BJJ is a great martial art that is proven effective to get you in shape. The training is high intensity and can burn a lot of calories, but exactly how many calories can BJJ burn?
This is a commonly asked question that we’re going to try and answer for you. Let’s see if we can find out just how many calories BJJ burns while practicing moves, drilling, and rolling!
Counting Calories is Complicated
There isn’t a specific number of calories that everyone burns when practicing or competing in Jiu Jitsu. There are different variables that go into how many calories you burn when you’re participating in the martial art.
Those variables include:
The truth is even temperature and humidity may raise or lower your caloric needs – but that is getting too far into the weeds! We’ll stick to generalities for the purposes of this article!
Who burns the most calories in BJJ?
Due to physics, male grapplers who are taller and weigh more typically burn more calories in BJJ. This is because it takes more energy to move bigger objects.
Smaller people, women, and older grapplers burn fewer calories in Jiu Jitsu due to having less muscle mass or slower metabolisms. When you have a lower muscle mass, it takes fewer calories for a given movement, making overall caloric need lower.
Calories Burned during BJJ class
There are different calorie calculators like MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople that have calorie burning trackers and BJJ is included in them. Unfortunately, the accuracy of these calorie calculators are a bit suspect and the estimates seem all over the place.
Studies behind how many calories are burned during BJJ class are also scarce. The only research we could locate specifically pertaining to BJJ was by Norwegian scholar and BJJ practitioner Karsten Øvretveit – and this study mainly looked at VO2 max and not caloric need.
Other studies we looked at include:
- The Physical Demands of Wrestling
- Energy Expenditure and Intake in Judo Athletes
- The Caloric Cost of Combat Sports and Martial Arts
From these studies, the average Jiu Jitsu grappler could possibly burn between 250 to over 1000 calories per hour of training. Of course, this number varies depending on the intensity of your training.
The calories burned during a BJJ class
Now that we know the average calories burned during a BJJ class, let’s break it down into sections of BJJ class. Let’s see how many calories an average, 170 lb hobbyist grappler burns during each section of a normal, 1 hour and 15 minutes long Jiu Jitsu class.
Calories burned during BJJ warm ups (Calisthenics)
Warm ups in a normal Jiu Jitsu class typically consists of ten minutes of calisthenics and basic BJJ movements to get your blood pumping and ready for class.
A grappler that weighs 170 lbs will burn 105 calories in ten minutes of vigorous calisthenics (push ups, lunges, jumping jacks, ab exercises, etc).
Warmups Calories/Hour: 630*
10 minutes of warm ups: 105 calories
*Note: If your warmups are more relaxed or include lots of downtime expect to burn fewer calories than this. This number is definitely erring on the high side.
Calories burned during stretching
The stretching portion of BJJ class is the shortest time span and the part that burns the least calories. Average of calories burned from an hour of stretching is less than 200 calories.
So, a grappler weighing 170 lbs would maybe burn 15 calories in 5 minutes of stretching.
Stretching Calories/Hour: 200
5 minutes of stretching: 15 calories
Calories burned during BJJ drilling
Drilling is the light training portion of class, where you’re focused more on learning than getting exercise. This portion of class is generally between 15 and 30 minutes long.
A 170 lb grappler drilling for 30 minutes will average around 125 calories burned.
This portion of the class will vary the most – with slow technical training burning far less than explosive drills where you’re cranking out the most number of reps for a given time.
Drilling Calories/Hour: 250
30 minutes of drilling: 125 calories
Calories burned during rolling
Rolling is the activity that burns the most calories during BJJ class and generally lasts at least 30 minutes, broken up into 5-6 minutes rounds.
Different calorie calculators and the research from above shows that a 170 lb grappler would burn around 250-400 calories in 30 minutes.
This number could also go higher or lower depending on the intensity of the rounds. A few competition intensity rounds may push this number up to over 1000 calories burned in an hour.
Rolling Calories/Hour: 500 – 800
30 minutes of rolling: 325 calories
Total calories burned during a BJJ class
Our average person weighing 170 lbs can expect to burn around 570 calories in a typical BJJ class, for 455 calories per hour.
This may seem low – but according to the research we’ve seen that’s what you should expect! If you train, so you can eat whatever you like, be sure to train a lot!
A Word on Wearable Fitness Trackers
There are numerous fitness tracking wearables on the market that claim to be able to track calories burned during activities. Unfortunately there is not a lot of good evidence to suggest that these tools deliver accurate results.
The study on Judo athletes we looked at said that the fitness wearable they used in the study seemed to routinely underreport calories burned in Judo randori (sparring).
This result isn’t terribly surprising as it confirms the findings of a Stanford University School of Medicine study. In the Stanford study, fitness trackers reliably reported heart rate but were off by 27 to 95% in calorie tracking!
Ultimately, recognize that the numbers reported by a wearable, an online calculator, or even our own estimates presented here, are rough guidelines at best!
It’s undeniable that BJJ can burn a lot of calories. But, don’t overestimate how many calories a typical class burns! Drilling and stretching are light intensity exercises and can make up a considerable portion of the class.
If you’re counting calories in an effort to lose weight, the best thing about BJJ is that it is incredibly fun and rewards time spent on the mat. Spend more time training, burn more calories, learn more skills, lather – rinse – repeat.
See you on the mats!