When I first started BJJ, I wanted to learn a martial art and lose weight at the same time. So I wanted to know is BJJ good for fitness? After years of training now, here’s what I’ve found.
BJJ is a good full-body workout involving both cardiovascular and muscular exercise. On average, BJJ classes last for 1 hour of steady-paced movement and energy output, including a warm-up and cool-down with regular water breaks. In general, BJJ requires at least a moderate level of fitness.
After training in multiple BJJ gyms around the world, I noticed that nearly all follow the same structure when it comes to fitness.
So, in this article you will get a clear understanding of what to expect from BJJ for fitness.
Plus, I have shared with you the 10 most commonly asked questions and answers about BJJ and fitness.
Let’s break it down.
BJJ for Fitness: Complete Guide
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is accessible to pretty much all body types and fitness levels.
As long as you have at least a moderate level of fitness, and you’re medically fit to partake in exercise – you can do BJJ.
If you’re already fit and looking to take your fitness to the next level, then BJJ is a great choice of martial art to get you in great shape.
Plus, you get the added benefits of learning self-defense, while making new friends in the process.
“Discover more about BJJ for self-defense in our article: BJJ for Self-Defense: Good or Bad?”
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great form of fitness training because it involves both cardiovascular, and muscular exercise.
Meaning, during a BJJ class your heart and lungs will be put to good use and you will work up a sweat to start burning plenty of calories.
Plus, you will feel it in your muscles the next day too.
Although BJJ won’t build you big muscles, it will help you strengthen your muscles (more on that in questions 8 and 9 below).
Fitness Requirements in BJJ Class
Your average BJJ class will be split into three main categories, each of which will push you and help build up your fitness levels, including:
- The warm up
- Live rolling
At the beginning of BJJ class, you can expect to do at least 5-10 minutes of warm up.
This will usually consist of light cardio work, body-weight exercises, and some BJJ specific movements.
|Light Cardio||Body-Weight Exercises||BJJ Specific Movements|
|Sit-ups||Front & back rolls|
The cardio and body-weight exercises are there to get the blood flowing and get your muscles warmed up, loose, and ready for training, and to help you maintain a base level of fitness.
The BJJ specific movements are there to introduce your body to the types of movements and positions you will find yourself doing during Jiu-Jitsu training.
Drilling is the part of the class where you will practice a technique with your training partner and then they will practice it back on you.
This part of training isn’t usually a very intense workout (depending on your level of fitness), but it will last for 20-25 minutes of consistent movement and requires you to maintain a steady energy output.
Live rolling is where you and your training partner go head-to-head and practice all you have learned.
This is the last 20-25 minutes of class and can easily become a very good, high-intensity, full-body workout.
BJJ Classes Are Less Fitness Focused
BJJ is a great way to get fit, but unlike in other sports/ martial arts, most BJJ schools have much less of a focus on fitness training during the classes.
Take Boxing or Muay Thai for example. In these classes, it is very common to spend a big portion of the class doing high-intensity workouts to condition the body.
This is because a strong physique and higher level of fitness are needed to keep up with the high-intensity of the sport itself.
Which is why these classes focus a lot of training time on fitness – its all part of the sport.
Of course, in BJJ, as you begin to progress (onto live rolling and maybe even start competing), you will need to focus more on your fitness too.
But for the average person stepping onto the BJJ mats, a high level of fitness is not required in order to learn some Jiu-Jitsu skills and be effective with them.
BJJ Class: Rests & Water Breaks
During BJJ training, you can stop for a water break or a rest at any point.
It is normal for all the students of the class to bring their water bottles with them and place them at the side of the mats.
Then at different points of the class, the instructor will tell everyone to grab some water before continuing with the training.
If you’re not as fit as the rest of the students in the class, don’t worry.
You can sit out for as long as you need, and take as many water breaks as you need.
“BJJ is a great way to get fit”
BJJ for Fitness: 10 Commonly Asked Questions
In the remainder of this article you will get all the answers to the 10 most commonly asked fitness questions in BJJ.
1. Do I need to be fit to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)?
As a new student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you do not need a high level of fitness to get started. BJJ training usually starts with a 5-10 minute warm up, the type of warmup can vary from each BJJ school, but usually consists of light cardio work and bodyweight exercises.
