Conditioning for combat sports has been an unsolved riddle for years. In the beginning, people training boxing were all into long distance running as the best tool. High school an collegiate wrestlers, on the other hand, always emphasized circuit-style bodyweight fitness. As MMA emerged, people started coming up with more and more elaborate ways of getting into fighting shape. As much as this might seem to be a good option, it is just the opposite. Conditioning is the homework that a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete needs to do, not the sole focus of their attention. In those terms, it is always to go with methods that have bee around for a while and are known to work. Sprint workouts tick all of these boxes when it comes to getting grapplers in shape, fast.
The concept of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been around for ages, it just wasn’t named fancily until a few years ago. Now, people swear in the effectiveness of Tabata on fancy machines but not many are willing to actually do roadwork. And by road work, I do not mean long distance running at a pace you can chat at. While this kind of cardio training has its place in Jiu-Jitsu conditioning it’s far from enough on its own. Sprint workouts are a surefire way to get into shape while spending minimal time doing your conditioning homework. They also tend to build mental toughness as well, especially if you’re going uphill.
Benefits Of Doing Sprints
Sprint workouts are essentially HIIT workouts. A sprint is a short burst of maximal or near-maximal effort that mainly utilizes the alactic anaerobic energy system. High demand sprints are usually followed by complete rest intervals or periods of very low activity. Sprint workouts result in an increase in overall athletic capabilities, they improve metabolism and aid in fat loss. Since they’re a muscle sparing, and to a certain extent, muscle building exercise, they’re a perfect fit for athletes in sports with weight classes.
Sprint workouts are one of the best conditioning tools available to athletes. They massively impact a grapplers aerobic system, despite being anaerobic events. Short duration (6-60 second) sprint workouts provide the same cardiovascular benefits as longer lasting low-intensity efforts. The less time it takes to put more work is an ideal combination for grappling martial arts athletes, who train long and hard on the mats daily.
The real gains from sprints are in the anaerobic department. Building your anaerobic capacity means you’ll be able to do very hard work for longer. Sustaining this level of high-intensity work is crucial for grapplers. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu matches are mixed aerobic and anaerobic events that require a high level of conditioning. Having the ability to explode for longer in the later periods of competition is a huge advantage.
Unlike the other forms of running, sprint workouts actually help increase strength. In terms of body composition, they drop fat faster than any other conditioning method. Retaining muscle while increasing conditioning and dropping bodyfat seem like too good to be true. Well, if it’s good enough for GSP and Roger Gracie, it is going to be enough for you.
Sprint Training For Grappling
Doing sprint workouts benefits grapplers in a number of different ways. The demands of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the body are big and varied. Grappling requires all of the body’s energy systems in order to get you through a match. Now imagine having half a dozen more to go through, each progressively more difficult. Without conditioning, nobody can withstand the required levels of energy output. Sprinting massively increases the VO2 max. They also boost testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, which is what everyone is after.
The direct translation of sprint training is mainly in the anaerobic alactic department, which is huge in Jiu-Jitsu. Despite long periods of control and strategy, scrambles inevitably do happen in each Jiu-JItsu match. Even if there are no fast paced exchanges it takes a lot of work to get out of mount or side control in order to be able to grapple. The same energy system that’ll buck you out of mount is the one that sprint workouts address. These exchanges are very often the deciding factor in the outcome of a match.
Grapplers can use sprint workouts to increase muscle, drop fat for the desired weight class and build strong competitive mentality. It is important to remember that whether you’re sprinting outside or on a treadmill sprinting takes a big toll on the joints. This makes keeping sprints short and sweet even more important. Also, regular sprint workouts might not be the best choice if your knees are bust. However, you can get all the benefits with none of the side-effects on an elliptical as well.
Programming Sprint Workouts For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
So, now that it’s clear what sprints are, and how they can help grapplers prepare, let’s talk about programming. As we said, people that train Jiu-Jitsu do not have the time nor the energy to dedicate long portions of the day to conditioning. Even when sprint workouts are in question, the goal is to keep them as short as possible while getting maximal results. It is preferable to do sprint workouts on days that you do not roll. In terms of frequency, twice a week is plenty for competitive grapplers of all levels.
Sprint intervals should not exceed 60 seconds of work. The ability to sustain a sprint for a minute is a sign of elite level conditioning. In terms of recovery time, the shorter you work, the less you get to recover. As a rule of thumb, start with about four minutes of cumulative sprint time in a workout. Rest at least twice the time you need to do a sprint, preferably in an active fashion. Aim to get to eight minutes of total sprint time.
Resisted sprints are also a great option for any grappler that has experience in sprinting. If you have never done sprint workouts before, you’re better off taking it easy. However, if you know what you’re doing, though, sprinting with natural resistance, like running uphill is an awesome conditioning tool. If you favor cardio machines, resistance can come in a few different forms. On ellipticals and bikes, resistance can be controlled directly while on a treadmill you have the added benefit of creating an incline. For those that have the luck to live beside a body of water, nothing beats swimming sprints.
All in all, sprint workouts are the best conditioning method for grapplers, given that they’re programmed and utilized correctly.
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