5 Great Methods of Physical Conditioning for BJJ

In one of my previous articles on GB Blog, the #3 tip was to do some sort of physical conditioning to maximize your progress in bjj.  Let’s expand on that subject and take a closer look at some methods of physical conditioning for bjj.

1) Running

“The basis of all sports is running” – Judo champion Isao Okano
There are basically two schools of thought on this topic: long slow distance or shorter sprints?

This is a subject for debate among many physical trainers.
I feel the logical question to ask is: “What are the specific demands of my sport?”
Is it necessary to run for 45 minutes to prepare for a 6 minute sports bjj match duration?
I am in the school of thought that says no!

I have tried both running methods and experienced better results from sprints.
I want cardio mostly to maximize my recovery between short bursts of intense effort in a scramble.
An additional benefit would be for weight control. The “metabolic after burn” is when your metabolic rate is higher for several hours after bursts of intense exercise.
A set of 10 sprints turbo charges the appetite!

2) Weight training

conditioningarticle1I recommend to avoid bodybuilding types of routines designed for maximum hypertrophy: translation – those exercises and methods designed to make bigger muscles. Bodybuilding is different from sports strength training, requiring more sets and repetitions using exercises that isolate individual muscles.

The goal of your weight training (centered around multi-joint, basic movements) should be threefold:
a) Protection from injury. Strengthening the muscles around the joints can help protect them
b) Develop functional strength in order to effectively perform key movements (for example, double leg takedown)
c) Ok, there is also nothing wrong with wanting to look better in a rashguard  😉

3) Kettlebells

 I love kettlebells largely for the convenience factor. You can store them in the corner of the academy and knock out a few exercises before or after the class.
No need to pay for an additional gym membership, or to make the time needed to go for a separate workout.
Some kettlebell guidelines for bjj’ers:
a) Handful of key movements (ex. swings and Turkish getups)
b) Your goal is overall body strength, coordinating the movements between the large muscle groups
c) Your sessions should be brief, condensed and intense. No need for hour long sessions!

4) Yoga

yogisSome bjj tough guys may snicker at the idea of stepping into a yoga class…until they understand how tough it is and how it can help your bjj.
a) Yoga postures and breathing techniques help the fighter relax in tough positions. When you can relax and breath, you don’t fatigue as quickly!
b) Yoga postures will expose old injuries and imbalances that you have been hiding / protecting for years. When your body is moving in an imbalanced way, it creates all types of problems.
c) Doing positions on one side creates lopsided bodies. You can tighten one side only and start to tilt your posture and tighten muscles on only a single side. Yoga can balance you out.
d) Fitness expert and bjj black belt Steve Maxwell says the secret to anti-aging is maintaining full mobility in your joints. This is where yoga postures excel! The positions are designed to move your joints through their full range of motion.

5) Bjj-specific calisthenics / ginastica natural

conditioningarticle_graciemagIf you are like me and arrive at class several minutes early you can find some time to perform a few bjj-specific movements before class starts.
If your life is busy and the other workouts on this list are not possible at times, you can at least maintain your bjj conditioning by some of these drills.
I urge students not to waste their precious class time by sitting around the mat, performing a few half hearted hurdlers / hamstring stretches while talking about the UFC.

Solo drills like hip escapes, bridges, sprawls and Hindu pushups can condition those specific muscles that you need in bjj without an extra equipment.
Clever instructors hide these movements in the warmup but there is no reason that you can not select your own favorites and take responsibility for your own mat fitness.

Share in the comments your own favorite conditioning methods for brazilian jiu-jitsu!

Credits: Mark Mullen 
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