Best ways to build cardio for BJJ

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Cardio with a personal trainer

BJJ athletes do a wide range of different types of cardio to aid their Jiu Jitsu games. There’s so many that it can be hard for beginners to know which types of cardio that they should do.

Let’s answer that commonly asked question and list, which type of cardio you should do for BJJ? Below is a list of all of the best cardio workouts for BJJ and reasons why they’re the best ones.

Which type of cardio should I do for BJJ? The best cardio workouts for BJJ are the ones that give you the same feeling as if you were competing. Something that includes explosive movements and makes your heart rate rise. Making you feel like you just had a tough roll at a Jiu Jitsu tournament.

Sprinting

Running is good cardio for BJJ, but sprinting is even better. Doing sprints is great cardio for BJJ, because it mimics how you feel during a hard roll.

When you roll, you aren’t going full speed the entire time, but just doing incremental explosive movements. A sprint is an explosive movement that translates very well and can help improve your cardio for BJJ.

Sprinting Workouts for BJJ

There’s a wide variety of different sprinting workouts that you can do to improve your BJJ game. Here are two different workouts that you can try.

  • Treadmill Sprints: Sprints on a treadmill are great, because you can control the speed, incline, and time. Try doing sprints every 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds for a 5-10 minute period. 
  • Track Sprints: If you have a track close to where you live, try this great sprint workout. Sprint the straightaways and jog/walk the corners for 1-2 miles to get your cardio in.

Assault Bike/Stationary Bikes

If you don’t like sprints, then assault bikes or stationary bikes are a great alternative to improve your cardio for BJJ. An assault bike would be a better option than a stationary bike, because the handles move and workout your arms.

But assault bikes are expensive, so a stationary bike can do the job if you’re on a budget. Just like with sprints, you can do explosive intervals that are better for your knees and won’t give you shin splints.

Assault Bike Workouts for BJJ

A workout bike is a great piece of equipment that you can do numerous workouts with. Here are two specific bike workouts that you can do to improve your BJJ game.

  • Bike Sprints: Just like with sprints, you can do intervals of explosions and resting for the same time as a BJJ round. Go 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for a few rounds to help improve your cardio.
  • Bike/BJJ Drill Intervals: Bikes are one of the best pieces of equipment that you can do for interval training and make them BJJ specific. Try doing 30 seconds of bike sprints and then do the same amount of time doing a BJJ drill like sprawls.(sprawls, sit-throughs, bridges, etc.)

Calisthenics

Calisthenics are great cardio and perfect if you don’t have equipment or only have a small amount of space. They also translate really well to BJJ, which is why many of the best Jiu Jitsu athletes use them. All you need is a small amount of space and be able to move your body weight.

Calisthenic Workout For BJJ

There are a wide variety of different calisthenic exercises that you can mix in for a BJJ workout. Doing any of these calisthenic movements for 30 seconds to a minute for 30 minutes to an hour nonstop.

  • Jumping Jack Variations
  • Squats/Jump Squats
  • Lunges/Jump Lunges
  • Bridges
  • Planks 
  • Sprawls
  • Sit-Throughs
  • Various BJJ Movements

Swimming

If you have bad joints and don’t want to beat them up to get your cardio in, then your best option is swimming. It is one of the best types of cardio that you can do that doesn’t impact your joints. This is why many of the best athletes in the world mix swimming into their cardio and strength workouts.

Swimming Workouts For BJJ

You can do a wide variety of different swimming workouts that will boost your cardio for BJJ. Give these two types of workouts a try.

  • Laps: Swimming laps is a tried and tested method of cardio that many top athletes do. Try swimming 10-20 laps and day and mix in various types of swimming strokes. This may sound easy, but it’s incredibly tiring.
  • Swimming Circuits: If you’re swimming with a teammate, you can mix and do different circuits. While one of you is swimming, the other can be doing different exercises outside of the pool.

HIIT Training

Then of course, another type of cardio training for BJJ that you can do is high intensity interval training. HIIT training is one of the best types of workouts that you can do that boosts both your cardio and strength. 

Just about every top athlete in the world does some form of HIIT training to boost their performance. You can literally mix any of the cardio workouts listed above into different types of HIIT workouts and you’ll get results.

HIIT Workouts For BJJ

There are literally an infinite number of different HIIT workouts that you can do for BJJ. So many that we could probably make an entire blog series listing them.

  • Round Workouts: Try doing whatever BJJ movements or exercises you want for 30 seconds to a minute each for 5-7 minutes.
  • AMRAP Workout: AMRAP stands for as many reps as possible. Pick 2-3 different types of movements and do them for 10-20 reps each for 15mins to help boost your cardio.

Rolling & Drills 

If you want to improve your cardio for BJJ, there is one thing that every seasoned grappler will tell you. Do more rolling and drilling.

It may sound strange, but to improve your cardio for Jiu Jitsu, you must do more Jiu Jitsu. There is no substitute for BJJ training to improve your strength and cardio.

The only way you’ll for sure improve your cardio is to get on the mat and train.

Drilling

Drilling BJJ technique is one of the best types of cardio that you can do along with live rolling. There are numerous types of drills that you can do that will not only boost your cardio, but your overall game. 

  • Solo Drilling: If you don’t have a partner, you can get good cardio in from solo drilling. Do anything from: shots, sprawls, level changes, sit-throughs, elbow escapes, breakfalls, or triangles.
  • Partner Drills: If you have a teammate that wants to train, you two can get a great cardio workout by drilling. Everything from: guard passing drills, takedown drills, sweep drills, submission drills, transition drills, and escape drills.
  • Grappling Dummy Drills: The next best thing to a training partner if one isn’t available is a grappling dummy or bag: This is a phenomenal piece of equipment that you can do numerous types of cardio drills with.

Rolling

If you want to boost your cardio for BJJ, you have no other option doing rounds of live rolling. You have to put your time in on the mat and do a lot of rounds of rolling with your teammates. It’s by far the best thing you can do to improve your cardio for BJJ.

Go Boost Your Cardio!

Any one of the exercises listed above will boost your cardio, but it’s all up to you. Choose any of these types of cardio workouts and stick with them. That way, not only your cardio improve, but also your overall Jiu Jitsu game.

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Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years. Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.

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