BJJ is an intense sport that will surely stretch your lungs out but can you just train Jiu Jitsu and expect to reach your full potential?
Is BJJ Enough Cardio?
Training BJJ by itself will give you great cardio and should make up the majority of your training. However, if you want to build elite cardio you should include some general training such as skipping, sprinting, rowing and kettlebells.
Specific training is the best way to build cardio for a particular sport. BJJ is no different. The most effective way to develop cardio and condition yourself for BJJ is through hard drilling and sparring.
Conditioning yourself for a particular sport occurs when you force your body to adapt to a specific stress. If you want your body to adapt to the stress of BJJ it makes sense to train a lot of BJJ.
The principles of developing world class BJJ cardio include:
Specificity – We have already touched on this concept. You are going to make the biggest cardio gains by training your chosen sport rather than focusing on general training. This means 90% of BJJ athletes will benefit from adding an extra BJJ session to their routine rather than running sprints in the park.
Timing – You are not a machine. You can not keep pushing the envelope when it comes to training intensity. You need to organize your training using what is known as periodization. Most of your training should be done at a medium intensity with a small amount of hard and easy training mixed in.
What basic periodization for BJJ looks like is 6 weeks hard training in the lead up to a competition, then light training just before the tournament. Then after the comp a week of two of very light training and then restarting standard medium intensity training.
The problem is if you train at a too high intensity too often you will actually regress and your cardio will decline. This is because your body is not given ample time to recover. Conversely if you don’t push your body hard enough your cardio will also decline. You need to find that balance of when to push and pull.
Overload – Cardio gains can only occur when you ask your body to perform something it is not use to doing. You need to stimulate and shock your body. The secret is slowly and steadily overloading your body. Otherwise you risk injury or your body refusing to cooperate, leading to a decline in BJJ conditioning.
An example of training overload in BJJ may be simply increasing your sparring rounds. For example instead doing your standard 5 you do 6 or 7. Or increasing your training session length from 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
If you can’t train for longer you can just increase your intensity. For example, create more scrambles during sparring, don’t accept postilions, constantly move. Or you can speed up your drilling to increase the reps you pump out. There are lots of ways to overload your body to produce conditioning gains in Jiu Jitsu.
General Preparedness – While BJJ training should be the major way you develop your Jiu Jitsu cardio it should not be the only way. General training does play an important role in developing BJJ cardio. Things like sprinting, playing soccer, basketball, rowing and skipping can be great ways to improve your cardio and your overall athleticism.
The secret is to ensure you are doing enough BJJ training (10 to 12 hours per week if you want to compete at a high level) and to only perform general training far away from competition (The closer to comps the more specific your training should become).
Do You Need To Extra Conditioning For BJJ?
The majority of BJJ athletes who are either hobbyists or low-level competitors do not need extra conditioning. Elite-level competitors will benefit from extra conditioning.
If you are training less than 10 hours a week of BJJ you should simply increase your BJJ training and forget about general conditioning. You will see a much greater increase not only in your Jiut Jitsu cardio but also your skill level.
Where it makes sense to incorporate general training into your BJJ routine is when you are an elite athlete who is already on the mats 10 + hours a week and you have noticed stagnation in your cardio and athleticism.
By incorporating different forms of general training you can unlock another gear in both your BJJ cardio and overall athletic ability.
General conditioning training which is good for BJJ includes:
- Sprinting – Sprinting is a great way to really develop your lung power and it’s not bad for increasing your explosiveness.
- Soccer – Soccer has it all sprinting, jogging, coordination and agility. By playing a bit of soccer every week you can become a better BJJ athlete.
- Basketball – Again similar to soccer basketball is great for developing all-round athleticism and you will definitely notice a big cardio bump on the Jiu Jitsu mats.
- Rowing – Rowing is one of the most bang for your buck cardio workouts. Hop on a rowing machine and smash out a few 5 minute rounds. The BJJ cardio gains will come pouring in.
- Kettlebells – If you are looking to combine your weight and cardio training into one workout then kettlebells are for you. Kettlebells will help you increase your strength and allow you to push longer when sparring.
BJJ is a great cardio workout and training just BJJ will give you incredible conditioning. If you think you need an extra cardio boost you should first ask yourself how often are you training BJJ? If the answer is less than 10 hours a week then just add more BJJ sessions to your routine.
If you are training more than 12 hours a week then swap out 1 or 2 BJJ sessions and replace them with a general session. Things like kettlebells, sprints, rowing, and skipping are great.