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The Science Behind Cardio for BJJ


The BJJ Performance Tip of the Week | #009

Mobility🧘🏽‍♂️ •Strength 💪🏽 •Nutrition 🥑 •Interesting🧐

Edition: Friday, March 31st, 2023

❌“Just Roll More” Is Terrible Advice


This weeks BJJ Performance Tip of the Week is taking a dive into the science behind cardiovascular fitness for jiujitsu and why “just roll more” is terrible, unhelpful advice.

💪 VO2 Max and BJJ Performance


VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize per minute, and it's the gold standard for measuring overall cardiovascular fitness. Increasing your VO2 Max as a BJJ athlete will help you shift from anaerobic to aerobic energy systems, which means considerable performance advantages during five to 10-minute rounds with short intervals of recovery.

🔬 The Science


A study published in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport in 2018 found that hard BJJ rolling is insufficient to significantly improve your cardio fitness through improvements in your VO2 Max. This means that it's important to train your VO2 Max separately from your jiujitsu.

Don’t get it twisted though, more BJJ will improve your “mat fitness” because it will make your jiujitsu movement more efficient which will result in you reserving energy, but it won’t make your total energy reserves larger.

🏋️‍♀️ How to Train Your VO2 Max


There are two cardio training methods I recommend including into your programming.

  1. Aerobic Base Training: This training method involves doing long steady state cardio in your “Zone 2” cardio range (50-60% of maximum heart rate) this will improve your “aerobic base”.
  2. VO2 Max Training: This training involves high intensity bouts of either tabata sets (20s on 10s off for 8 rounds) or longer intervals with full recovery between. I like the 4-4-4 methods which is 4 rounds of 4 minute high intensity efforts with 4 minutes rest in between each round.

It's important to note that your VO2 Max and your “jiujitsu economy” are separate determinants of aerobic endurance performance, so you should train them separately.

If you have any questions or want to share your own tips on how to improve cardiovascular fitness for BJJ, feel free to reply to this email. And check out the full length video I made exploring the research mentioned and how to improve your cardio for BJJ.

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