A Complete Guide about Rowing For BJJ

A Complete Guide about Rowing For BJJ

Rowing is a workout adopted by many athletes whether they are sportsmen, MMA, or UFC fighters. It provides a vast amount of benefits that is why BJJ athletes also adopt this workout. It is mainly performed for strengthening the lower body muscles such as the quads and glutes but by incorporating other techniques, it also aids in powering up the upper body muscles.

Rowing improves your posture as well as makes you immune to different diseases that can harm you during your BJJ training. Aerobic and anaerobic rowing is responsible for the flow of oxygen in the blood. Hence, more myoglobin reaches to the muscles that result in their conditioning.

1. What is Rowing?

Rowing itself is a whole body exercise. It consists of exercises on a rowing machine. These exercises work on the muscles of the practitioner to enhance strength. A rowing machine feels like the rowing of a boat with the extra support on foot. The practitioner pushes and pulls himself with the desired number of strokes to get in shape.

2. Rowing For BJJ

Rowing is performed by many athletes and players to build up their power so that they can perform exceptionally in their respective fields. BJJ practitioners also adopt rowing because of the bunch of benefits it provides. It acts as an addition to the practitioner’s cardio and builds endurance.

BJJ is a submission grappling sport. As we all know, it demands practitioners to be strong. A grappler with quick reflexes will most probably become victorious rather than the grappler who is not fast enough. Rowing increases your speed so that you are able to execute your moves smoothly. It is cardio training without drilling.

2.1. Rowing Machine

Rowing machine consists of different positions. Practitioners start rowing machine workout by sitting in the finish position. In this position, your legs are in a straight position and buckled with the strap of the machine, so that your position is secured. Your back must lean back slightly with your elbows in an outward direction. The handle of the rowing machine must touch your chest. Your position and body movement will vary according to different rowing workouts.

Rowing Machine
Photo credit: @queenofinfographics

3. Rowing Workouts For BJJ

3.1. Rowing Golf Challenge

Rowing golf challenge consists of 9 holes that are often called sets or reps. It consists of Eagle, Birdie, Par, Bogey, and Double Bogey. The difference is because of the intensity of the holes. The focus of this workout is 75% on the legs and 25% on the upper body. Every hole must be done for 1 minute with the rest period of 1 minute.

With every hole, the meters, and burnt calories increases.

Holes Meters Time Interval Resting Period
1 324 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
2 322 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
3 323 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
4 337 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
5 325 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
6 327 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
7 339 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
8 338 m 60 seconds 60 seconds
9 339 m 60 seconds 60 seconds

To perform rowing golf challenge:

  • Sit on the rowing machine with your legs in a straight, stretched position.
  • Your spine must be in a neutral position, not too bent and also not too tilted on the back.
  • Hold the handle and then go for the workout.
  • Your legs must be bent when you come forward and then straight when you go back.

3.2. Aerobic Rowing

Aerobic rowing workout focuses on how much oxygen your muscles receive when you are performing the workout. It requires your body to use stored oxygen while performing the workout. Your muscles function properly when oxygen reaches them hence making them strong to bear the whole workout without any damage.

The resting period increases as the intensity of the workout increases. The goal of aerobic rowing is to maintain the pace of the workout.

Reps Meters Time Interval Resting Period
1 500 m 1 min 1 min
2 500 m 2 min 2 min
3 500 m 3 min 3 min
4 500 m 4 min 4 min
5 500 m 5 min 5 min

3.3. Anaerobic Lactic Power Rowing

Anaerobic lactic power rowing increases the resistance level of your muscles so that they are forced to function without oxygen during the workout. This resistance pressurizes you to work harder. In the long run, it is useful for you as you build endurance for your BJJ game.

Time Meters Resting Period
3 x 20 seconds 500 m 2 - 3 minutes
3 x 30 seconds 500 m 2.5 - 3.5 minutes
3 x 40 seconds 500 m 3 - 3.5 minutes

3.4. 5K Row Workout

A 5k row workout means that the BJJ practitioner has to perform the workout for 5000 meters. It is an intense and extreme row workout. It is as equal to the strength conditioning exercises that a BJJ athlete usually performs.

Your heart beats in a fast speed increasing the blood flow to the brain and all parts of the body. The most conditioned body part from a 5k row workout are your legs. As a grappler, you must have strong and stout legs that will help you to embrace the takedowns initiated by your opponent. This workout acts as a perfect tool for you to enhance the power in your legs.

Time Meters Resting Period
5 minutes 1000 m 5 minutes
10 minutes 2000 m 10 minutes
15 minutes 3000 m 15 minutes
20 minutes 4000 m 20 minutes
25 minutes 5000 m 25 minutes

3.5. Tabata Rowing Workout

Tabata rowing workouts are HIIT workouts with less time period. This workout burns calories and builds cardiovascular endurance in only a short span of time. Tabata rowing workout is perfect for BJJ practitioners. It only takes 4 minutes.

