Functional Training For Injury Prevention & Recovery with Strength & Conditioning Coach and BJJ Practitioner Gavin Clarke

    Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @gavclarkescbjj

    Functional Training For Injury Recovery & Prevention With Jiu-Jitsu Practitioner Gav Clarke

    Full Name: Gav Clarke

    Age: 42

    Belt Colour: Purple

    Professor: Steve Cambell

    Short Term Goals: Improve closed guard options 

    Submission Shark:

    Injuries are a common problem for athletes and practitioners within this community. Understanding the fundamentals of proper training can dramatically lower your chances of acquiring new injuries and aggravating old ones. In this article, we discuss with Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Gav Clarke about why these exercises are important and how you can easily and effectively incorporate these methods/techniques to ensure your longevity in this sport. Check out this full article so you don't miss out on preventing devastating career-ending injuries.  

    How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?

    6 years

    Where do you train out of?

    Stealth BJJ Manchester 

    Do you prefer gi or no-gi?

    Gi (grip fighter)

    Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu? 

    Nothing specific but been inspiration, because most of the best instructors that have taught me are just great people and a joy to know.

    What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?

    When life gets tough and puts you in a tough situation, there is always an option to move forward.

    How often do you train?

    Gav Clarke BJJ

    1/3 session per week

    What made you want to start training?

    I taught self-defence and wanted to improve my ground-based options. I instantly fell in love with it, stopped training and teaching Self Defence to focus on BJJ.

    Do you plan on training your whole life?

    Yes, that's why I'm so keen to look after me eat well, strength train and also keep good mobility. All to help me Rolling for longer.

    Mobile shoulders are happy shoulders. I love these shoulder rotation sequences before Jitsu training. Help keep them mobile and reduces stiffness. Shoulders go through a very wide range of movements in BJJ, so important to keep them loose and happy. Stiff shoulders can start to affect the neck and the rest of your back. 😉

    What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?

    It is technically never-ending art and is very difficult. That’s what makes it addictive and truly different from other martial arts.

    What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?

    Helped my back, I had various back issues with stand up martial arts. Muay Thai, boxing, Kung Fu, Kickboxing. 

    Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?

    Yes, I feel like it helps me empty my mind of stress and helps me feel level and focused. 

    How Jiu-Jitsu Made Me More Focused and Eager To Take On New Challenges | Eric's Story

    If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?

    Start 10 years earlier. 

    What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?

    It will change your life, give it a go. What do you have to lose?

    Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?

    Compete in World Masters in Vegas next year. 

    What’s your favourite move?

    Bow and arrow choke. Submitted about a dozen people in various comps. Well known for using a lot in my club. 

    If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?

    No idea!!! Probably still wandering through the maze of different Martial Arts trying to find the right one.

    Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?

    No, think it’s fine where it is. Martial arts that have got very big have not always done well. 

    Marcelo Gracie

    So, I did two classes today at Marcelo’s. No-gi and then advanced gi. Really simple guard passing and lots of movement-based drills. Such a friendly bunch and so welcoming.

    Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?

    All the time, train at an amazing club and skill level is really high. 

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Gav Clarke (@gavclarkescbjj) on


    You can always rely on a fellow Jits brother to take an opportunity when you are in a vulnerable position 🤣😂 Jits and stiff necks goes hand in hand. This mobility drill really helps before and after rolling. Often stiff necks can be caused by stiff thoracic (middle back). This also helps to mobilise this area. Give it a go. #bjjstrengthtraining #bjjmobility #bjjlifestyle #mobility #mobilitytraining #stiffneck #strengthandconditioning #thoracicmobility #postbjjtraining #keepthingsmoving

    When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?

    Not relying on strength and using techniques instead. 

    If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?

    Good question!!! Helio Gracie when he was my age or Bruce Lee. Be great to out grapple him. 😂

    What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?

    Love to push people to their limits and beyond. So they feel they can achieve anything. 

    Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.

    Many, one that springs to mind is losing friends to suicide. Helped me put things in perspective. 
    How Jiu-Jitsu Helped Me Recover From My Mother's Suicide | A Personal Story from Nicolas
    My jujitsu journey started when I was 12. I was going through a tough time because my mother just committed suicide and I was going down that road where I was going to end up like her. As I sat there for the first time watching my future neutral ground brothers and sisters roll I said: " how is this going to help me, I'm never going to be good at this and I will never use this". At that point, my dad's co-worker told me to get on the mat and pin him and I said "how" and he responded with "exactly".
    - Nicolas Bontempo

    What makes you passionate about strength and conditioning?

    Effective S&C training is about building strength, power and speed. This can significantly help people get more out of their sport and reduce chances of injury. 

    Tight hips and Jits. It’s a problem I hear a lot. The hips are an amazing group of muscles, which can produce a great amount of force. People often talk about stretching the hips which can be fine, but mobilizing them is a safer and often more practical way to loosen them up. I love these knee rocks. Try first with hands on the floor and then progress to hands off the floor. Then arms straight overhead. Try them before Jits and before any S&C work. Enjoy

    For someone that has never trained in either BJJ or fitness but wants to begin living a healthier lifestyle, what advice would you give them?

    Whether it’s BJJ or fitness find something that you love and that keeps your interest. Forget the newest fad, what your mate does or what burns the most calories. Do what you like and makes you happy. 

    Do you believe that nutrition plays a role in improving performance?

