#135 Strength & Cardio Training in BJJ

strength training jiu jitsu
Martin Rooney performing a pull up on the beach in Rio.

So I get a message on our MySpace page from Christian, a member of the Mighty 600,000 from Arizona, wondering if we had any gym routines for Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. So I says to myself, “I don’t, but I know who does”.

Martin Rooney is a professional strength and conditioning coach for athletes of all sports, a purple belt in jiu-jitsu under Ricardo Almeida, and a black belt in judo. Earlier this year Rooney published Training for Warriors: The Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts Workout, a book on ways to improve our strength, conditioning, and flexibility when we are not actually training combat sports. The book currently has received 4.5 out of 5 stars from customer reviews!

In this episode of The FightWorks Podcast, Rooney will cover specific ways folks can complement and improve their jiu-jitsu game with some cardio and strength exercises. We will also cover training when injured (who hasn’t been there?), common mistakes BJJ folks make in the gym, and more!

Thank you Christian for the idea for this show!

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The FightWorks Podcast: Okay so we just talked about what to do for the core, what to do for the upper body, and what to do for the legs when you talked about Roger Gracie. Is there an ideal cardio workout to mimic what I’m doing on the mats to prepare me when I can’t go out and train with my buddies? What can I do cardio-wise to better my jiu-jitsu when I’m away from the mats?

Martin Rooney: When you say, “ideal”, it would be tempting for me to say, “Yeah of course, there’s this one perfect silver bullet”, but I don’t believe that exists. I believe there are a lot of ways to skin the cat. I think it depends a lot on the individual and what they enjoy. The biggest suggestion that I can make is that when we say “mimic”, the best way to look at it is there are intervals of very high intense work with short periods of recovery and then high intense work. So I will say that getting on the elliptical or walking on the treadmill is not the way to do it, or riding the bike for 30 minutes, because that is just using one energy system, and predominantly not the one that is used during jiu-jitsu. So if you look at jiu-jitsu, jiu-jitsu is a series of fast movements and using strength, and then recovering, getting comfortable in a position, and then doing it again, repeating it, and being able to do that for a long time. So the answer that I have, at least from my system is what we call “Hurricane Training”. We utilize sprinting and quick weight exercises or body movements that mimic jiu-jitsu right back into that cardiovascular exercise again and we repeat that for up to 20 minutes straight. That’s been the form that we’ve used and a lot of people now around the world are using it and really have had great benefit. But there are so many different ways you can do it. My advice would be that you utilize a system that does a little bit of hard work, then a little bit of recovery, and you repeat that over a period of time. That’s going to be what will best condition you cardiovascularly. And we call it solo training because you don’t need a partner to do a lot of these drills and still improve your technique for jiu-jitsu.

The FightWorks Podcast: Let’s say Martin, that I’m a guy or girl listening to this right now and I say, “You know what you’re right, I need to get down to the gym and work on these other kind of activities aside from all my mat work and jiu-jitsu stuff. I’m going to go to a gymnasium. I’m going to start doing cardio, I’m going to start doing weights…” What’s the minimum that that person should budget per week in terms of how many hours on one night [at the gym] and so on?

Martin Rooney: That’s another great question. I usually tell people, “Hey, according to your schedule and everything, first off you gotta do what you can.” My recommendation thought would be three workouts a week aside from your jiu-jitsu. That would be the minimum. And the maximum would probably be four or five. So what’s interesting though is when I usually say, “do three or four”, people say, “oh well if Martin said three or four what he really means is seven but I don’t have time for seven so you know what? I’m not going to do any.” So I’m just giving that disclaimer: guys, I’m telling you it’s three. Get in there and do a really good upper body day, and a little bit of cardio. Do a really hard lower body day and some abs. And then do one day when you really work conditioning, because at your jiu-jitsu you’re working conditioning a couple of days as well! Don’t forget, your jiu-jitsu is still going to improve your conditioning and some of your strength too. But there’s nothing like building some of those things outside of there to then apply to it when you get back in. So the answer to that one Caleb, I would say three days a week. It doesn’t have to be two hour marathons. If you’re in the gym for two hours, you’re making friends, not lifting weights. Get in there, get done in 45 minutes, and get back to your life. You’re going to feel better about yourself. And don’t think you have to be doing this seven days a week. You’re doing the right thing with three or four.

3 Replies to “#135 Strength & Cardio Training in BJJ”

  1. I like the podcast imma beggining muay thai fighter and beginning in bjj out ov lansing mi I found your podcast very informing entertaining, educational, and fun to listen to keep doin them

  2. I like the recommendations. I’m just curious about being in the gym for an hour and a half to two hours. I try to workout for at least an hour and a half. Now, I have to switch the workouts that I’m doing, but I try to go in and do a 4 body part split during the week and then I do circuit training/kettlebell workouts/swim/etc. I don’t make friends when I’m in the gym. I keep my iPod on full blast and don’t ever take my headphones off till i’m finished. I try to do Jiu-Jitsu at least 3 hours a week as well. I consume a lot of proteins and amino acids to keep my strength and energy levels up and I eat healthy. My question. Is this bad or good? I have found it to be very beneficial. My cardio is phenomenal while doing jiu-jitsu and my strength is only increasing.

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