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The Importance Of Rest - For Body and Brain

The Importance Of Rest - For Body and Brain


One of the truths of any taxing physical activity is that you can’t do it non-stop. 

Researchers say that muscle increase happens on rest days, not on the days you actively lift.  In fact, your weight regimen won’t work unless you allow your body time to rest and recover between workouts.

The same is true for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  But there’s also a mental component to Jiu Jitsu: skill building.  When it comes to learning new techniques, many of us are convinced that we must repeatedly practice a new move or technique mercilessly and ceaselessly to master it.  However, the latest research on skill building suggests that—to improve our mental Jiu Jitsu game—rest is also crucial.

Are drillers really killers?  Click Learn More!


Ironically, the physical and mental aspects of Jiu Jitsu require different kinds of rest.  

To build muscle or increase stamina, our bodies need extended periods of rest.  These rest periods consist of longer periods of downtime. Here, we’re talking about a good night’s sleep or a rest day between intensive workouts.  Most experienced athletes know how important rest is and include it into their training programs.

But the new research on skill building is not so well-known.  As Leonardo G. Cohen, of the National Institute of Health, observes, “Everyone thinks you need to ‘practice, practice, practice’ when learning something new.  Instead, we found that resting, early and often, may be just a critical to learning as practice.”*  

Cohen and his colleagues were researching the best methods of helping patients build skills after stroke or paralysis.  However, the findings apply to anyone who is attempting to master a new skill. In fact, Carla Davis Cash made the same discovery when researching how musicians learned new musical sequences.**

Both studies indicate that non-stop repetition is not the best way to learn.  Instead, they found that learning doesn’t happen as much when we’re repeating a drill as it does when we rest between repetitions of a new technique.

For each experiment, researchers asked volunteers to practice a new skill.  Some volunteers were asked to take short rests of a few minutes between drills.  Others were asked to drill the new skill continuously. The conclusions of both studies showed that the volunteers who took early and frequent breaks actually learned faster.

Marlene Bönstrup, the lead researcher for the NIH study, explained, “the volunteers' performance improved primarily during the short rests, and not during” practice.*  In fact, she observed, “The improvements made during the rest periods added up to the overall gains the volunteers made that day.”*

Brain scans offered additional proof that we learn more during rest than practice.  As we rest, our brains have time to begin “consolidating, or solidifying, memories.”*

Essentially, our brains need short breaks to process new skills.  In fact, it’s only when we’re resting that we are actually learning!  

Can solo drills speed your learning curve?  Click Learn More!


This means that—when we want to learn a new technique—we shouldn’t wait until we’re tired to rest.  A better strategy is to practice the technique, rest (maybe discuss the technique with your training partner), then practice again, and then rest again, then practice and rest again...

So, to sum up: the physical demands of Jiu Jitsu require you to take extended periods of rest to help condition and heal your body.  Meanwhile, when you are training, the best way to learn new techniques is to take sort breaks between practice intervals to give your brain time to process these new skills.  

For the enthusiastic new Jiu Jitero, this approach may seem counterintuitive.  New students will be inclined to capitalize on their enthusiasm by drilling, drilling, and drilling some more.  However, by denying their bodies a chance to recover and by denying their brains a chance to process new skills, they’re setting themselves up for frustration and even possibly burnout.

In short, Jiu Jitsu is just like the old story of the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady will win the race!




Unless you live under a rock, you know the impact and presence that Tom DeBlass brings to jiu jitsu.  Now you can learn all of the Solo and Partner Grappling Drills to speed your learning curve and keep you moving towards your goals!  Get it here from BJJ Fanatics!




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