Cardio for BJJ: 4 Drills That Will Make You Unstoppable

Last updated on 03.05.2021 by

Technique rules in Jiu Jitsu. However, it will only work if you can execute it, and for that, you’ll need cardio. And, not just any cardio, but specific cardio for BJJ. The trouble is, most BJJ academies aren’t exactly places where cardio is of big concern. It is all about technique and rolling, which means, you’ll need to focus on developing your cardio outside of class, or after classes if the gym permits it. 

Cardio For BJJ: The Basics Of Conditioning

How do you get in shape for BJJ? Often times, you’ll hear the advice “do more BJJ”. And that is a good one, just not a complete one.  If you really want to develop a “gas tank” that will help you perform moves at a high speed, with surgical precision, against resisting opponents of different levels, then you’ll need to do a bit more. 

The first step of developing cardio for BJJ, though, si definitely showing up for class on a regular basis. I usually use an example of swimming to describe conditioning for grappling. When you go to the beach for the first t time in summer, you’ll gas out after just a few strokes in the water. By the end of summer, you’ll be quite good at swimming though, especially if you do it every day. 

however, after summer ends, you’ll spend the next 7-9 months waiting for good weather again. It won’t really matter if you run marathons in the meantime or train CrossFit every day – unless you’re swimming, when summer comes you’ll gas out after a few strokes yet again. 

It is the same with Jiu Jitsu. the sp[ort is so specific and unique, that nothing can really prepare you for the demands of BJJ outside of training regularly. However, the conditioning you get from training will quickly become a habit if you’re consistent and you’ll only reach the level everyone else in the gym is at. 

Developing specific cardio for BJJ (whatever that may mean) outside of the mats will only work if you improve your overall cardio in the context of a BJJ match or a roll. To achieve that, you’ll need to turn to proven exercises that are simple, challenging, and offer a way of progression to accommodate everyone’s fitness levels. Like the following four drills, for example. 

4 Drills To Get Your Cardio For BJJ Through The Roof

The most important thing to remember about cardio for BJJ is that you need to be honest about it. First of all, these are not the only four drills that you can do, but they are among the very best options out there. Secondly, they won’t do anything magical for you, and you will need to put in time and effort for them to provide you with the return you’re looking for. 

You can do these drills any way you want setting them up in any format that fits your goals. What you can expect in return are better endurance, more strength, and fewer injuries. Pair these up with some BJJ breathing patterns and you’ll have the full formula for never gassing out again in a roll or a match.

1. Baseball Slide Into Crab

The great thing about the baseball slide is that you need exactly the amount of space that’s as wide as your arms and legs. What that means is you can do it at home, or even as a warm up pre-tournament.  It’s a great solo drill and is related to collar drags, arm drags, sit-outs etc.

Start from the bear walk position, looking at the ground. You’ve got four points of contact with the ground: palms of your hands and your feet. Pick a hand and take it off the floor. Use your opposite hand to push off the mats/floor. Turn your hip to the sky. The side of your thigh on the same side as the arm you’re driving off will make contact with the ground, knee pointing forward and your gaze towards the ceiling.

When you’re comfortable with slides, you can connect them to the crab walk position for a more complex drill. Simply continue the sliding motion so that you end up in a table position  Then go back to a bear walk position and keep going to each side. Cardio for BJJ doesn’t get more specific than this. 

2. Gi Pull-Ups

Once again, a cardio for BJJ drill that’s extremely specific for our sport. All you need for this one is a BJJ Gi jacket. You’ll need something to hang it from, like a pullup bar.  This one will turn your back into rock and your grips into industrial-strength pliers. The only thing you should be on the lookout for is your fingers.

There are three levels to this exercise and you should start at the beginning. Actually, there are four – the first one is being able to do at last 15 regular pullups. There’s no point in talking about cardio for BJJ if you can’t complete 15 pull-ups – you need plain old regular cardio then. 

When you’re able to do that, hang Gi over a pullup bar and start by doing pull-ups holding the collars. As your grips and cardio from BJJ become better, start gripping the sleeves instead, at elbow level just like you do in rolling. The final stage is doing pullup with sleeve grips at the bottom of the sleeve. like grips from the guard. 

Cardio for BJJ: 4 Drills That Will Make You Unstoppable 1 Cardio for BJJ: 4 Drills That Will Make You Unstoppable Cardio for BJJ

3. Pentertation Steps

The legs are your strongest body parts, thanks to the fact most of the largest muscles are located there. As such, they’ll draw the most energy and stress your heart and lungs the most. In other words, focusing on leg exercises will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of cardio for BJJ. But why just do lunges and squats? 

A far better option is to do penetration steps. It involves you lunging, getting up, moving through space, and changing levels. The drill is simple: step forward with one leg, get the knee of that leg to the ground (preferably hovering just above it), and step forward with the other leg. Just like setting up a double leg takedown. 

You can do the drill across the mats, switching legs all the time. If you don’t have space, you can do one step, pivot, and do another to get back to the original position and repeat. If they’re too easy for you you can do them with a weighted vest,or holding a barbell plate or kettlebells. Cardio for BJJ, and technical work at the same time – the perfect drill. 

Cardio for BJJ - penetration step drill

4. Technical Stand-Ups

I have to say, besides being a really good cardio for BJJ drill, this one is also one of the most useful skills in BJJ. You’ll often hear coaches hollering at tournaments, ‘STAND UP, STAND UP’. That’s because if both of you are on your asses, the first to stand up will get points. It’ll also build muscle memory so you can stand up when you get a sweep

For a technical stand-up, extend both legs forward while sitting on the ground. Place one arm behind you, palm on the mats. Bend the opposite side leg, so that the sole of the foot is also on the ground, diagonally to the palm. This is a structure that will allow you to lift your butt and other leg off the ground. When you achieve that pull the free leg back so that you place it next to your palm and stand up. 

To complete one repetition, you’ll need to get back on the ground. using a break fall will only introduce another specific grappling motion and provide you with more cardio for BJJ training. Hwoever, you can go to the ground any way you see fit, depending on the surface you’re training on.


Cardio for BJJ doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. Quite the opposite – it should be simple, but challenging. Whether you use these d4 drills to optimize your on the mat performance, or as a substitute until the pandemic allows for full Jiu Jitsu training again, you can’t go wrong!