If you’ve ever tested your Jiu Jitsu mettle against a wrestler, one thing you may have noticed is just how tireless they seem in imposing their technique. The blessing and the curse of Jiu Jitsu as a grappling art is its mechanical efficiency can allow someone to finish a fight in many ways.
That efficiency can cause the casual Jiu Jitsu player to become lazy in their rolling and conditioning. Why roll hard and get tired if you can pull guard and catch your breath? Unfortunately, no matter how efficient your technique is bad cardio will always catch up with you.
If you have competition goals, you cannot afford to overlook supplemental training that will boost your BJJ conditioning. Here are a few tools and resources you can use to increase your cardio for BJJ.
How to get in shape for Jiu Jitsu
Much like dieting, it can be difficult to find a workout plan that fits you and your Jiu Jitsu lifestyle amongst the wealth of perennially changing information available online.
For many, starting a personal workout routine can be intimidating. Compounding this difficulty, your Jiu Jitsu coaches can’t follow you everywhere to guide you through the process.
But, even if you aren’t an expert, here are a few universal guiding principles that can help you get in shape for Jiu Jitsu:
Do more Jiu Jitsu
Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to increase your stamina for Jiu Jitsu is by doing more Jiu Jitsu. Take a look at your routine and see where you can fit in an extra class or two. You may have to resort to the early morning classes if work or school keep you from additional evening or day classes.
If there isn’t more space in your weekly schedule, use what time you have on the mat more efficiently. Be disciplined about staying in for every round of rolls rather than sitting out and try to stay after class for extra work when you can.
Find a routine and stick to it
If Jiu Jitsu is your hobby and something you can consider fun, it probably takes less discipline than you think to show up and train. However, if lifting weights, jogging, swimming, and CrossFit aren’t your versions of fun, you’ll have to be diligent in setting goals and achieving them.
Set a schedule for your extracurricular workouts and be sure to complete them. Make to-do lists, set up rewards for yourself, get ample rest, and do whatever you can to keep motivation high when hitting your workouts.
Find a workout partner
Having a workout partner will help keep you accountable to the workouts you’ve set. Your favorite Jiu Jitsu partners may not be available for outside training, but ask anyway! A common goal between training partners will strengthen your resolve.
Energy systems and the demands of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Supplemental training to increase your BJJ cardio can become easier if you can identify what body systems you need to engage. Those systems are the glycolytic system, creatine-phosphate system, and the aerobic system.
The glycolytic system is fed by the glucose stored in the body. Its purpose is to power the body in the midst of short, high-intensity exercise.
You would likely engage the glycolytic system during higher paced rolls like in an open mat or at a tournament.
Movements that you might consider “explosive” are fueled by the creatine-phosphate system. The energy output is intended to be brief, but powerful.
A typical Jiu Jitsu roll generally maintains a consistent pace with brief instances of explosion, like in a sweep, guard pass, or takedown. These are the likeliest scenarios that would engage the creatine-phosphate system.
Depending on how you roll, the aerobic system has the potential to be extremely valuable to a BJJ player. The aerobic system fuels the body during longer periods of lower intensity workouts.
If you don’t want to be the guy sitting out every other roll on open mat day, you will be engaging your aerobic system to keep you in play.
Best Tools For Developing BJJ Conditioning
It may not help you in a fight, as so many Jiu Jitsu memes have reminded us, but CrossFit has many other benefits for bolstering cardio and strength.
The high intensity nature of CrossFit engages your body’s vital systems to push their potential. The number and variety of CrossFit workouts will work your mind along with the various components of your body.
An added benefit of choosing CrossFit as your cardio booster is its popularity. It’s likely that you’ll have plenty of workout partners who are knowledgeable enough about body mechanics to maximize your workout.
Similar to CrossFit, interval training can also provide a wide variety of workouts. High intensity rounds are broken up with predetermined, short periods of rest.
You can feel free to customize your own intervals to suit your limits and your goals. Pick workouts or activities that you enjoy to keep you motivated. A few workouts you can use for intervals could include rows, jumping rope, sprints, or burpees.
Every workout needs an element of fun to keep it interesting. Try using atypical weights if you don’t have easy access to a traditional weight set.
Some examples of atypical weights could be large tires, sledgehammers, battle ropes, medicine balls, kettle bells, and even large logs. There is an element of creativity and problem solving that goes into atypical weight training. Your grips will be put through their own unique workout with each new item.
You will have to see each object as a unique challenge and think about the optimal way to lift and move that given weight. Hopefully you can carry this mentality into each roll.
Manipulating someone else’s body can be a challenge. However, if you cannot maintain control and constant movement of your own body, you run the risk of gassing out before imposing any consequential technique onto your opponent.
There is nearly limitless potential for the amount of exercises you can do with just your own body weight. This is an especially helpful mentality to have if you are just starting your fitness journey, or have limited access to a traditional gym.
Aside from typical bodyweight drills like pushups, burpees, squats, planks, lunges, and the like, there are also just as many Jiu Jitsu focused bodyweight drills. Not only will these Jiu Jitsu movements increase your knowledge of the various techniques they mimic, constant repetition and varying intensity will prepare you to enact these techniques more efficiently when you meet resistance.
Organizing your BJJ conditioning training
Now that you have a few workout options, it is important to find your preferred way to navigate and complete them. Different conditioning methods could assist different bodily systems or enhance particular aspects of your BJJ game.
It might be best to start with what you know. Rolling has a lot in common with interval training, although intervals generally use shorter sets.
When rolling, a way to increase your Jiu Jitsu stamina is simply to increase the amount of time you are rolling. This method forces the smart practitioner to ration their energy and be more efficient in how they use it, so they don’t gas out before the round is over.
Try coupling low intensity workouts with a longer round to engage your aerobic system and force yourself to work more efficiently for longer.
Remember to take every chance you can to add some fun into your workouts, especially when they aren’t Jiu Jitsu related. Try creating different challenges for different workouts.
If you can, include a few workout partners to add an element of competition to your workouts, which can motivate you to push the pace harder.
Be creative in what challenges you set for yourself. For example, you can have a few workouts that you have to complete in a relay race style against another team of workout buddies. Or see who can shave the most time off of their 5k time over the course of a month. Whatever parameters you set, make sure the actual workout is still the number one priority.
One of the benefits of a circuit is the pace that it forces you to push, almost giving you no time to lose motivation. Set up three to five stations of workouts that target areas you want to work, determine the number of reps for each, and then put time parameters in place.
Your rest time is important, don’t make it so long that your heart rate has time to drop. If you’re slowing down as the circuits go on, still aim to finish each set, even if it takes longer than usual.
Having great technique is ideal for a successful Jiu Jitsu player, but without adequate stamina it’s unlikely you’ll have the energy to implement your technique.
It is vital for BJJ athletes to hone their cardio. This may mean pursuing workouts outside the academy. Even if you aren’t fitness savvy, there are plenty of simple guidelines and tools to give you a good start.
It is important that you take some time to learn about the body and all its vital systems that you will be engaging. Use the tips we presented here to help you cultivate your cardio so you can roll harder for longer!
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.