The rest of the class is usually then 45 minutes of training – split between demonstrations (low-intensity workout) and rolling (high-intensity workout).
It’s important to know though that your level of fitness should not hold you back from starting BJJ and if you’re ever struggling during training – you will be allowed to sit out for as long as you need.
2. Am I too fat/ overweight for BJJ?
You can do BJJ if you’re overweight, but it depends on how overweight you are and whether you’ve been medically cleared to start a form of exercise by a medical professional. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu welcomes people of all shapes and sizes, so if you’re able to exercise, you can do BJJ.
So, speak to your doctor first, then feel free to pick up the phone and call your local BJJ academy to discuss your situation.
They’ll be happy to help!
3. Does BJJ give you abs?
BJJ will help give you abs due to a high percentage of training taking place from the guard position, which uses all of the core muscles. BJJ also has a high focus on ab training during the warm ups. Meaning BJJ training is great for strengthening and defining your core.
To get the best results and most defined abs from BJJ though, it also requires a disciplined diet.
4. Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) good for weight loss?
BJJ is good for losing weight because BJJ training requires you to use your whole body and works both your muscles and your cardiovascular system. BJJ training can also get fairly intense during live rolling – meaning your energy output will be high and you will be burning a lot of calories.
However, just like with any other form of exercise – whether you lose weight or not will depend more on what you eat after you finish training – rather than how many calories you burn during training.
5. Do I need to be flexible to do BJJ?
It is not essential to be flexible before you start BJJ training. However, BJJ does require some flexibility for certain techniques, meaning as you progress, the more flexible you are, the better. Flexibility will help you do certain BJJ techniques easier and avoid or escape from others.
Most BJJ classes spend 5-10 minutes after the warmup and after class for stretching – meaning over time you will notice that your flexibility will begin to improve.
6. Does Yoga help BJJ?
Yoga will help your BJJ because it is great for improving your flexibility and breathing which are both an advantage in BJJ. However, BJJ training does dedicate part of the class to stretching, and over time you’ll learn to stay calm and breathe easy in difficult positions.
Check out question 5 above for more on the benefits of flexibility in BJJ.
7. Do I need to be strong to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)?
The stronger you are in BJJ – the bigger advantage you will have over your opponent. However, you do not need to be strong because BJJ techniques use leverage to manipulate the natural biomechanics of the human body. But strength definitely does help in BJJ.
“Discover what leverage is in BJJ and how you can use it in our article: BJJ: What is Leverage”
To see how strength and size in BJJ can benefit your Jiu-Jitsu game – check out our other article: “BJJ: Does Size, Strength & Weight Matter?”
8. Does BJJ increase strength?
BJJ can help increase your strength because of something called ‘time under tension’ (TUT). In BJJ, it is common to hold a position for a sustained period of time, gripping hold of your opponent with all your strength while working a new position or trying to submit.
However, BJJ is not the most effective way of building strength, but let’s see how it helps.
Normally, when you use your muscles, you complete a full-range of motion without slowing or stopping in-between.
For example, you curl the weight from the bottom of the lift to the top, and then back down. But in BJJ, you’ll be gripping onto your opponent and holding for longer periods of time (time under tension).
For most of us in BJJ, we put our muscles through a lot of time under tension during training.
But the idea in BJJ, is to get to a level of efficiency, where you don’t need to use much strength at all – and therefore, reducing the muscle’s time under tension.
Meaning, the better you get at Jiu-Jitsu, the less it will help increase your strength.
“Discover how strength can help your Jiu-Jitsu game in our article: BJJ: Does Size, Strength & Weight Matter?”
9. Does BJJ build muscle?
BJJ is not the most effective way of building muscle mass. BJJ will put your muscles under tension which is good for strength, but it is not the sort of progressive overload required for your muscles to grow in size. For better results, introduce a weight training program into your BJJ training.
For more on how BJJ can help improve your strength, check out question 8 above or check out our other article: BJJ: Does Size, Strength & Weight Matter?
10. Will running help my BJJ?
Running is a great supplement to BJJ because it helps improve your overall fitness and cardio endurance. As you start to increase your BJJ training it will help to add running to your routine. However, its not essential because BJJ training by itself, will still get you fit and in shape.
Discover more about BJJ in our other articles: