How Can I Improve My Cardio for Jiu-Jitsu?

How Can I Improve My Cardio for Jiu-Jitsu?

1. Cardio For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Cardio for BJJ requires training to improve your stamina and help prevent you from passing out. The smart training procedures for cardio have proven to be useful when pulling off submissions and rolling on the mat.

In grappling, the most annoying part is tapping. BJJ trainers and coaches train BJJ athletes to tap frequently to lessen the risks of injury.

However, most BJJ fighters hate to tap out even when they are exhausted. To avoid being put in situations where you have to tap out, the best solution is to improve your cardiovascular health.

To better prepare you for competitions, BJJ conditioning programs and circuits can help you improve your cardio. 

1.1. BJJ Conditioning Program To Get In Shape

Conditioning requires working on various body systems that help people perform body movements. Grapplers need to condition their bodies to improve their skills and be better prepared for BJJ fights. The three body systems that needs to be worked on are:

(Creatine phosphate) System

(Creatine phosphate) System

The creatine phosphate system provides energy to the muscles during highly intense exercises that typically last 10 sec. Exercises with heavyweight also rely on the creatine phosphate system. Lifting heavyweight improves your grip strength which in turn improves your grappling skills.

BJJ athletes can use different objects to substitute as heavy weights like:

  • Large rubber tires
  • Iron or steel kettlebells
  • Medicine balls
  • Sledgehammers
  • Round large battle ropes
  • Large wood logs

Glycolytic System

The glycolytic system consumes glucose to provide fuel for your body in the absence of oxygen. High intensity interval training (HIIT) or low intensity steady state ( LESS ) are the crucial components of BJJ conditioning. During high intensity interval training (HIIT), the glycolic system is activated.

This system is primarily activated during intense grappling when rolling on a mat or doing drills. Lactate molecules are generated to provide your body the fuel necessary to perform well on a BJJ mat. Highly skilled BJJ fighters perform “shark tank training” as a form of BJJ conditioning to be ready for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions.

Basically, shark training means fending off a new training partner after every 60 secs in a five minute round. It means to perform five full body exercises for 60 secs each per round.

HIIT intervals should mirror the intensity of your workout. The interval length should be short to ensure perfect BJJ conditioning.

LESS training primarily focuses on running and swimming. Relying only on LESS without the inclusion of targeted HIIT intervals will result in inadequate consumption of the glycolytic system.

Aerobic System

Compared to the creatine phosphate and glycolytic systems, the aerobic system provides energy during workouts that last more than one minute. The aerobic system consumes fat and glucose to provide fuel for your body during BJJ conditioning.

The aerobic system has the ability to generate maximum power without relying on the glycolytic system.

Many medical researchers claim that aerobic and glycolytic systems enhance body conditioning in BJJ. They work together to keep the body in good condition.

Aerobic System

Aerobic System

1.2. BJJ Conditioning Circuit

Nowadays, circuit training has been gaining popularity. Click the video link to watch an example of a BJJ conditioning circuit.

A BJJ conditioning circuit consists of four rounds. Rounds 1-3 are more or less the same. 

Round 1-3

Exercises 10 min round
Dumbbells Rows Duration of each exercise 15-30 secs
Dumbbell Snatch 15-30 secs
Burpees 15-30 secs
Black Pedals 15-30 secs
Band Resisted Sprints 15-30 secs
Band Resisted Shuffles 15-30 secs
Kettlebell Swings 15-30 secs
Clash Push-Ups 15-30 secs

Round 4

Exercises 10 min round ( Each exercise is performed with reps required)
Medicine Ball 5-10 reps
Push-Ups 10-20 reps
Twists 15-20 reps
Burpees 10-20 reps
Toe Touches 15-30 reps

1.3. Best Cardio Workout for BJJ

A BJJ practitioner's conditioning can make all the difference between victory and defeat. Grappling requires intense grip strength and flexibility which can be achieved by doing proper cardio routines designed for BJJ. The overall duration of BJJ matches last between 5-10 minutes. Cardio improves your ability to recover from grappling technique quickly without losing breath. A body that is less conditioned requires more recovery time and weaker holds.