It also instills aerobic and anaerobic fitness in the BJJ practitioner. Boosting metabolism is the key advantage of this workout.

Reps Time Meters Resting Period
1 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
2 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
3 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
4 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
5 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
6 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
7 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds
8 20 seconds 500 m 10 seconds

3.6. Reversed Tabata Rowing Workout

Reversed Tabata rowing workout is more intense than a simple Tabata rowing workout. It is because the resting period in this workout is less than the exercise period. So you do not have enough time to normalize your breath. Your heart rate keeps on increasing as well as the rate of metabolism and calorie burn.

You can increase the rowing speed and that is how your workout will be more intense. You have to keep on moving faster for 10 seconds so that you can reach the set distance of 500 meters.

Reps Time Meters Resting Period
1 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
2 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
3 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
4 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
5 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
6 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
7 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds
8 10 seconds 500 m 20 seconds

3.7. Row & Push-Up

Rowing is mostly called a leg sport as most practitioners believe that it is only for the lower body. But that is not true. If done correctly, it not only strengthens the lower body but also your core muscles. Push-ups are incorporated with rowing and that is how you can enhance endurance in your upper body as well as your lower body.

Push-ups themselves are a versatile and convenient exercise. They increase the upper body power. And when they are mixed with rowing for the BJJ strength building, the result is astonishing and beneficial. You can enhance your fighting skills by just adding high intensity workouts in your BJJ routine. Your biceps and triceps can become the more conditioned muscles after this workout.

You have to row for 100 meters first. And then perform 10 push-ups.

Reps Time Meters Push-Ups Resting Period
1 20 seconds 100 m 10 10 seconds
2 20 seconds 100 m 10 10 seconds
3 20 seconds 100 m 10 10 seconds
4 20 seconds 100 m 10 10 seconds

3.8. Arm Drills

Arm drills work mainly on your arms. This workout is responsible for conditioning the biceps and triceps.

For performing arm drills:

  • You must sit on the rowing machine in a way that your legs are straight on the bar.
  • Hold the handle in such a way that it touches your chest.
  • Your back must be lean.
  • Pull and push the handle in such a way that only your arms and elbows move in the process.
  • Instead of using legs during rowing, arm drills focus only on the arms and shoulders of the practitioner

3.9. Hip & Leg Swing

Hip and leg swings increase the mobility in your hip point. It makes the initiation of takedowns and submissions easy for you. Your quadriceps and calves build resistance to injuries and muscle tears can become a major drawback in your  grappling. Of course, injuries are a part of life whether you are an athlete or not.

So hip and leg swings help you build resistance against malfunctions.

For performing hip and leg swings:

  • Sit straight on the rowing machine.
  • Keep the handle to your chest as described earlier.
  • Now use your hips to pull yourself towards the rowing machine. You must be using your hands too but more pressure should be applied by your hips.
  • And then use your legs to explode back with your chest up and back straight.

3.10. 20 Minutes Rowing Workout

Rowing workout can last for 4 minutes or even 20-30 minutes. It depends upon the time and effort of the BJJ practitioner that he wants to dedicate to rowing for improving his BJJ game. If you want to build an excellent all-around BJJ game, you must also incorporate workouts like rowing into your exercise routine.

A 20 minute rowing workout is considered an ideal workout when it comes to rowing for BJJ. It consists of warm-up and series of intensive rowing with greater number of strokes per minute (spm) after every interval.

For performing a 20 minute workout:

  • Start your workout with a 5 minute warm-up.
  • You must row nice and easy to develop the pace for the whole workout.
  • Arm drills, and leg and hip swings can also be made a part of your warm-up to prolong the workout.
  • Set the timer on the rowing machine for 20 minutes.
  • For the very first minute of your intensive workout, row nice and easy and your stroke rate must be 16 or 18.
  • Repeat this easy 1 minute after every 5 minutes into the workout. It is also called the reset or recovery minute.
  • Now as your workout is going to become intense, your stroke must increase to 22 and your effort level to 75.
  • As the 3rd minute starts, your stroke must be 26 with 90% effort.
  • It is you who has to speed your pace as increasing effort is in your hands only.
  • Next comes the recovery or rest minute where the stroke and effort drops to 22 and 75% respectively.
  • The 3rd and 4th minute is a challenge for you because your body demands rest as the stroke rate drops down.
  • After that keep on increasing your stroke rate while slowing it down for the recovery minute.

