Do Ice Baths Help in Jiu Jitsu Recovery?
Do you even chill bro?
Cold-water immersion, popularly known as ice bathing, is a technique used in various athletic disciplines to enhance recovery from strenuous training. The method has become popular in the sport of mixed martial arts due to the need to recover quickly if a practitioner is training multiple times a day and/or for consecutive days in a given week. As a result, Jiu Jitsu practitioners have begun to use ice baths as a form of recovery for intense training. The most popular form of the technique typically involves sitting in an ice bath at around 50-59 °F for 10-15 minutes after a training session.
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There is limited data indicating whether cold-water immersion has any effect on Jiu Jitsu athletes. The only study conducted on the effect of cold-water immersion in Jiu Jitsu athletes was conducted at The University of Sao Paolo by Fonseca et al., and published in the Journal of Athletic training in 2016. The cross-over trial included eight male Jiu Jitsu athletes and were stratified into two equal groups to either recover by ice bath or passive recovery. The two groups were then reversed so that all subjects could be tested. The ice bath technique in the study included a bath cooled to around 43 °F in which the subjects sat in for 19 minutes. The outcomes measured include the following: creatine phosphokinase, lactate dehydrogenase, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, perceived muscle soreness, and post-treatment recovery testing via muscle power.
The study found that lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme correlated with muscle fatigue, was reduced in the subjects who underwent cold-water immersion. Perceived muscle soreness, perceived recovery, and estimated power were also enhanced in the athletes who underwent the treatment. This study indicates that cold-water immersion, aka ice baths, do have a potential benefit in enhancing recovery in Jiu Jitsu athletes. It is necessary to say though that the study does have a few weaknesses: a small number of subjects, greater placebo effect due to the subjective nature of some of the perceived outcomes, and the short time period.
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As popular as the method is, there is a level risk involved that must be taken into consideration. There is an increased risk of hypothermia, shock, and sudden cardiac arrest. Some physiotherapists also indicate that there is not relative difference between using an ice bath and a standard cold bath at around 60-75 °F in regards to recovery outcomes. If you are interested in using cold-water immersion as a method of recovery, it is vital to conduct research first and be cautious of the rare but potential consequence.
Along with ice baths, another means of improving your jiu jitsu recovery is incorporating some mobility training into your regimen. BJJ black belt and Olympic Judo silver medalist Travis Stevens has shared his mobility and body movement routine with his strength and conditioning coach, called Movement for Grappling. You can get exclusive access to it here!
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