Charging Up Your Cardio for Jiu-Jitsu

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all”
– Vince Lombardi

Why do so many people get tired when they compete? Preparing for competition requires a good game plan, discipline and consistent execution. A good game plan prepares an athlete for the demands of his sport, so technically, physically and mentally he is ready for the task at hand. In this article, we are going to discuss strength and conditioning; developing your body to handle the demands of competition, without gassing out.

Jiu-jitsu is a very technical sport, so drilling, rolling and practicing should be the highest priority.


Your Training Schedule

Depending on how long you’ve been rolling and how hard your team practices, jiu-jitsu can take a toll on your body. It’s a stress that needs to be accounted for when planning your workouts. Once we understand our training schedule, we can assess the rest of our week and determine if and when we need to add additional workouts to improve our conditioning. Some guys lift weights, others do yoga and some run to improve their physical condition.


Energy Systems
How do you know which is right for you?

Before answering that, let’s learn a bit about the body. Our body has 3 energy systems: Phosphogen, Glycolytic and Aerobic.

This is our quick, short term, explosive energy system. Think high intensity, short duration, maximum effort types of exercise like plyometrics, sprints, heavy weightlifting, etc.

This is our mid range, moderate intensity, moderate duration type exercise that burns: 400m runs, high intensity rolling for 1-2minutes, running hills, climbing a rope, etc.

Low power, long duration types of exercise like walking, hiking, jogging, drilling, etc.: 6 mile run, easy laps in a pool, light drilling on the mat, etc.

There are a lot of ways to train these systems, expand on them and help create a bigger battery. Jiu-jitsu requires explosive power, the ability to grind and scramble and the endurance to perform for long periods of time. In order to properly prepare, you must develop all three of these systems effectively. For the ease of understanding these terms, without getting caught up in the jargon, let’s assign each category with a color.

Green – Aerobic – 2 min +
Yellow – Glycolytic: 12sec-2min
Red – Phosphogen: 1-12 seconds

For the remainder of the article, I am going to offer you some workout templates and exercises that fit well into these different categories.


Aerobic Workouts (Green)

Let’s start with our aerobic workouts. Although this system may not be very popular with the fitness world these days, building an efficient aerobic system is the foundation of having good cardio. Typically, people think about long runs (roadwork) or boring bouts of cardio, but it doesn’t always need to be that way. It’s possible to expand the system using a variety of drills. Check out the three different types of workouts below:

Aerobic Cruise
60-120sec ON, 2-5min OFF,
repeat 5-10 times.
You can roll, run, crawl, climb, carry, bike, swim, pull ropes, drag weights or similar.

The 2-5 min OFF may seem excessive at first, but remember, the goal is to expand our aerobic capacity, so stick to the plan.

Heavy Mo’
10-12sec ON, 1-3min OFF between goes, repeat 15-20 times.
Sprinting hills, resisted crawls, resisted VersaClimber sprints, pushing sleds, heavy ropes, dragging chains/tires or similar.

Heavy resistance, high intensity for a short time, then rest for 1-3minutes before repeating.

Aerobic Plyos
8-10sec ON, 10-30sec OFF,
repeat for 5-10 minutes.
Choose a low/moderate intensity plyometric drill like skipping or lateral leaps and perform the exercise for 8-10sec, then rest for 10-30sec in between sets. Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Skipping, hopping, leaping, jumping in multiple planes of motion, towel taz, rope tsunamis, rope sidewinders.

Steady Eddie
Low intensity, longer duration.
Running, biking, swimming, paddle board, light ropes or similar.

These longer, low intensity bouts are great for recovery, flushing out the system and building the aerobic base.


It shouldn’t be the only thing you do, but definitely should be included in your schedule.


Corey has been a strength coach for 16 years and works with a variety of combat athletes in Southern California. He owns Innovative Results gym in Costa Mesa, CA and founded a site called, that provides strength and conditioning advice for MMA fighters, jiu-jitsu players and other combat athletes.
One Comment
  • Arturo
    14 September 2015 at 4:28 pm
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    I just want to verify If I understood the conclusion of your article correctly. So you are saying if I train jiu jitsu 3 times a week I have to workout 6 times a week and allowing Sunday to be my rest day? Is that correct? I am basing this information of the chart under where you wrote this on the last page of the article.

    So, if you train three times per week for jiu-jitsu and add 3 other workouts, your week might look something like this:

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