How To Improve Your Cardio For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
It can be one of the hardest parts of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to get used to early on. Whether you are an athletic person or not, when you begin training BJJ, you quickly realize that your cardiovascular endurance is not on the level of the more experienced practitioners in the room. This is perfectly normal.
I was very athletic when started BJJ three years ago. I went to the gym 5 days per week and would do at least 45 minutes of cardio each visit. However when I started rolling, or sparring BJJ, after 20 minutes I was outside hanging over a ledge gasping for air. The cardiovascular drain experienced in Jiu Jitsu cannot be explained until you feel it for yourself.
One of the saddest ways to tap out in BJJ is the “cardio tap”. This is where you tap, not due to a submission hold, but rather lack of cardio. It is always embarrassing and it is never something your coach likes to see.
So how can one improve their cardio for BJJ? This is what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Legend Marcelo Garcia has to say about the situation:
“I put all of my energy into Jiu Jitsu because I don’t have to do anything (else). I don’t have to lift weights. I don’t have to jog. My energy has to be focused on this if I want to improve on this. If I want to improve on this I don’t want to improve my running or swimming. I want to improve upon Jiu Jitsu so I put all of my energy on that. But, you have to try and reach your limit.”
Essentially Marcelo is saying that if you want to improve your cardio strength for BJJ, do more BJJ, and really give it your best sustained effort!
However some people cannot get to the BJJ gym everyday to practice Jiu Jitsu. If that is your situation, here are some great ways to improve your cardio for BJJ, outside of the academy:
Warm your body up by running at a slow-to-medium pace for about 5 minutes. The sprint portions should last between 10-20 seconds, and the walk portion could last between 20 seconds and 2 minutes, depending on your fitness level and the progression of your training session. The walk portions tend to increase as the session unfolds.
Find a steep hill. You probably have one within a half-mile or so of your house, even if you’ve never noticed it. It doesn’t have to be much. Jog to the hill and then run up it as fast as you can. You’ll be warmed up by the time you reach the top. Walk back down the hill and repeat as many times as you can. The great thing about hill sprints is that they dictate the pace of your run. After four repetitions, my heart always feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. The light jog back to your house is your cool-down.
Stationary Bike or Aerodyne:
After a warm-up of 5 minutes start your sprint phase by standing up and pedaling as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then sit down and pedal for 30 seconds at a slow pace (“walk” phase). There are many different sprint-rest combinations you can try, but generally speaking after 20 minutes of 30/30, your legs will be so exhausted that you can barely walk.
One final note for White Belts:
It is very easy to spaz about while rolling which causes an immense energy drain. Look for places and times where you can rest and relax your muscles mid-roll. Sometimes when you pass the guard you can take a few moments to lock in your position, while at the same time relaxing your muscles and breathing. Other times when your guard is passed, there is sometimes a moment or two where you can regather yourself while your opponent thinks about their next move. This latter practice is dangerous against higher belts because they don’t require as much time to ponder their next moves.
Hope you enjoyed the article! Good luck with your cardio and your BJJ journey!