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Is Running Good For BJJ?


If you find yourself asking the question:


"Is running good for BJJ conditioning?" 


Then the chances are you're gassing out during your jiu jitsu sessions. 


The problem in this case is your "jiu jitsu conditioning".


But is running actually the solution? 


What is your jiu jitsu gas tank?

Your jiu jitsu gas tank is your ability to spar consistently at a high intensity without completely gassing out (maximal fatigue). 


Your jiu jitsu gas tank involve 3 components:

  1. Technique Efficiency ("mat fitness") 
  2. Movement/Body Efficiency (mobility and muscular endurance) 
  3. Cardiovascular Fitness (cardio gas tank)


If you want to improve your jiu jitsu gas tank then you need to address all three areas. 


Does that mean running is not good for jiu jitsu conditioning?


No, not at all.


It just means it's only one part of the whole and is an oversimplification. 


If all it took was to run to improve your jiu jitsu gas tank, then we'd see brand new, cardio-fit, white belts, never gas out, but this is just not the case. 


The Story of Two Athletes


Allow me to introduce you to two jiu jitsu athletes.


Athlete A is a new white belt. He gasses out after only three minutes during his first roll of the day


He is sick of getting so tired that he cannot defend even the most basic positions or perform any new techniques he's been learning. 


Athlete A is quite fit; he goes to the gym regularly and runs every weekend.


Let's compare him to Athlete B, a BJJ brown belt in his early 40s. Athlete B can last most jiu jitsu sessions, keeping up a decent pace without any problems. He can handle the younger, stronger white belts without much trouble. 


But he cannot run a mile to save his life. Whenever it comes time to compete, he absolutely gasses out after the first match. 


What is the solution to both of these athlete's problems? 


They both have gas tank issues but have entirely different causes. 


Athlete A, who is already cardio-fit, could add even more running to his workout routine, but it probably wouldn't help because he must improve his technique and movement efficiency in areas 1 and 2. 


Jiu jitsu is a technique-based sport, and it doesn't matter if your gas tank has a massive capacity if you're burning too much fuel. 


To solve this problem, improve your body's ability to move through the challenging positions jiu jitsu offers. This can be done by following a dedicated mobility and strength training program and implementing a mobility routine. 


The more fluidly and effortlessly you can move your body, the less energy you will utilise to perform the same techniques on the mats. 


The next thing to address is your technique efficiency. This will be different for everyone, but what I found to be the most helpful is focusing on concepts like those taught in the "Jiu Jitsu Theory Course" by my friend and BJJ black belt Jordan Teaches Jiu Jitsu.


What about athlete B? Well, in the case of our imaginary brown belt, he has a high level of movement efficiency. He has had many years of adapting his jiu jitsu game around how his body moves so that he can use as little energy as possible to achieve maximal effect. 


The problem is that when he competes or is put in a situation that requires his maximal effort, his base level of cardio fitness is not there to support him, and he quickly finds himself in the hurt locker. 


Combine this with the fact that having poor cardiovascular health is a potent risk factor for health complications as you age, it needs to be addressed.  


To solve Athlete B's problem, this is where something like running could absolutely help. 


To Run or Not To Run...

Is running good for BJJ cardio?


Yes and no. 


Running is an excellent way to improve your cardio, there's no doubt about it, but it's not the only way.


Some people struggle with running because it can put stress on their knees, shins, and ankles, particularly if they're running on pavement.


For some, cycling, rowing or swimming are excellent alternatives to running to reduce some of the punishment of your joints (particularly if you're a larger human).


For jiu jitsu specifically, I really like the assault bike as it combines upper and lower body movement, which I find anecdotally "translates" to jiu-jitsu (keep in mind there is no actual data or evidence to support this claim and it is probably just placebo).


So, the question "Is Running Good for BJJ" can be subdivided into two separate questions:


Q. Is CARDIO good for BJJ performance?



Q. Is running a good form of cardio?

A. It's an excellent form of cardio. Still, for some people, alternative cardio modalities such as the elliptical machine, rowing machine, stationary bike or my personal favourite , the assault bike, would be just as good (and in some cases, better options).


You should choose the cardio modality you prefer, and if that is running, that's excellent.


Where to go to get help

If you want a comprehensive training program that includes mobility, jiu jitsu specific conditioning work, to improve your body movement effieincy and cardiovascular fitness, then check out the programs available at BJJ Strong Online. 

Get Stronger, Faster and more Powerful on the mats, while reducing your risk of injury. Take my FREE Fitness Quiz here.

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