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Improving Cardio for BJJ

Posted by James Tighe on
Improving Cardio for BJJ

Running out of gas towards the end of rolls? Feel like it’s stopping you from getting that tap? We get you. Trust us we have been there as well! Conditioning yourself for jiu jitsu can be tricky simply due to the uniqueness of the sport. There’re not many activities out there that can train specifically for brazilian jiu jitsu, two people rolling around frenetically. It’s also important, as you don’t want it to be the reason you lose a grappling match in a competition when you felt like you had the beating of your opponent. Luckily, we here at Progress have got a few suggestions to help get the most out of your rolls, which could be the difference on the mats.

This might seem obvious, but it’s in some ways the most important. Practice makes perfect and rolling is reps. Your body will adjust to prolonged stress if you’re rolling often. Only going to one class a week, doing the same process, and expecting different results, is crazy. If a training partner asks you for that extra roll after class – say yes! Pushing your body beyond its usual boundaries is how we improve. With sparring, it’s no different. At the same time, there needs to be a balance between training intensity and frequency. For the average person, training 6x a week at 110% intensity is a recipe for injury and fatigue. Finding a rhythm between these two could be important to finding the optimal balance between development and recovery. There may also be times where you’ll need to pace yourself and choose the right partners in the right order, but more on that later. Just because you pick one training schedule for your brazilian jiu jitsu classes doesn't mean you can stop searching for the best training plan. Speak to your coaches, fellow training partners and test new and different approaches. This way your training plan will never become stale and your progress will continue through out the different belt levels in your bjj journey.


A useful tool to use alongside your training is some steady state cardio. Low intensity cardio for 30 minutes could be a handy means of maintaining cardiovascular endurance. Some good exercises include swimming, rowing, or a light jog. A good test to know you’re working in an ‘aerobic’ state i.e., where your body is using oxygen, is if you can still speak in coherent sentences whilst exercising (might be a little trickier if you’re swimming though!). Doing this form of cardio 1-2 times a week can further condition your body and acclimatize to be in a great state for rolling longer. Taking the time for some cardio in an aerobic state is ideal for getting outside as well! Go for a hike or jog in the park, so often jiu jitsu is focused in the gym setting that just the chances to break a sweat outside will help to feel refreshed for the next sparring session or technical practice.



Knowing the different intensity levels of training partners will also help build endurance. If your first partner wants to turn it into a level 10 death match, that’s great. But it will more likely mean you’re going to be exhausted for the next few rounds and not able to fully stretch yourself, causing you to skip a roll or two. You’ll often find in jiu jitsu that higher belts have a greater understanding of their body and are more likely to ‘flow’ roll. This helps preserve energy. White belts are more commonly chaotic and exert more energy and end up tiring quicker. Inexperience in grappling can massively drain on ones energy levels. Plan your rolls strategically and build in intensity rather than going from 0-100. This ties into rolling often, mentioned earlier. It’s also advantageous to push yourself sometimes in rounds to the max. It may feel horrendous, but you’ll thank yourself when there are two minutes left in a competition and you’re two points down. The ability to dig deep and find a way to score those points back comes only form the experience. Knowing and sticking to the training plan is key here, you can not operate at level 10 for all year. Getting to level 10 and peaking in your conditioning is an absolute must to take your jiu jitsu even further.

Aside from physically, fuelling your body nutritionally before jiujitsu is vital. High carbohydrate intake on training days two-three hours before class will provide you with sufficient energy reserves to roll hard without exhausting yourself. Getting a good balance of carbs, protein and fat macros is key to a healthy diet which will come to fruition when training. If you think a boost bar and a red bull before bjj class after not eating all day will sort you out, you’re in for a shock. For those early birds out there, if you’re doing a morning class, a high-carb dinner and light snack in the morning might be more optimal. Use trial and error to find what works best as everyone is unique! As a note, if you have special dietary requirements, always seek some professional advice from your doctor before training.

These were just a few helpful tips to try and help build up your gas tank for you jiu jitsu. Even just try a couple of these and you’re much more likely to enhance your resilience against opponents. Don't worry if something does not work for you. Each person is different so finding the right balance for you is the important thing. Jiu jitsu is a unique sport, so there’s no real like-for-like substitute for practice, but using these tips in combination will almost undoubtedly augment your stamina. There are plenty of different training methods out there, so feel free to experiment. Remember, everyone is different and there’s no exact match, but chances are: if you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it. Often, these smaller changes we implement can compound into greater outcomes.

Happy rolling.


Team PJJ

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