This is one question I get a lot, particularly form people that are just starting with Jiu-Jitsu. One of the first things that come up is whether or not BJJ will get them in shape. The answer here is actually not a simple one. Getting in shape is different for everyone, and there’s a host of stuff you need to take into account. Everything from age, gender, physical activity, body type, nutrition, etc plays a role in how good of a shape you’re in. That said, if you really want to know the answer to the question “does Jiu-Jitsu get you in shape?” the answer is yes. Whether it will keep you in shape is a whole different story altogether.
Training BJJ is not easy. It may seem like the perfect sport for lazy people, give that you’re training by laying down n the ground. Jokes aside, Jiu-Jitsu demands a lot from our bodies and our minds. When it comes to getting in shape, there’s a reason why many will recommend you supplement Jiu-jitsu with some kind of training outside of the academy. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Ther are specific times when you have to train. In others, BJJ is enough to help you improve your shape. So, does JIu-JItsu get you in shape? Certainly, but…
This Thing Is Hard!
Remember when you started training Jiu-Jitsu? Or perhaps you’re just starting out. In any case, the reality is the same – BJJ is going to be hard. In fact, you’ll be suffering the first few weeks after training. And I’m not talking about the technical suffering. That part will go on for much longer. I’m referring to the physical side of things. The moment you start grappling, you’ll realize that your body has way more muscles (and uses) than you thought were possible. And each and every one of them can hurt when after you put it to use.
That’s exactly what will happen when you start training Jiu-Jitsu. It doesn’t take a hard session to make you tired. On the contrary, just movement drills will challenge your body like nothing else. Not to mention trying to figure out a technique and holding on for dear life. And that’s all before we even start talking about rolling. But how does Jiu-JItsu get you in shape? Easy. You get in shape not by training hard but by recovering from training hard.
When you start BJJ, your body is not accustomed to physical stress. Normally, it will need time to recover from all of that. The next time you come in through, it’ll happen all over again. After a few times, if stress remains the same, your body will adapt. That means you’ll start getting less out of in terms of improving conditioning, i.e. your shape. However, with BJJ stress is almost never the same. That means you’ll get some amazing conditioning before you get used to the BJJ movements. From there on, you’ll enter the lazy BJJ phase.
Discovering “Lazy BJJ”
Lazy BJJ is when you become so efficient at the movements that define Jiu-Jitsu, that you actually use next to no energy to execute them. This happens after you spend several years at least, training regularly. Have you ever wondered how some black belts can be completely out of shape yet roll with everyone without getting tired? Well, the answer is efficiency in movement, rather than being in great shape or having awesome conditioning.
Figuring out lazy BJJ is a huge step in your Jiu-Jitsu progress. In other words, there’s no way around that, meaning you’ll stop getting the same conditioning benefits you did before. Does Jiu-JItsu get you in shape? Certainly. Does JIu-Jitsu keep you in shape throughout? Not really. Depending on how hard you train, you can stay or even improve your shape. But you’ll need to do it consciously because you have the option of moving without expending any energy whatsoever.
This is the time when you need to turn to training outside of the gym in addition to grappling training. That is what is going to help with your shape and conditioning now – stress that’s different than the one your body is accustomed to. For competitors, this is actually an integral part of the puzzle. And yet, JIu-JItsu can still get you in shape regardless of what belt you are, if you approach it with that particular goal in mind.
The Marcelo Garcia Approach
Marcelo Garcia is famous for many things in the world of BJJ. One of those is his approach to conditioning. As far as Marcelo goes, the answer to the question does JIu-JItsu get you in shape is a simple yes. And it works for everyone at every belt level. Marcel is famous for not using any weight lifting or supplemental cardio training to help with his JIu-Jitsu. And the man is a multiple-time world and ADCC champion.
Marcelo says that how effort much you put in every roll, will result in the same return in terms of conditioning. To that extent, you can roll like you’re flowing with everyone or you can decide to go hard like you’re fighting in the finals of the Worlds. The second approach definitively justifies his simple answer to the “does Jiu-Jitsu get you in shape?” question.
This approach certainly works, it just may not be the perfect one for everybody. And that’s okay. If you find yourself getting used to Jiu-Jitsu but are not a fan of training Marcelo style, you don’t need to. If being in shape is your goal, an Jiu-Jitsu is your means of achieving it, just know that you can, regardless of what level you’re at. In fact, there’s nothing quite like BJJ when it comes to having your body work in a way that it was intended to, but got lost throughout the years. We are meant to wrestle and demand our bodies to be strong, flexible, conditioned and limber all at the same time. That’s exactly what we get from BJJ.
So, does JIu-JItsu get you in shape? Certainly. But it does get you in shape for BJJ. If you think you can use BJJ to get in shape for a marathon, or a CrossFit event, you’ll fail miserably. Jiu-JItsu will help you get in better overall shape, and in pristine grappling shape However, anything outside of that will require you to train off the mats in ways that are different from grappling.