    Massively, I am a qualified Nutrition Coach and have an approach that one size does not fit all. I believe that Eat and drink well 80% of the time and allow 20% of this to be treated. Food fuels and builds and aids recovery massively. Simply, if you don’t have the energy to conduct a session, then you will not perform to the best standard. Same with recovery, if you don’t give your body what it needs it will not recover properly. 
    Post Jitsu low carb brunch. chicken, eggs, tomatoes and spinach. With a slash of chilli sauce. Carbs get a really bad press and often very underserved. If you eat the right ones they can really help energy levels, muscle growth and can provide lots of nutrients. I like to get mine from fresh Veg and fruit. Bread, pasta and rice often lack nutrients. So try and avoid those. What’s your favourite post Jitsu training meal?

    What are some basic strength and conditioning exercises that have the most benefit for BJJ/Jiu-Jitsu?

    I think this really depends on a few different factors. It depends on how much time you spend on the mat and how hard you train. How much time you have to conduct additional S&C training. How labour intensive your job is. Lastly how old you are.
    My ethos at BJJ strength & Conditioning specific coach is to help people be on the mat as much as they can. Therefore S&C sessions need to be short, hit many muscles, able to be progressive. 
    Gav Clarke Kettlebells
    I do like Kettlebells for this because you can conduct great all over body workout in a short space of time. Simple bodyweight training is really good if conducted properly. Big 5x5 style lifts can be highly effective but do not suit everyone. It's really a personal preference and depending on various factors.

    What are your thoughts on overtraining, and how can someone maximize their recovery times?

    Overtraining can be a real problem and really effect BJJ training. BJJ can really take its toll on your body and if you are also conducting S&C training on top of that. Need to make sure that you have sufficient rest. for muscles to recover properly.
    Sleep is king, that is a great way to recover. Good nutrition of course and a big fan of mobility training to keep everything moving. 

    Do you believe functional training can help prevent injuries from jiu-jitsu?

    Some forms can be highly beneficial to really build strength and prevent injuries in BJJ. Functional movement training has become very popular recently, but I have seen a backlash against anything that is not seen as functional.
    For example, I heard a well known BJJ instructor stating that there is no need to conduct overhead press movement because there is no overhead movement in BJJ.
    Which is true to a point there is no overhead press movement in BJJ.
    However, an Arnold standing press or Kettlebell press is an amazing exercise to build upper body and core strength. A vertical press is an important movement pattern. 
    I also witness people conducting very extravagant jumping type movements using Kettlebells and other pieces of equipment. I believe that Strength & Conditioning training for a sport should have little risk of injury because the sport is the primary goal and everything else is secondary. 
    These elaborate exercises come with a high-level chance of injury and I feel should be avoided. Keep it simple, effective, valid for your sport or strength development. That's what I feel is more important.

    What are some of your favourite functional movements/exercises?

    I injured my Knee at British BJJ Open and it was nothing serious but through the rehab process, with my Osteopath I decided to review the training I was conducting. I had neglected some key functional movement exercises.
    These included single-leg, movement-based lower body exercises, proprioceptive and instability based training. Also, a few cartwheels thrown in, great fun and useful for Jits.  
    I mainly used Kettlebells and do love kettlebell training. I'm level 2 certified KB instructor through BJJ and S&C legend Steve Maxwell. So use his system that helped BJJ and UFC legends like BJ Penn and Rickson Gracie. I also use Indian clubs, Mace bells and other bits and pieces. Nothing too complicated.

    What advice would you give for someone that wants to pursue a similar career as you?

    Be prepared to work very hard. It's really hard to get established and is a daily battle but also that's half the appeal. I'm really lucky because in Martial Arts and S&C I have trained and learned by some of the best people out there. 
    I learned so much from them, didn't always agree with everything they said, but feel its important to establish own ethos.
    Also be prepared to study, a lot. If you want to be a high-level coach you need to be a sponge and learn as much as possible. Also being able to connect with people and understand their lifestyle.
    This fella just smashed me at yoga class
    This fella just smashed me at a yoga class at Marcelo’s. It was really hard but amazing. Perfect for building balance, stability and strength for BJJ. I have learned a few new things to incorporate into my PT’s and classes. My abs have not hurt that much for a long time.
    People generally live complicated lives and lots of factors get in the way of BJJ and S&C training. I find that being able to understand people and how they function to be very important.

    Do you have any advice for a practitioner that is prone to injuries? How can they prevent them in the future?

    Build a good foundation of strength and this will help to make muscles, tendons and ligaments stronger to withstand the stress that BJJ throws at them. 
    Conduct effective and relevant mobility training specifically to you. Lots of people automatically reach out for Yoga or Pilates. But nothing wrong with those specific approaches but the quality of depth can really be lacking. 
    Seek out a good S&C coach and they will be able to help.
    Train smart and invest in your body, it's the most important thing you have. 

    Where can people learn more about your work/services?

    I run 121 S&C sessions in Manchester UK. Also, provide online training to people all over the world. Full details on my website. 
    Instagram: @gavclarkescbjj

    What would you like to say to everyone that's supported you on your journey?

    Massive thanks, keep helping to inspire and teach others.

    When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?

    If people find any of my coaching or content useful then I'm really happy with that. I really enjoy supporting people to achieve their goals. I have been doing it for 20 years and hope I'm enjoying and doing it for 20 more. 
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