The Best Cardio Training For Jiu-Jitsu

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Having great cardio is important for being a solid martial artist and athlete, and this is especially true in BJJ.

If you have ever rolled even once, you already know how exhausted you can be after a single 5-minute round of hard rolling. 

While having excellent physical conditioning alone is not enough in Jiu-Jitsu, maintaining a good aerobic base is a major boost to your game.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires lots of intelligence to understand when and how to save your stamina, recover from the previous exchanges, make traps for your opponents, have long-term strategies, and so on.

However, to apply the intelligence in live rolling, you must have sufficient cardio to think straight and keep moving without gassing out even after multiple minutes of intense grappling.

In our MMAWhisperer deep-dive on cardio for Jiu-Jitsu, we look at the following aspects of building a great BJJ cardio base:

  • Overall approach to cardio for Jiu-Jitsu
  • Specific methods of improving cardio for Jiu-Jitsu
  • Common equipment for aerobic training
  • Why rolling more may be the best form of cardio for BJJ

Let’s get after it!

How Do I Increase My Cardio For Jiu-Jitsu?

The Best Cardio Training for Jiu-Jitsu

Increasing cardio for Jiu-Jitsu is essential, and there are many ways to do accomplish this task.

Traditionally, athletes have often relied on long slow distance cardio, such as long runs, to build a base.

However, this may not be the optimal workout structure for BJJ cardio.

Most BJJ matches in competition last five to ten minutes and involve multiple bouts of explosive exertion followed by periods of ‘settling in,’ where fighters make subtle adjustments to pressure and position as they recover for the next explosive movement.

BJJ Performance goes down when you get tired

Cardio for BJJ is also one of the key aspects to making sure you’re getting better at Jiu-Jitsu, because whenever you become exhausted, performance goes down.

Cardio for BJJ should attempt to mimic the rhythm of an actual match, with periods of high intensity followed by brief periods of lower intensity, performed in intervals that are the same overall duration of a BJJ match (i.e. six minutes of alternating high and low intensity cycles).

It is also important when training BJJ or MMA for self-defense, as you need to be able to fight your way out until you can run away.

With that in mind, running is a tool for improving cardio, but does not alone guarantee good cardio for Jiu-Jitsu unless applied appropriately.

Virtually any method of aerobic training can be used as BJJ cardio.

Improving your BJJ cardio is certainly a great trick for getting better at Jiu-Jitsu since it allows you to train more.

In the following section, we will break down some of the more common, popular training methods you can use to boost your cardio for BJJ.

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Running For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

One of the most famous training methods in every combat sport is running. 

Some key advantages of running are that it is free to run, and you can do it anytime, anywhere (for the most part). 

However, long distance running cannot increase the “explosive stamina” needed during BJJ matches and should not be the only cardio training method you use.

Running on a treadmill for BJJ cardio

If you do enjoy running as a cardio activity, consider doing hill sprints as opposed to long, flat distances. 

From my experience, I can tell you that running, especially uphill, is an excellent workout for my legs to build stamina for BJJ.

I personally love triangle chokes and body triangles, which can require good stamina in the legs to maintain the required pressure.

Sometimes, holding your rival for 3 minutes in your triangle is exhausting, and your legs start gassing out.

Running hills helps me solve this problem by improving the conditioning of my lower body, which also translates to many different techniques in BJJ.

I should say that if you are struggling with knee issues such as a torn meniscus from training BJJ, running may not be a great option.

That said, even running once a week on uphills for 15-20 minutes will strengthen your legs, but don’t be disheartened if you gas out in 5 minutes of running hills on your first workout.

You’ve got to start somewhere!

Sprinting For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

People’s opinions are split about how good sprinting is for Jiu-Jitsu.

Some people think that sprinting can be a bit too high-impact, and there is a higher probability of getting injured relative to the benefits. Additionally, BJJ can sometimes be hard on your joints, and sprinting may be an unnecessary stress if you are already training a lot.

That being said, from my point of view, sprinting is one of the most effective training methods if you do it correctly and do not overdo it.

Finishing any training with sprinting once or twice a week after a different workout can be an excellent way to get a bit of boost to your explosive endurance without completely overstressing your body.

Sprinting at the end of a hard grappling session can also help you build the “dig deep” mentality that you will need to win the toughest grappling matches that go the distance.

Sometimes, when two fighters are really tired deep into the competition, one explosion and transition can win it all.

Remember, having 2-3 seconds of better cardio and one more explosive burst can result in beating stronger, more experienced, and maybe even more technical fighters.

Jumping Rope For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

Jumping rope is another great option for BJJ cardio, and allows many different interval style workouts.

Jumping rope only requires a decent jump rope and enough space above your head for the rope to rotate properly.

Jumping rope for Jiu-Jitsu cardio

In addition to the cardio benefit, jumping rope is great for balance, coordination, and weight loss.

