects your joints. It increases the amount of the hormone cortisol and with this increase, there is a corresponding decrease in the production of collagen. Further, stress can make your muscles and joints tense up which leads to discomfort and inflammation. So, manage stress properly to keep your joints healthy.


Your diet should not only be about fueling for the game, but you should also eat for recovery and healing. The wear and tear of your tissues and the strain on your joints and muscles need repair and maintenance. Food packed with antioxidants, proteins, vitamins, and minerals should make up your anti-inflammatory diet.

Diet and lifestyle changes are ones of the best ways to maintain joint health.  The traditional Mediterranean diet is an excellent example which emphasises fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and shellfish, and virgin olive oil.

Here are the different kinds of whole food that will greatly contribute to your joints wellbeing :

1. Garlic

Aside from lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol, garlic is an anti-inflammatory agent through its compound, the diallyl disulfide. Together with garlic’s high Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 content, it reduces inflammation, pain, and cartilage damage. It is also rich in manganese, an essential mineral for bone health, and antioxidants which protect cells against damage.

2. Berries

You have to give up processed snack food and replace them with fruits such as the cherries, grapes, oranges, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or acai berries. You can also drink their pure juices with no sugar or preservatives. They are loaded with antioxidants that help fight against inflammation and free radicals that cause cell damage.

There are great ways to eat these fruits. You can add them in your plain or Greek yogurt, add into your oatmeal in the morning or blend them into a smoothie for more variety. To make a delicious blend, add blueberries and strawberries in your salad greens with sunflower seeds, grilled chicken strips and virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar or apple cider as dressing.

3. Virgin Olive Oil

To get the maximum benefit of virgin olive oil, you can use it for salads and sautteé in medium to low medium heat. Don’t burn it! When it reaches the smoke point of 410°F, the oleic acid breaks down. The oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid, makes up 73% of its total oil content and helps reduce inflammation.

4. Farmed Salmon

Farmed salmon has the highest levels of omega-3 of any seafood,  higher than the wild salmon and much cheaper. Its high content of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Salmon and other kinds of fatty fish is also a good source of lean protein including mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa is officially a seed but treated as a grain and considered as a superfood. It is high in protein which your body utilizes to repair tissues, make enzymes and hormones. Protein is the building block of your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. One cup (185 gms) of quinoa provides 8 grams of protein and 58% of the recommended daily allowance of manganese.

It contains in high amounts the powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, specifically the quercetin and kaempferol with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, and antiviral effects. It’s gluten-free with nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. It has also all the essential amino acids which makes quinoa a complete protein.

6. Red Peppers
Eat raw red bell peppers in your salad with low-fat dressing or you can use virgin olive oil for more health benefits. You can dip it into hummus for a nutritious side dish or snacks. You can also add chopped red bell pepper in your chicken or turkey spaghetti bolognese sauce or lasagna sauce.

You can also add strips of red bell pepper in your chicken, turkey, tuna, or salmon sandwich. Or you can add chopped red bell pepper into your omelet, for a healthy breakfast in the morning. The red bell pepper has an exceptional amount of Vitamin C to help your body produce collagen that makes up your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

Red bell pepper is a good source of carotenoid, a plant antioxidant. One of its carotenoids is the beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A which has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Among the pepper family including the green and yellow color, red bell pepper is the champion when it comes to nutrients and taste since it is ripened in the vine.

7. Kale
One cup or 67 grams of chopped kale gives you more than 100% of the daily value of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. It has also 2.9 grams of protein and 329 milligrams of potassium which both enhance your bone health by keeping them strong. Kale and other leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, and collard greens have antioxidant beta-carotene which lowers inflammation.

Kale has more potassium than spinach which preserves and retains calcium, making calcium readily available for bone durability and strength. Eating vegetables like kale with a high level of potassium results to a higher bone density and extends the longevity of your bones. How do you prepare kale to make it delicious?

You can simply sauteé it with garlic and virgin olive oil with a squirt of oyster sauce or fish sauce will do the trick.  Remember to use medium heat to prevent nutrients from breakdown. You can also add it in a soup, put it in a sandwich, or in a green smoothie to improve taste and nutrition.

8. Walnuts

Walnuts are loaded with nutrients including the omega-3 fatty acids that counter inflammation associated with a joint injury especially after your BJJ tournament. But be careful, they are also high in calories. One oz (14 halves or 7 full) contains 185 calories,  13 grams polyunsaturated fat, and 2,5 grams monounsaturated fat so, limit yourself to this amount a day

For great snack ideas, you can bake oatmeal walnut cookies, pumpkin walnut loaf or simply roast walnuts with drizzles of honey. For your Greek yogurt, you can add blueberries and walnuts for a yummy snack or breakfast. You can have dinner with a healthy vegan salad with walnuts sauce for a tasty side dish.

9. Legumes
Legumes include chickpeas, beans (butter beans, navy beans, red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, pinto beans, and soybeans), peas, lentils, and lupins. They combat inflammation because they're loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Eat at least two servings of legumes per week for more healthy joints.

10. Green Tea
Green tea is the healthiest beverage you can get with powerful antioxidants and nutrients. It is rich in polyphenol, about 30% by weight which reduces inflammation and helps fight cancer. Polyphenol present in a large amount is catechin called EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), a natural antioxidant that protects cells from damage and gives other health benefits.


Exercises coupled with anti-inflammatory diet will enhance your joint health. Supplements may further improve your joint health by providing for any nutritional deficiencies. There are several supplements which will assist BJJ  grapplers in achieving maximum results. These supplements also don’t seem to exhibit side effects, however, always consult your doctor before taking any of them.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine sulfate, a naturally occurring dietary supplement is extracted from the shells of shellfish. Synthetic glucosamine is also made in the laboratories. It is a natural component of cartilage and synovial fluid in your joints. Your body can produce it, you can source it from your diet or provide by the supplement you take.

With regular rolling and tournaments, BJJ players may suffer from micro-tears to their muscles, cartilage, and ligaments. Glucosamine contains sulfur which needed to build and repair damaged cartilage so it is vital for its health. Choose the all natural glucosamine sulfate because its more effective than the glucosamine hydrochloride.

2. Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)

Avocado and soybeans are two known anti-inflammatory food. From their oils, the avocado soybean unsaponifiables or ASU are extracted. The ASU is made up of ⅓ avocado oil and ⅔ soybean oil which prevents deterioration of synovial cells, regenerate normal connective tissues, and blocks pro-inflammatory chemicals.

3. Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a protein made up of sugar chains from animal sources such as the shark and cow cartilage. A popular treatment for osteoporosis, chondroitin sulfate reduces pain, inflammation, and stiffness. It maintains the synovial fluid to improve joint flexibility and functions. It builds your cartilage and protects it from further damage.

4. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

A dietary supplement, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) has powerful anti-inflammatory properties to relieve joint pain, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. It can increase the levels of glutathione, an antioxidant produced by your body. It is a popular alternative medicine for symptoms and conditions related to joint degeneration in the knees, back, hands, and hips.


Reality check. Aches and pains are the prices to pay if you’re a BJJ player. However, there are influences that can maintain joint health such as protective gear, stretches, exercises,  weight management, stress management, hydration, diet, vitamins, minerals, and supplements. You can minimize the damage by clean eating and keeping a balanced lifestyle

Benjamin Potesky