BJJ: How Hard to Roll (Pros, Cons & 3 Other Methods)

How hard should I roll in BJJ

When we are rolling in BJJ, it can be tempting to always roll hard and to try to win the roll. But I found this may not always be the best way to improve, so how hard should we roll in BJJ?

As a general rule, in BJJ you should roll hard 2-3 times per week if you’re preparing for self-defense or competitions because rolling hard is most like real-life. But there are other methods for training depending on your goals, and rolling hard too often can lead to overtraining and missing classes.

Discover the other ways to train in BJJ, and when and why you would use each of them in the rest of this article.

Let’s break them down, starting with hard rolling.

BJJ: How Hard To Roll

When and why would you want to roll hard in your BJJ training?

Rolling hard in BJJ is the best way to prepare you for a potential self-defense situation, or to prepare you for a competition because it is most like a real-life situation, which has a couple of benefits to it, including:

  • Full resistance from your training partner
  • Low compliance from your training partner

The Benefits of Rolling Hard

Rolling hard is the best way to put everything you’ve learned to the test in a realistic way, with full resistance from your training partner, and low compliance from them.

Full Resistance: This means that your training partner will use all their strength and technical knowledge to fully resist and fight against you as you try to implement your game plan.

Low Compliance: This means that your training partner will not go easy on you and allow you to land certain techniques, give up positions to you, or allow you to finish submissions.

Rolling hard like this with your training partner is the closest thing to real life as you can get.

Meaning, rolling hard is essential if you’re preparing for self-defense or competition because in these situations you will be up against a fully resistance, non-compliant, combative opponent.

Therefore, rolling hard is an essential tool to prepare you for what you will be facing in a real-life situation.

The Negatives of Rolling Hard

However, there are some negatives to rolling hard, especially if you roll hard every training session.

The main negatives are that you may over train, start to burn out, or even injure yourself.

If any of these happen, you’re more likely to be off from training to rest or recover, meaning you’ll end up missing classes, or even quit BJJ altogether.

Ultimately meaning that, by you rolling hard too often, it’s having a negative effect on your Jiu-Jitsu training and progression as you try to improve.

Discover how you can improve your Jiu-Jitsu game in our article: BJJ: 12 Ways To Improve & Progress Faster

Realistic conditionHard on the body
Fully resistantHigher risk of injury
Low compliancePotential overtraining
Combative opponentMiss classes to rest/ recover
Self-defense preparation 
Competition preparation 

“Rolling hard is essential if you’re preparing for self-defense or competition but can lead to overtraining”

Your BJJ Goals & How Hard To Roll

How hard you should roll in BJJ is also determined by what your current goals and objectives are.

Are you trying to learn new techniques?

Are you trying to improve your weaknesses?

Or are you trying to form habitual responses and form muscle memory so your techniques require less mental energy meaning you can perform them quicker and easier?

Then hard rolling may not be the most effective form of training to achieve these objectives.

Discover when your BJJ will start to click and get easier in our article: When BJJ Gets Easier (Plus 3 Ways To Improve)

If you want to practice new techniques, defenses or submissions, then hitting every roll as hard as you can in order to try to win the roll, isn’t the best way.

This is because, during a hard roll, most of the time you’ll find you’re resorting back to what you already know and feel comfortable doing.

Meaning, you’re not trying out the new technique you learned yesterday.

Or, for a lot of us, just trying to survive the roll.

In order to put into practice what you’ve previously learned and form muscle memory, there are 3 other ways to train to help you towards your goals.

3 Other Ways To Train in BJJ

For some of your BJJ objectives there are other, more effective ways to train before then returning to the hard rolls with your newly learned skills.

Let’s look at the other ways of training and what they are good for, including:

  1. Flow rolling
  2. Specifics training
  3. Drilling (techniques & sequences)

1. What is Flow Rolling in BJJ?

In BJJ flow rolling is a type of training where you and your training partner go head-to-head in a live roll, but don’t go as hard as you can, and only use 50-60% effort.

While flow rolling, we allow our training partner to get away with certain things in order for us to both learn and grow during the roll.

For example, in a hard roll you’ll fight against your training partner’s attempt to take mount position, or to sweep you, or what ever else they may try to do.

But in a flow roll, you don’t fight back so hard, and even allow them to secure the mount position or sweep you.

Then you work from that new position which you find yourself in, trying out new techniques which you may not yet be confident or experienced using.

By flow rolling between positions and techniques in this fluid way it means, unlike in hard rolling, you are successfully using more techniques and getting hands-on experience with each of them.

Meaning, you’re learning how each of them work and feel, and ultimately, improving your all-round Jiu-Jitsu game for when you do roll hard again.

2. What is Specifics Training in BJJ?

Specifics training in BJJ is a way to focus on just a specific part of your Jiu-Jitsu game under live rolling conditions and is a great way to improve your weakest areas and positions.

Let’s say for example you want to improve your guard defenses, this could mean you want to have a stronger guard, some sweeps from guard, and some submissions from guard.

Once you’ve learned a few techniques of each that you could use in your guard game, it’s time to do some specifics training.

In this example, you start from the guard position and begin the roll – you can go hard, or flow at 50-60%.

But the roll only continues from the guard position, if you sweep your opponent – you are no longer in a defensive guard position, so you reset the roll back to your defensive guard position.

If you submit your opponent, you reset and restart from guard.

If your opponent passes your guard, you reset and restart, and so on and so on.

By doing specifics training like this, you’re able to improve in the areas you want to, without continue on the roll into new positions.

3. What is Drilling in BJJ?

Drilling in BJJ is a way of memorizing techniques or sequences of techniques through repetition to increase your muscle memory and build habitual responses.

For example, if you want to be the best in your BJJ class at triangles, you’ll need to drill triangles until you’ve done hundreds, or even thousands of them.

The best way to drill is to first learn all the steps required to set up the move or technique.

Then, with your training partner, do the technique you’re drilling slowly, step-by-step – then do it again and again.

Once you’re able to do it quickly and with perfect form, you can ask your training partner to give more and more resistance each time, meaning you’ll become much more effective with the technique.

Drilling can also be done with whole sequences of moves and techniques too.

For example, a common sequence to drill is:

  • an arm bar set up; your opponent pulls out their arm
  • straight into a triangle; they pull out their head
  • into an Omoplata; they roll over
  • you move into side control, half guard, or step over into mount

Then reset, restart, and drill it again and again.

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