10 Best cardio workouts for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

10 Best cardio workouts for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a tough and strenuous sport. Focusing on technique is vital but to perform best on the mat, you need a cardio workout off the mat to support your endurance, recovery, and stamina. To train yourself vigorously in BJJ it is important to strengthen your cardio, otherwise, you will become tired and physically strained during BJJ training.

Strenuous exercises in BJJ training hits on fighters’ cardio and puts pressure on the cardiovascular system. Cardio workouts improve the fighters by giving them a competitive edge over opponents. These workouts increase the efficiency of the fighter’s muscles and lower the chances of injuries.

With comparative strategy levels, the grappler with better cardio enjoys a conclusive upper hand over a less-cardio opponent. Indeed, even a stronger fighter with less cardio will exhaust as the intensity of the grappling exchanges develops and will have less recovery time between exchanges.

Before jumping to the best cardio exercises for BJJ it is important to know about the cardio exercises and how they are helpful to fighters.

1. What are Cardio exercises?

Cardio training increases your heart rate and blood circulation in the body. Cardio exercises are those exercises that train the heart and cardiovascular system of the body to sustain stress and produce energy during strenuous activities. When we do strenuous exercises, our heart rate and breathing rate increase, which can affect our heart, lungs, and circulatory system.

So, doing cardio exercises progressively improves the muscle’s efficiency by raising their oxygen and blood flow. Eventually, your stamina becomes better, and you speedily recover from the intense grappling exchanges.

BJJ Fighters can do cardio training both in the gym on simulators (treadmill, bicycle, ellipsoid), outdoors, and at home without additional equipment.

1.1. Do conditioning and cardio exercises differ?

There is no difference between the terms “conditioning” and “cardio”. Cardio is used by the average person doing cardio exercises for fitness and the term conditioning is used especially for athletes and fighters to improve their cardiovascular fitness.

2. Types of cardio exercises

There are two types of cardio exercises.

2.1. Low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS)

Any cardiovascular activity at a constant intensity for a fixed time is called low-intensity steady-state cardio. These exercises involve your body getting energy from carbs, proteins, and oxygen. For example, jogging, dancing, jumping, swimming, treadmill, skipping, cycling, stair climbing, and rowing are some LISS cardio exercises. The time and frequency of cardio for a beginner should begin with 10 - 15 minutes and extend to 20 – 90 minutes. These exercises improve the fighter’s mental health, endurance and insulin sensitivity.

2.2. High-intensity interval cardio (HIIT)

HIIT Workout is a high-intensity level of cardio exercise that includes rest periods. These exercises are done with maximum effort for a short time and the body gets energy without the use of oxygen. For examples, weight lifting, circuit training, yoga, and other strength training. These exercises are more effective for getting in shape and increasing cardiovascular fitness in less time.

3. What is Cardio for BJJ?

The best cardio enhances balance and muscular endurance on the mat that can only be achieved by the mix and match of LISS and HIIT cardio activities. BJJ is high-intensity training that requires both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

If you are a beginner, then to avoid huffing and puffing and fatigue in those activities, fighters must start with low-impact cardio exercises that reduce the risk of injuries in BJJ training. Once you build up your stamina then gradually you can upgrade your cardio exercises to moderate-intensity or high-intensity cardio workouts. 

3.1. Which is best for BJJ: HIIT or LISS?

For maximum performance, doing HIIT with a proper BJJ diet is beneficial. But if you don't have enough time for workouts and rest, and you have other jobs and responsibilities too then low-impact cardio exercises are useful to enhance your endurance and stamina on the mat. LISS is best for beginners to raise their fitness level for BJJ training. Also, they will be beneficial for reducing injuries.

3.2. Will 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week be enough for BJJ?

You can independently change the duration and intensity of your cardio workout by reducing or increasing the number of circles. But 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week is enough. If you increase the cardio workout more than that then it will cause muscle strain.

The ideal time to perform cardio exercises is 30-45 minutes 2-3 times a week if you plan to alternate strength and cardio workouts on different days. If you plan to do strength and cardio on the same day, then do cardio for 15-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week.

If you plan to do strength and cardio workouts on different days once a week, then do cardio for 40-50 minutes. And if you plan to do strength and cardio on the same day, then do cardio for 20-30 minutes twice a week.

3.3. How do cardio exercises help BJJ fighters?

If your goal is to become a more successful grappler, perform better on the mat, or maybe pick up some trinkets from the tournament then you should add cardio training to your schedule to get better at jiu-jitsu.

For some fighters, cardio is an unloved activity, for others, on the contrary, it is a real passion and pleasure. Cardio workouts are one of the key factors of fitness. You must add cardio exercises to your training plan if you are a beginner or have low stamina.

BJJ is a high-intensity interval training so your body and cardiovascular system require preparation to sustain the strenuous activities. Otherwise, you will have a shortening of breathing, and a decline in strength. In this case, fatigue, and exhaustion is possible from your training.

It is now obvious that most professional grapplers and MMA fighters include technique development, sparring, cardio, and strength training in their training. At least 90% of professional fighters make time for running, swimming, cycling, powerlifting, sprinting upstairs, Olympic lift, bodybuilding, or circuit training. And this is understandable. Fighters also want to feel like they're skilled at everything and will leave no stone unturned in a fight.

