Is BJJ A Good Workout? Physical Benefits Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Is BJJ a Good Workout ( William Tackett and Kody Steele )

Are you looking for a fun way to get a workout and possibly even lose a few pounds? If so you might have thought about giving Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a try. The fact that BJJ is a good workout is just one of its many benefits. 

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a great full-body workout. BJJ is a fun way to burn extra calories, work your muscles, and challenge your cardiovascular system. All in all, BJJ is an excellent way to get in shape. 

However, there are a few things to consider before choosing BJJ as a workout. The first thing to consider is that BJJ like any sport has the potential for injury. We will cover that later in the article but first lets look at why BJJ is a great workout!

BJJ Is A Great Cardiovascular Workout

One of the biggest benefits of BJJ is that jiu-jitsu is a great cardio workout. This is especially true if you participate in hard-rolling sessions. 

It is not uncommon for BJJ academies to do 3-5 live rounds of BJJ that last 5-12 minutes each. Try that out and you will know immediately that BJJ is a good workout for improving your cardiovascular system.

The Cardiovascular Benefits Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Might Include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Better Sleep
  • Improved Blood Pressure
  • Reduced Health Risks
  • Stamina
  • Mood
  • Longer Lifespan and so much more

So if you are looking for a fun way to get in some extra cardio give BJJ a shot. It sure beats jogging or swimming laps in my opinion. Because BJJ is such a great cardio workout it can also aid in weight loss if that is the goal. 

How Many Calories Does BJJ Burn

Rolling BJJ will certainly help you burn some extra calories. If you were to roll for an hour straight you can estimate that you would burn somewhere in the ballpark of 3-5 calories per pound of body weight depending on the intensity of the roll.

So if you weigh 150 pounds you would likely lose somewhere between 450-750 calories during one hour of rolling. With that in mind, BJJ can certainly help you burn some extra calories especially if you are rolling multiple times per week.

Of course, losing fat is a matter of burning more calories than you consume. So if you want to lose weight you will need to also control the total amount of calories you consume per day. If you do not keep track of this then the extra calories burned during exercise can easily be replaced with extra calories from food.

After all, a hard training session will likely spike your hunger and cause you to eat more food. So if you are not tracking the amount of food you consume it could simply become a wash.

That said, if you control your food intake, the calories burned during a BJJ workout can help you lose extra body fat and help you reach your fitness goals faster.

BJJ Can Help You Lose Fat

If you eat below your body maintenance calories ( calories needed to stay at your current weight) the extra calories burned from BJJ will help you burn some extra fat and get lean.

Your maintenance calories are likely somewhere in the range of 13-16 times your body weight per day. So once again if you weigh 150 pounds your maintenance calories are likely somewhere between 1950-2400 calories per day.

Of course, this is not a perfect science and truthfully no online calculator can perfectly predict your maintenance calories. It is, however, a good tool to help you estimate your daily calorie expenditure.

If you have a very sedentary life or you are very overweight I would suggest multiplying your body weight by 13-14. However, if you are more active then use a higher multiple in the 15-16 range. By eating below your maintenance you will lose weight.

To lose one pound of fat you need to burn 3500 calories. This equates to a roughly 500-calorie deficit per day to lose a pound a week. This can be achieved through diet or by burning extra calories through exercise. Shoot for losing somewhere between .5 and 1% of your body weight per week.

Is BJJ A Good Workout For Muscle Building?

Though BJJ will require some amount of strength, it would be a poor choice of exercise for building muscle. Don’t get me wrong if you have never done any amount of strength training in your life you might put some muscle into training BJJ.

However, I would not expect to look like a bodybuilder or superhero by simply doing BJJ. When I got into BJJ I was heavy into lifting weights. As I got more into BJJ I started to lose a fair amount of strength and muscle.

This is not to say that BJJ alone will cause you to lose muscle. It was because I was spending much less time focusing on lifting weights and more time training BJJ. The added BJJ workout will also affect your recovery ability.

Naturally, the added stress of a hard BJJ session will affect your central nervous system and fatigue your muscles. So when you might have had the recovery ability to lift weights five days a week before BJJ, you might not only have the ability to recover from 3 hard weight-lifting sessions.