The Aerobic Base for Cardio in Jiu-Jitsu

Aerobic exercises promote cardio health and serve as a strong base for Jiu-Jitsu training. The long slow motion activities promote cardio training in combat sports. How long you last in a grappling bout shows the aerobic strength of a BJJ fighter. Researchers came up with the following table to help plan for certain time frames in BJJ matches.

Intense workout interval 20 to 40 sec
Brief time 10 to 20 sec
Longer intervals 40 to 60 sec

You can apply this table when planning for six-minute-long matches. Intense intervals of 40 secs, then 20 secs of moderate to intense cardio training sessions, followed by two minutes of rest in between rounds. Six one-minute-rounds of cardio training would be equivalent to a six-minute BJJ match. Doing this kind of cardio training twice per week will gradually improve your cardiovascular system.

The Best Cardio Workout Training

To attain the maximum health benefits necessary for BJJ matches, BJJ athletes follow the best cardio routines to attain their fitness goals.

Running for BJJ

Running for BJJ

Running is an effective way to improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Running helps you learn how to control your breathing and cope with different grappling techniques. The moment you run out of stamina, you lose the match.

To condition your body, incorporate high intensity, moderate, and low intensity training routine when sprinting to develop a stronger aerobic system. During matches, a BJJ fighter depends on the aerobic and glycogen lactic acid systems.

Sprinting is considered a highly intensive exercise that work the hamstrings. First, adequately prepare for sprinting to avoid pulling a hamstring. Because sprinting affects your bones and joints, you should avoid sprinting at an intense pace if you have a history of severe bone or joint damage.

Swimming for BJJ

Swimming is considered the best cardiovascular activity to avoid any health issues that typically occur in running. Swimming can improves endurance and coordination between the mind and body. Learning to swim will help you understand the different aspects of BJJ training. Water resistance tones your muscles to resist your opponent's force on the mat. Swimming improves lung capacity thus preventing the BJJ practitioner from gasing. Swimming as a meditation tool keeps you calm in tough situations on the mat.

Cycling For BJJ

Cycling is a low impact cardio training routine. Most trainers do not recommend it, but it is still a viable choice. Cycling can tone your muscles and removes stiffness from your body.

Skipping Rope for BJJ

Skipping rope can improve your cardio capacity and the coordination of your footwork. This cardio exercise is cheap and does not require the use of heavy equipment. The types of exercises related to skipping rope include:

  • High knee skipping
  • Crossovers
  • Double-unders

If you are new to skipping rope, start with lower jumps and shorter intervals so that your joints are not put under too much strain and slowly increase the intensity of your workout to avoid injuring yourself.

Airdyne Bike for BJJ

The Airdyne bike is just like a traditional bicycle except that there is a large fan attached. The more you pedal the bike, the more resistance is created by the fan, thus pushing you to apply even more force. As it is a low-impact exercise, using an airdyne triggers work the upper and lower body joints.

Cardio sessions for BJJ

The following is the framework of an eight-week cardio routine for jiu-jitsu That should be performed at least twice a week. A step-by-step training process from low to high intensity that helps you gain maximum strength and fitness with minimal risk factors.

Week 1 20-minute training (low to medium intensity)
Week 2 30-minute training (low to medium intensity)
Week 3 11-minute training (Two 40-sec rounds followed by five 20-sec cycles)
One-minute break between each round.
Week 4 16-minute training (Four 40-sec rounds followed by five 20-sec cycles)
One-minute break between each round.
Week 5 14-minute training (Three 40-sec rounds followed by five 20-sec cycles)
One-minute break between each round.
Week 6 19-minute training (Four 20-sec rounds followed by six 20-sec cycles)
1 minute break between two rounds
Week 7 23-minute training (Five 20-sec rounds followed by six 20-sec cycles)
One Minute break between each round.
Week 8 23-minute training (Five 20-sec rounds followed by six 20-sec cycles)
One-minute break between each round