Reps Time Stroke Per Minute (spm) Effort Level Recovery Period S.R for Recovery Period Effort Level For Recovery Period
Warm-up 5 minutes 16-18 50% 1 minute 16-18 50%
1 2 minutes 22 75% 1 minute 22 75%
2 3 minutes 26 90% 1 minute 22 75%
3 3 minutes 26 90% 1 minute 22 75%
4 2 minutes 26 90% 1 minute 22 75%
5 2 minutes 26 90% 1 minute 22 75%

4. Benefits of Rowing For BJJ

4.1. Great For Cardio

Rowing is a very intensive exercise even for athletes. The required effort for push and pull increases with the increase of strokes. Even a 20 minute workout is enough for increasing your cardio. It will eventually help you to have a strong BJJ game by increasing your stamina and the effects will be everlasting.

It increases your cardiovascular fitness.

4.2. Strength Conditioning

Strength conditioning is important for BJJ. Rowing helps to increase your handgrip strength that leads to your proper functioning in BJJ tournaments and championships.

You are strapped to the rowing machine but it still takes effort to keep your balance on the machine. Holding the handle firmly increases strength in your phalanges that are responsible for grip strength.

4.3. Muscle Endurance

Due to aerobic and anaerobic rowing, your muscles gain immense power. This power is responsible for the quick recovery from injuries or muscle strains. Having muscle endurance means that the fighter can stand against a stronger and bigger opponent without gassing out.

4.4. Joint Mobility

For having an increased joint mobility, rowing is the perfect workout. When you are working on a rower, you have to move your hands, legs and hips to move swiftly and easily. The thrust with which you move forward and backward is enough to make your joint mobile.

Especially your hip joint is the one that gains greater mobility. During BJJ it helps you to escape submissions and takedowns.

4.5. Increased Flexibility

Having great joint mobility leads to greater flexibility. Flexibility induces resistance in your body against strains and meniscus tears. The major trained areas are knees, elbows, neck, and shoulders.

4.6. A Bigger Engine For BJJ

For those fighters who left BJJ for a while or took a break from it, rowing is a fabulous option. It builds a bigger engine for BJJ. As you took a break from BJJ, most probably you do not have great strength. So to compensate for that loss, you must prefer rowing.

Even for the fighters who are still into BJJ, rowing does wonders by increasing the strength in our quads and glutes.

4.7. Whole Body Workout

Rowing consists of almost 75% leg work and 25% bodywork. As it is responsible for strengthening your calves, it also works on your pecs, arms, and abdominal muscles. Hence, rowing is a total body workout.

4.8. Conditioning For Jiu-Jitsu off The Mats

Most practitioners get tired by always training on the mats. Having rolling and sparring lessons daily without any kind of change can be a toll on your mind. So to train without getting tired of the same routine, you must add rowing to your BJJ. It makes you enthusiastic for your training and also provides strength in your whole body.

4.9. Good Body Posture

When you are sitting on a rower, your back is lean, not too bent, and not too tilted. And when you go for the push and pull, you back conditions simultaneously. It creates a good body posture for you that helps you to progress in your BJJ career.

4.10. Weight Loss

Rowing is beneficial if you want to lose weight for your BJJ game. The rowing machine workout lasts for 20 minutes. It consists of 4 rounds with 1 rest minute. The stroke rate increases eventually.

Reps Time Stroke Per Minute (spm) Effort Level Recovery Period
1 4 minutes 16 50% 1 minute
2 4 minutes 18 75% 1 minute
3 4 minutes 22 90% 1 minute
4 4 minutes 22 90% 1 minute

Even the different workouts mentioned above constitute weight loss. All the muscles in your body function when you are using a rowing machine.

4.11. Low-Impact

Rowing is a low impact workout. It strengthens you and gurns your serious calories without putting any kind of stress on your joints. It does not put any pressure on your joints and lets them work at their own pace. Rowing for only 2 weeks improves your joint mobility by 20%.

So it is much better for a BJJ practitioner to go for a low impact workout other than high impact exercises.

5. FAQs

5.1. Is 20 minute Rowing Enough?

A 20 minute rowing workout is excellent for your body to get conditioned for BJJ training and fights. It provides the right amount of body conditioning that a practitioner needs to exert while grappling.

5.2. Are There Any Disadvantages of Rowing?

As such there are no disadvantages of rowing. But if you are not doing it properly, it can harm your body. It can strain your muscles or can cause back pain.

6. Conclusion

Rowing is a wonderful workout for BJJ. It consists of a series of push and pull with a flexible or fixed stroke rate. It increases your heart rate and speeds up your cardiovascular fitness. Different workouts are responsible for strengthening your upper and lower body.

Rowing consists of fast movements on the rowing machine which become intense with the increasing number of strokes. It is a superb workout for cardio. It is an extra non-specific conditioning without much impact.

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