Tired? You should probably run more or do more Tabatas outside of training Jiu-Jitsu, right? Nope. What you should is understand that using the term “cardio” is the worst possible way of describing conditioning for BJJ. What you want as a grappler is the ability to be able to make it through a match while using multiple muscle groups with varying degrees of concentric, eccentric, and isometric movements. In other words, you want to figure out how to train endurance for BJJ, not cardio. It won’t matter whether you can run a marathon if you are not able to get through a round of grappling. So, let’s be specific and try to figure out what BJJ endurance is and how to train for it.
What exactly is endurance? For the purpose of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we will describe it as the capacity of your muscles to withstand intermittent bouts of highly active and somewhat passive work for a set period of time. During that time, the muscles work in all their modalities (they contract, they relax and/or they hold in place). IN other words, BJJ endurance translates to muscular endurance, and that is a long way from what “cardio” stands for. Of course, energy systems are quite complex and we can never isolate them completely, but there are ways to figure out how to train for BJJ endurance in particular. The best way is to understand how grappling endurance works, and the best training methods for you.
What Affects Endurance In Jiu-Jitsu?
Before we get into how to train endurance for BJJ, let’s talk first about what determines endurance in the first place. There are plenty of factors, some individuals, and some common for all that affect BJJ endurance. In other words, you should look to choose a method that is specific or you and your goals, similar to putting together a Jiu-Jitsu game. In that sense, multiple factors influence your muscular endurance in Jiu-Jitsu.
First of all, there are individual factors. These are things like genetics and age that you can’t really influence, but you have to take into account. Genetics determine not just how muscular someone is, but what type of muscle fibers are predominant. All of it has a huge role to play when looking into BJJ endurance training. Age is pretty self-explanatory. Usually, endurance is at it’s highest between the age of 20-30. There’s also those that peak between 30 and 35, though. Accordingly, you should tailor your BJJ endurance training and goals (or rather said expectations) around your age and genetics, as you can’t really do anything to change this.
Other factors that you can change are lifestyle, environmental and psychological ones. These include things like nutrition, hydration, recovery, mindset, training schedule, the climate in the region of the world you’re training in, your level of Jiu-Jitsu experience, etc. Everything has to be factored in when you’re looking to improve your BJJ endurance. Nutrition and hydration are not hard to dial in, as well as working on your motivation and psychological approach. Working in very warm or cold weather should always be considered too. It influences how effective your muscular endurance training is. In terms of experience, you usually discover ways of using less energy as you figure out more of BJJ, but that takes time. The smart approach is to think about all these factors and build a BJJ endurance routine around them.
Building up BJJ Endurance
Speaking of building a BJ endurance routine, you should first start by an assessment. You’ll need to find out exactly where you are so that you can train the correct aspects of muscular endurance. As I said before, all energy systems have a role to play in figuring out how to train endurance for BJJ. If you have no idea where you’re at currently, just start your endurance training at the beginning. In terms of working specifically on BJJ endurance, you’ll need to go through several phases, to make sure you tick all the right boxes.
First, you start with an aerobic phase. It should last a couple of months, but not less than a month if you really want to see improvements. This is the time where you develop your aerobic base or the “cardio” part of the puzzle. In other words, you’re building up the capacity of the gas tank that will help fuel the duration and intensity your muscles are able to work with. Yeah, you can do running here, but I’d recommend long rolls (Metamoris-style rounds) or swimming as far better alternatives. The structure of your program should revolve around the individual factors we talked about earlier. That means it is going to be different for everyone.
The next phase is interval training when you start working a bit more specifically on the energy system most often utilized in BJJ – the anaerobic lactic system. This phase should also last for 2 months. Intervals mean you push your body and in particular your muscles to work hard for periods of time., Then, you recover while working less, but you never stop completely. In other words, you’re pushing your BJJ endurance in a way you would in a match.,The difference is, you’re usually doing it using fitness training methods, rather than rolling (although this is also a possibility). If you choose to develop this on the mats, consider specific tasks rounds, like looking to get as many armbars as possible in a round. Making rounds longer than those you’ll be competing in is always a good idea.
Finally, you get to the final 2-month phase – BJJ specific muscular endurance. This is the phase where you need to put kettlebells and medicine balls down and focus on rolling. You should already have a great aerobic base and a decent level of overall endurance so far. Now, it is time to tailor it to your needs and your BJJ game. Rolling volume should be the highest at this point. Rolls should involve a lot of game-specific rounds, different training partners, EBI overtime-style submission training, etc.
How To Train Endurance For BJJ
Finally, down to the nitty-gritty of BJJ endurance training. The approach is the same as in learning any Jiu-Jitsu technique. First, learn why endurance is important and why certain methods will allow you to develop it faster and better than others. Knowing that you can take a look at how, and try to figure out which methods/workouts best fit your needs.
The first tool I’d recommend using is kettlebells. They’re versatile, they are easy to use, won’t require you to go to a specialized facility and are highly effective for grappling. In fact, Russian wrestlers have been using them for decades before they became a popular fitness tool. Going for an AMRAP or EMOM style training, using one or two kettlebells is a great way of developing crazy endurance levels. Using one kettlebell for longer periods is great for the aerobic phase (doing loaded carries or Turkish get-ups, for example). Going for the double kettlebell experience and higher weight or intensity is perfect for interval training.
Barbell landmine training is another thing that is amazing for grapplers, yet is extremely underused. If you’re looking for different ways of how to train endurance for BJJ, why not give this tool a try? It is essentially a barbell hat has been anchored to the floor on one end. The other (free) end is the only one that is loaded and is the one you’ll be handling. Ideal for interval training. This tool will help you develop not just overall muscular endurance, but also work on rotational movements you can’t really include with any other tool.
Medicine ball training is the more explosive version of kettlebell training. No handle means you’ll be throwing the ball around in an explosive fashion. It also means that this is tailor-made for the interval training phase of BJJ endurance. Any move you do, means you use your muscles to the max, given that they’re highly explosive. You get to rest for a bit while resetting, but you’re never stopping or resting in a static fashion. Check out some medicine ball training ideas here.
Finally, rolling. You could use it in every phase. Still, going for it in the final one is the best way to get highly-specific BJJ endurance done. All kinds of drills, from short rounds with fresh partner rotations to positional rolls, task rolls, man in the hole drills, and anything else you can think of fit here. Just make sure you’re really pushing yourself as much as all those underlying factors allow. The caveat here is that you’re’ also fine-tuning your technique, tactics, and feel of Jiu-Jitsu in the process.
Training for BJJ endurance is not easy to figure out initially. Once you’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle solved, though, you’ll be able to be extremely effective when it comes to muscular endurance for grappling. Whether it is a tournament you’re preparing for, or just rolling in general, endurance is the one athletic quality you’ll need more than anything else. So, before you think about strength, flexibility, and all the other stuff, learn your techniques. Also, figure out how o train endurance for BJJ in a way that makes sense to you.