1.4. Work Out Plan and Rolling

It can be difficult to find a BJJ workout plan suited to your body’s needs. Your weight, endurance, bones, joints, and muscles are the factors that determine the workout plan required to improve your cardio for BJJ. At the start, the specifics of your workout plan may not fit according to your fitness needs. But once you define your fitness goals, you will learn to make your training schedule more efficient. Just ask for advice from experienced BJJ practitioners and your coaches. The best ways to improve your cardio for BJJ are:

Spend More Time on BJJ Mats

Spending more time on jiu-jitsu mats will eventually increase your stamina. You can take some extra classes in the early morning or late at night if you have a tight schedule. Do not skip your training by thinking that you can make up by taking extra classes or increasing the intensity of your exercises.

Find the Best Routine

Some BJJ fighters easily lose interest in cardio exercises like swimming, cycling, running, and sprinting. Keep yourself motivated by consulting your trainers to come up with the best BJJ cardio routine. Set up your to-do list and research what popular BJJ routines line up with your fitness goals.

Sparring Partner

Sparring Partner

Your sparring partner can help you reach your fitness goals by holding mock fights or demonstrating techniques. Search for a partner who provides constructive feedback and helps you understand your weak points.


You cannot expect to achieve everything at the start of your BJJ cardio workout. Struggle matters a lot in your growth. If something is not working well, do not get discouraged and give up. Try to remain calm and positive even when progress is slow. Worrying will only hamper your progress.

2. Health Benefits of Cardio for BJJ

Having good cardio health will help reduce the risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases. A few examples of illnesses due to poor cardiovascular health include:

  • Obesity
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Hypertension
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Diabetes

Research conducted by Shashi Agarwal in 2012 reveals that regular physical activity will improve an athlete's resistance to coronary diseases like:

  • No signs of angina
  • Prevents heart attacks
  • Decreases mortality rate

Mild to moderately intense resistance exercises that can aid to improve cardio health in BJJ athletes include:

  • Weight lifting
  • Calisthenics
  • Closed chain exercises
Exercises Days Reps
8-10 Two non-consecutive days per week 8-12

3. How to Build Up Endurance for BJJ

Despite having good physical fitness, your muscles may still ache after rolling or you run out of stamina after rolling on the mat. You may be working hard and have great muscles but you still risk bodily pains and exhaustion after spending time on the mat. Try not to push yourself past your limits, do not work yourself to exhaustion, and take some supplements to help with muscular strength.

4. Cardio Workouts Before or After BJJ

Most BJJ practitioners prefer cardio workouts before actually practicing BJJ due to the following reasons:

  • Muscles are sore after BJJ practice.
    • Extended weight lifting can cause fatigue instead of encouraging muscle growth.
    • No need to train to the point of exhaustion.

Other BJJ practitioners prefer doing a cardio workout after finishing BJJ practice. The lighter weight circuits and endurance training after BJJ practice can be just as beneficial as a cardio workout before.

Typically, BJJ athletes prefer to do a cardio workout when there is free time in their schedule. Some BJJ athletes prefer to do the cardio workouts and BJJ training on different days.

5. Tips to Improve Cardio for BJJ

Starting with cardio training will help you build a strong base that will allow you to last longer on the mats. The more training you do over time, the more your techniques will improve, the less energy you consume, and it is easier to achieve your fitness goals. You can benefit from general cardio but the body becomes fully conditioned from rolling on the mats.

6. Is 30 minutes of HIIT Every Day Enough to Lose Weight?

Yes! Doing a HIIT workout for 30 minutes is hard, but will help you burn a significant amount of calories. Research has shown that nearly 8-10 lbs of weight can easily be shed through a HIIT workout.

7. Conclusion

Aerobic exercises are a helpful way to improve cardio in preparation for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The more you focus on your training, the more your body becomes conditioned to handle more stress and exert more force when grappling an opponent. Less energy is consumed while defending which shows the importance of a healthy cardiovascular system in BJJ.

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