Cardio exercises help BJJ fighters by

  • Improving the functioning of the cardiovascular system by training the heart muscle.
  • Burn calories and increase muscle tone.
  • Development of endurance.
  • The release of negative emotions reduces the risk of depression.
  • Acceleration of metabolic processes.
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes by reducing sensitivity to changes in blood sugar levels.
  • Improving the functioning of the respiratory system.
  • Increase in bone density.
  • Due to increased oxygen and blood supply to the brain, the problem-solving skills of fighters are increased which enables fighters to make coherent strategies during the match.
  • In addition, moderate cardio training gives energy for the whole day, fighters will feel alert and full of energy.

3.4. Should you drill to improve your BJJ skills, or spend time doing cardio training to improve your fitness?

If you only train too much and do not have time to recover, you will very soon come to overtraining. Overtraining will kill your progress in training because you will not move forward, but from injury to injury, as your body will be too exhausted to properly recover. So, to improve your endurance and stamina you must also spend time doing cardio training to improve your fitness.

4. Best cardio exercises For BJJ

Following are some best cardio exercises for training cardio for BJJ.

1) Swimming

Swimming is a low-impact cardio exercise that enhances the fighter’s lung capacity and muscle endurance. It involves a full-body workout that makes you stronger.


During live rolls, fighters use rhythmic breathing in intervals that they have practiced from swimming.


Its repetitive long lap movements build endurance for BJJ, improves cardio, and help recovery less strenuous. Because when you have an injury then you cannot perform high-intensity exercise otherwise it will cause more strain on your muscle. On the contrary, swimming is a low-impact cardio exercise, and water serves as a cushion to joints and bones so the injuries get healed easily.

2) Running and sprinting

Running is a low-intensity exercise and sprinting is a high-intensity exercise. Both are the best cardio exercises to improve your leg muscles. In BJJ most of the activity is performed by the fighter’s legs. And if you have strong leg muscles then it will be helpful for fighters to use the guard technique.


If you have a pair of shoes then just run whether it is for a short distance or long distance. For better results, you must run for 15-20 minutes.


It boosts metabolism, strengthens leg muscles, maintains shape, and improves the cardiovascular system.

3) High-knee running

High-knee running is running in place, but the knees must be raised as high as possible.


Stand straight, and keep your legs together. Gradually begin to run in place, alternately raise your knees to your chest. You can lengthen your arms in front of you at chest level and control that your knees must touch your palms.


Engages the leg muscles. Raises heart rate and enhances body coordination.

4) Sandbag lift

Sandbags are soft but dense weights. Sandbag lift is the best low-impact cardio exercise that builds muscle, gives strength, and trains the fighters to resist the opponent while grappling in BJJ. To achieve your fitness goal in BJJ 20 -30 reps are enough for endurance training.


Lift, carry, and throw an unbalanced load while doing sandbag runs, jumping squats, sprints, lunges, plank pulls, and other strength training.


It is a versatile exercise that builds strength, muscle, and cardiovascular endurance, and provides core strength to the fighters.

5) Walking up the stairs

Usually, living in an apartment building, then climbing up and getting down the stairs can be a great way to raise your heart rate, burn calories, and effectively build muscles in your legs.

6) Burpee

Burpee is an effective exercise that maintains your weight and shapes both at the same time. It is the best cardio activity that enhances your cardiovascular system.


Put down your hands on the floor while sitting. Jump back with your feet, and move briefly with straightened arms. Return your legs to the starting position and jump up from it. Raise your arms while jumping. To make it further difficult, you can add a spin from the floor after the bar.


Burpees provide you with strong muscles, improved agility, and weight loss. This exercise improves blood circulation and maintains blood pressure.

7) Skipping rope

Apparently, it is only a jumping rope. However, this is an uber test system. Whenever utilized accurately, it prepares the cardiovascular framework, enhances respiration, builds coordination, and burns body fats.


Stand straight, keep your legs together, and back straight. Hop at a sluggish speed on your legs. Do whatever it takes not to twist your knees to an extreme, attempt to bob on your feet, and connect with your lower leg muscles.


Rope practices actually train the calf muscles and give muscular strength to the arms, shoulders, back, and tummy so that everything looks great.

8) Jumping

This is a common exercise that shapes the whole body while doing fun. While actively jumping you lose weight that increases your stamina at the same time.


Stand straight, hold your legs together, arms at your sides. Twist your knees somewhat and hop as high as possible. While bouncing, spread your legs and arms shoulder-width separated, shaping the letter X. Get back to the beginning position.


It enhances body coordination and blood circulation, burns body fats, and strengthens muscles.

9) Capoeira exercises

Capoeira exercises are exercises that have elements of dance, acrobats, and music. Various martial arts adopt these exercises to develop full-body workouts in a fun way. BJJ Fighters also use these exercises for muscle endurance and balance on the mat.


Stretch the body for 2-5 minutes then practice these exercises for 30 minutes.


Improves cardio, muscle endurance, and weight loss.

10) Lunges

Lunges are a real godsend for those who want to shape their buttocks. Basically, it is an indispensable exercise for everyone.


Stand straight, feet shoulder-width isolated. Move forward. Bring down your legs until your knee nearly contacts the floor. Raise the knee of the front leg over the lower leg by twisting it at a 90-degree point. All the heaviness of your body ought to lay on your front foot. Then return to the beginning position and rehash the activity on the other leg.


Enhance the blood circulation and weight loss; strengthen the lower body, especially the gluteal, square, and hamstring muscles.

Photo credit: @jiujitsu , @fitnessrepublic

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