The biggest misconception in the Jiu Jitsu community is that you need to improve your cardio in order to keep up with your opponent.
The problem with this philosophy is:
Training cardio outside of Jiu Jitsu makes you more tired and less recovered for your cardio training during Jiu Jitsu.
Rolling in Jiu Jitsu is aerobic exercise in itself. In other words, by showing up to Jiu Jitsu and rolling, you are training and improving your cardiovascular system. There is no need to push yourself on a 5 mile run or spend an hour on an elliptical to improve your Jiu Jitsu. If anything, training aerobic exercise outside of Jiu jitsu will hinder your training because you will have already taxed your nervous system before you even step on the mat. The best way to train your cardio for Jiu Jitsu is to train Jiu Jitsu, so you do not need to be doing cardio exercises outside of Jiu Jitsu.
If you are tired of feeling tired, and training cardio is NOT helping, then keep reading to find out what you should do instead.
Learn when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu
At the seminar, Gui Mendes said:
“What separates lower belts from high belts is not cardio. It’s knowing when [and how] to breathe.”
While cardio is important, learning when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is what will make the difference between you and an opponent who has similar, or possibly even better, cardio.
With a strong breath, you can learn to reduce fatigue and improve your focus, both of which are essential when rolling.
How to breathe in Jiu Jitsu
Inhale and Exhale through your nose for as long as you can during a roll. This type of breathing is known to allow more oxygen to get to active tissues, which is essential for muscle energy and endurance. If you want to learn more about nose breathing, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:
Eventually, you will find it very difficult to continue breathing through your nose in the roll. This is a sign to focus on your breathing once again. Focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Relax your mind. Decide how you want to proceed.
If you are interested in this topic and would like to know more, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:
When to breathe in Jiu Jitsu
It’s tempting to work your way to closed guard, side control, mount, etc. and rest once you get there. Avoid this.
Why? Because you have just secured a dominant position and should capitalize on this position before you allow your opponent to recompose themselves and their breath.
The when to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is in the time after you have just tried a submission, sweep, or pass and it did not work, or right before you are about to pass, sweep, take the back, or go to mount.
Improve your endurance with strength training
If you are going to spend time at the gym outside of Jiu Jitsu, then you should be focusing on strength training. Lifting weights with long periods of rest in between sets.
You are already training your cardio by showing up to Jiu Jitsu. What you should focus on improving is your strength. When the muscles are stronger, they are more efficient in the energy that they use.
By giving yourself more time in between sets, you allow your muscles to recover for the next set so that you focus on strength over cardio.
If you want to improve your strength training routine, I encourage you to research kettlebell workouts and programs. I especially would recommend Strong as Hec Programming: Kettle Bell Workouts .
I will also be uploading a Youtube video that outlines my strength training routine. As always, if you have any questions about strength training, feel free to ask me at the gym.