You can speed up any time, go for high intensity, or slow down to recover. 

The best part is that relative to other training methods, you are less likely to get injured if you do everything correctly.

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Stairs For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

The idea behind stair training is the same as running up hills.

Training on stairs is harder, and stairs can be productive if you sprint up as fast as possible and have a rest while coming back down.

Fighters with knee and ankle problems should be careful with running, jump rope, and stairs. However, a good pair of shoes can mitigate a lot of the impact on ankles and knees when performing workouts such as stair running for BJJ cardio.

Assault Bike workout For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

Assault bikes have a reputation for being a brutal workout tool, and for good reason.

While they are very safe from an injury perspective, they require full effort from the upper and lower body. Because of air resistance, it actually gets harder and harder the more you push it, so you cannot “coast” the way you can on traditional bicycles.

The lactic acid buildup from the non-stop exertion on the Assault bike will burn throughout your whole body, pushing your endurance during vigorous exercise to new levels.

Assault bike training for BJJ can be an irreplaceable part of your cardio routine.

One of the simple Assault bike workouts is going hard for 30 seconds, and after that, easy for another 30 seconds.

Repeat this up to ten times or more, and it makes for a good simulation of the endurance needed for BJJ rolling in terms of intense explosive efforts followed by brief recovery.

It’s important to have a long-term program, even for cardio, so I recommend consulting a coach when planning out your cardio for Jiu-Jitsu on the Assault bike.

SkiErg Workouts For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

SkiErg workouts are another great piece of equipment of the modern era that increases cardio for Jiu-Jitsu. 

The idea behind this exercise is the same as Assault Bike, but you are doing most of the job with your hands this time.

You can go hard and then slow down to recover and repeat it several times. 

The best part is that you can also do it in a sitting position. Athletes often experience injuries and cannot train fully on their feet, so the SkiErg is a good alternative to staying in shape.

If you have a lower-body injury and can not roll but want to be in aerobic shape when you return to BJJ, the SkiErg one of the best exercises you can do.

Rowing Machine For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

Rowing machines are another excellent type of cardio exercise equipment for Jiu-Jitsu. Rowing machine workouts can be a perfect replacement for other cardio workouts because the whole body is working while doing it correctly. 

Still, the best part is that it has a low impact on joints and tendons, so there is a low probability that you will get injured during this workout. 

Using a similar 30-seconds hard, 30-seconds easy is a good interval for doing Jiu-Jitsu cardio on the rowing machine.

Swimming For Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

Swimming is another awesome cardio workout to learn how to redistribute your energy and breathe correctly. 

Swimming for better Jiu-Jitsu cardio

Swimming will be efficient for your daily Jiu-Jitsu routine because it will make your training more varied with low impact.

Also, proper swimming helps you learn to control your breathing in conjunction with your exercise, which is vital to saving energy during activities, including BJJ.

Roll More To Improve Jiu-Jitsu Cardio

Ultimately, doing hard rolling is the best cardio workout for Jiu-Jitsu. This not only pushes your aerobic system, but also reflects the movement needs of BJJ, since you are actually doing it.

If your goal is to get maximal Jiu-Jitsu cardio from your hard rolls, then aim to keep the roll going without stalling too long in positions.

Allowing your partner some movement under pressure can keep the intensity high to eek out your BJJ cardio gains.

You can also get good aerobic rolls from people of all levels, from beginner to advanced, regardless of where you are at now in your level.

In a word, it does not matter how good you are on the ground. Roll as many times as you can with as many people as you can.

Be Sure To Roll With The Larger Grapplers

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Whatever you do, try not to avoid rolls with stronger, larger grapplers, as these can be very tough physically which will also help push your cardio.

Roll with the strong but knowledgeable guys who will not hurt you but will get you tired with pressure. After working out with more muscular guys, rolling in your weight category will be much easier, and you will be able to save energy. You will feel the result in just several training sessions.

Try To Leave Your Comfort Zone

You can not improve your stamina if you do not leave your comfort zone. Getting tired is not caused by physical conditions only. 

During the competitions, you can also get tired because of your emotions, and every great athlete knows it deep inside the heart.

Challenge yourself to roll with strong fighters when you are tired. Challenging yourself will boost your confidence, and you will be less nervous during the competitions because you already are used to pushing yourself. 

Best Cardio Training For Jiu-Jitsu Final Thoughts

Many types of workouts translate well for Jiu-Jitsu cardio. Still, cardio training is very individual.

Finding out what works best for you is crucial—no workout results in the same effect for each fighter.

This means experimenting and adjusting based on which equipment, training schedule, and recovery needs you have as you explore the different options for Jiu-Jitsu cardio.

Having better cardio in Jiu-Jitsu means being a better Jiu-Jitsu fighter. The better your cardio, the more you can train and roll before being tired, at which point you become far less able to both learn and perform.

Now get on the mats and let’s get started!

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