When I first heard about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rash guards, it blew my mind. Suddenly, there was a product that could keep me from long recoveries and rubbing aloe vera on my irritated skin. Now I don’t roll without one. This product review will teach you how to pick the best BJJ rash guards.
What is a BJJ Rash Guard, and Why Do You Need It?
When you’re rolling, comfort is king. Having your back or body rubbed and ripped against the mats will only distract you from your technique. When I first started rolling, I did my best to avoid pain and infection.
Aside from irritation, a rash guard can protect you in several other ways. A good rash guard worn under your gi or worn over top of your BJJ shorts will help protect you from staph infections on your skin. I currently own five different rash guards to transition between for extra protection.
Regardless of if you do BJJ with or without a gi, you should probably have at least one rash guard as well. These are tight-fitting shirts made from spandex or lycra, which you wear while practicing BJJ. They come in many different sizes and have long sleeve or short sleeve options.
If you’ve ever tried BJJ without a rash guard, then you know precisely why you need one. While you’re rolling around on the mat, it’s easy to pick up unwanted scrapes and cuts from your skin, along with all of the bacteria that comes with being on the mat. The rash guard will keep your skin safe from infection and also keep your body warm in colder climates.
Keeping your body warm is vital in BJJ and MMA because you need your muscles to stay supple and flexible when you’re grappling. With a good rash guard, your body will maintain the perfect temperature so you can remain limber.
What to Look for in BJJ Rash Guards
Over my time practicing BJJ, I’ve gone through many different rash guards. Some of them have ripped on me, others have been so tight that they restricted my movement. Read the criteria I’ve mentioned below to find what you should look for when you want to buy the best men’s BJJ rash guard.
Probably the most crucial factor of any rash guard is how tight it is. Keep in mind that these shirts need to cling to your body like a rubber glove. Any looser than that, and you’ll be giving your opponent another piece of fabric to get caught in.
However, some rash guards can be so tight that they restrict your movement. Mostly this is related to size. You need to buy the right rash guard that fits your body type well. Otherwise, you’ll look like Chris Farley in the “fat guy little coat” scene from Tommy Boy.
Some rash guards will advertise “extra tight” or “skin-tight,” I would advise caution. If you think the guard will be extremely tight, it might make sense to move up from your usual shirt size. The best women’s BJJ rash guards will have their specifications as well.
Another important factor when buying a rash guard is its material. Most of the guards are made from polyester, nylon, lycra, or spandex. The first thing you’ll want to make sure is that your skin interacts well with the material, and you don’t have any allergies to it.
Next, you need to keep in mind the secondary function of a rash guard: soaking up sweat. Rash guards will prevent your body sweat from getting onto your hands and making them slippery. They’ll also stop sweat from drenching your gi. You need a material that is extra absorbent to keep you dry.
Certain materials can also develop bacteria quickly due to the biological nature of BJJ fighting. You’ll need a material that prevents bacterial growth from keeping you and your opponent from getting sick.
The style of rash guard you choose depends on the type of BBJ fighter you are. There are two typical style options: short sleeve, long sleeve.
If you get sweaty when you’re rolling, you might want to choose the long-sleeve option to absorb as much moisture as possible. The sleeveless options are better for casual rollers who like more freedom on their arms. Slippery arms can also make you hard to pin.
Beyond the sleeves, you’ll also have to take the printing into account. Having a logo pressed into the guard is much better than a sticker that can rub off.
The main thing you want to avoid with any rash guard is deteriorating over time. Normal compression shirts can rip and loosen after a few rolls, making them non-cost effective. The material of your guard needs to be strong enough to survive regular stretching and rubbing.
Quality is the reason why you need a rash guard specifically designed for BJJ. Any other type of Rash Guard (like for surfing) will break down immediately. You’ll also want one that has rubber at the bottom, so it doesn’t ride up while you’re rolling.
5 Best BJJ Rash Guards
I sampled five of the best rash guards on the market. After reviewing them, I found a clear winner, but each guard had its advantages. Before I announce the winner, let’s look at all the BJJ ranked rash guards.
- Casual Look
If you want a rash guard that doesn’t scream “look at me,” then the Elite Sports model is perfect for you. Their brand focuses on quiet designs that prioritize a presentably professional look. Show up in one of these, and no one at the gym will think you’re practicing BJJ just for attention.
- No Color or Logo Deterioration
You also don’t have to worry about color bleeding or the logo peeling off. After several washes, these guards will remain pristine, even after your best rash guard Ju-Jitsu session. All of the colors and logos are a part of the material.
- Tight (and Loose) Where it Counts
I like this guard because of its shape and tightness. I don’t have a perfect six-pack like some of the other guys at my gym. When I wear tight-fitting clothes, they draw attention to my belly. I wanted to find the best BJJ rash guard for big guys. This is the best BJJ rash guard for fat guys because it doesn’t cling to your waist as tight, so it leaves a little more to the imagination.
- Nothing Special
While this rash guard had all the necessary components to get the job done, I didn’t fall in love with it. The design was a bit too simplistic for me, and none of the features were unique enough to make it stand out. It’s a good starter product, but there are better fits out there.
As we mentioned earlier, your rash guard can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Any article of clothing that you routinely fill with sweat and other bodily fluids can become a health hazard. This guard is made from antimicrobial material, which keeps the bacteria at bay.
- UV Protection
Most BJJ rash guards don’t come with UV protection because rolling outside isn’t very common. However, the UV protection provided by Sanabul makes this guard wearable on your walk to and from the gym as well. It also means I could use it for multiple sports like surfing or outdoor wrestling.
- Lasts for Long
I was also impressed by the durability of the guard. After regular use and running through the washing machine, I felt it maintained the same tightness regardless of how frequent my use was.
- Too Loose on the Bottom for Some and Can Cause Mat Burn
While a bit of looseness around the belly can be generous, this one may be too loose for some. A friend of mine said he experienced a mat burn on his shoulders when using a Sanabul rash guard, which should never happen under a good guard. Despite these claims, I appreciated the fit of this rash guard.
- Flatlock Sewing and Chafing Reduction
This rash guard didn’t cause me any chafing or discomfort. Even after a five-hour day in the gym, I peeled it off, and my skin was soft as a baby’s. LAFROI claims it’s from their flatlock sewing technique that makes the fabric more smooth and less irritating.
- Controls the Sweat
I was impressed by the LAFROI’s ability to minimize sweat as well. I get pretty damp, especially after 5+ hours of training. A few times while training, I would find a puddle under me while wearing this guard, but never any on my body. That’s good sweat deflection!
- Looks Great as a Shirt as Well
All the LAFROI rash guards have intricate patterns and designs on the sleeve. You can choose from 10+ gorgeous designs. I went with the bear design and it looks so cool I routinely find myself wearing it outside the gym.
- Not Designed Specifically for BJJ
While LAFROI advertises BJJ as something their “customers have been wearing it for,” I’m not entirely convinced of its dual purpose. It’s lighter than other guards I’ve had, and it feels more like a surf rash guard than a BJJ or MMA rash guard.
Most expensive rash guards will be thicker, tighter, and of higher quality. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Hawk rash guard because it had a lot of those qualities at a much lower price. This is the best cheap BJJ rash guard.
While these flash guards work great for MMA and BJJ, I also found them great for most compression shirt purposes. It’s even comfortable enough to wear as an extra layer in the wintertime.
- Fast Drying
Since they’re also designed to be swim shirts, they dry out fast. Whenever I had a few minutes break between rolls, I was starting the new match completely dry.
- Need to Order a Size Larger
Since these are tight-fitting shirts, you’re supposed to order them one size larger than your normal shirt size. I only wish somebody told me that. I ordered the wrong size and had to send it back for a new one.
- Fits Great and Has a Nice Size Index
Often, you can buy a rash guard only to unpack it and have it be too tight or too loose. That’s because they don’t fit like normal shirts, and you have to rely on the guard company’s size index to determine your size. Raven has a nice size index and makes it easier to choose the perfect BJJ rash guard.
- Soft and Smooth
This rash guard was comfortable for me. It’s made from 80% polyester and 20% spandex, making it a nice blend of the two most popular materials for rash guards. I was able to slip it on and off easily, and I never felt uncomfortable in it.
- Odor Resistant
Everyone knows the fear of forgetting your gym bag and finding the putrid clothes inside. I left my bag at the gym over the weekend, and when I recovered it, I was surprised to find only a slight stench.
- Doesn’t Fit Tall People Well
When I first bought this rash guard, its sleeves almost reached the end of my wrists. I’m a pretty tall guy with long arms, so it’s normal for me to buy clothes that fit like this. However, after a couple of runs through the wash, the sleeves were at my mid forearms!
In the end, I chose the Sanabul Rash Guard as the best. It was the most stylish out of all the other rash guards. The antimicrobial material was my favorite feature. It kept bacteria at bay and allowed me to focus on the sport rather than concerns about getting an infection. I also loved how durable it was even after several washes in the machine.
Beyond that, it checks all the boxes on my buying guide. For me, it’s tight in all the right places, so it helps me with rolling but doesn’t expose my flabs. It’s also got outstanding durability and style and comes in the types that I prefer.
If you’re looking for the right BJJ rash guard, choose Sanabul.