There is, of course, a balance but if your only goal is to get as muscular as possible then I would suggest sticking to lifting weights. Or at least put more of a focus on lifting weights.

BJJ and Strength Training Is a Great Combo

I still love to lift weights and I still try my best to build as much muscle as I can. That said, I understand that by prioritizing BJJ I might not be able to lift as much as I could when it was my main hobby.

Today I focus more on using strength training to enhance my BJJ. In fact, I think that everyone who wants to improve their BJJ should do some amount of strength training.

Though BJJ does focus on leverage and technique, strength is still very important in just about any sport. Sure a more skilled BJJ practitioner might beat a stronger less skilled practitioner.

But if they are equally skilled the stronger BJJ practitioner has a huge advantage. So don’t neglect the fact that athleticism still has a major impact on your abilities in BJJ.

Balancing BJJ and Weight Training

Strength training will help you to become better at jiu-jitsu. However, working on your technique is even more important. So unless you have all the time in the world you will simply need to find a good balance between the two.

I would suggest strength training at least twice per week but three or four sessions might be even better. This all depends on what is realistic with your schedule and what you can recover from.

A good strength training program for BJJ should incorporate progressive overload principles on major compound exercises. In addition, it should include some corrective exercises specifically for BJJ.

Though BJJ is a good workout, you will also need to add in strength training if you want to build muscle as well.

BJJ For Flexibility

As you have probably noticed many BJJ players are pretty darn flexible. Doing BJJ will certainly help some people to become more flexible.

That said, most of these flexible BJJ players did not become flexible by simply practicing jiu-jitsu. More likely they worked on becoming flexible outside of BJJ to help enhance their game. Or they were already naturally flexible before starting jiu-jitsu. 

It is not much different than the people who lift weights to become stronger for BJJ. That said, BJJ will certainly help inspire or give you a reason to become more flexible.

So if you want to become more flexible then you will likely need to work on this outside of class. This can be achieved with a mix of mobility work, stretching, or even yoga.

This is something you will likely have to work on constantly if you wish to remain flexible. Genetic factors greatly determine your level of flexibility.

For example, I am not naturally flexible and need to put in a lot of time to become more flexible. William Tackett on the other hand, is naturally very flexible. He has even had physical setbacks because he was ” too” flexible.

BJJ Is A Great Full Body Workout

BJJ is a great full-body workout. This is especially true for getting a good cardiovascular workout that will help you burn some extra calories. BJJ along with reducing calories from your diet can be a great combo to help you lose weight.

However, BJJ alone is probably not the best workout if your main goal is to build muscle. However, BJJ and strength training together can be a great way to develop a great overall workout plan.

Lastly, though BJJ might help some with flexibility, most of the very flexible BJJ players developed their flexibility outside of the BJJ academy. Or they were simply genetically flexible naturally.

Do You Need To Be Fit To Do BJJ?

Don’t wait to become fit before you start BJJ. After all, BJJ is a great full-body workout that will help you get into better shape. So don’t wait until you are fit to start practicing BJJ. It is what is going to help you get into shape.

Too many people I know tell me they are going to join BJJ but they want to wait until they are in shape before starting. I guess they are afraid that if they are not in good shape they are going to have a hard time rolling and feel embarrassed. 

I hate to break it to them but you might feel embarrassed your first time rolling BJJ even if you are in good shape. After all, BJJ is a very humbling experience. 

In addition, the best way to get conditioned for BJJ is by doing the sport itself. Doing other forms of training to get in good shape but BJJ is what will get you in shape for BJJ.

Doing other forms of activity before starting BJJ is like swimming to get in shape for running. Running is the best way to get in shape for running and BJJ is the best way to get in shape for BJJ. So don’t wait to get in shape for BJJ. Instead, use BJJ to help you get fit and into shape. 

Is BJJ A Good Enough Workout On Its Own

If you are only looking for a fun way to get some cardio or burn some calories BJJ alone might be enough. However, I think that everyone would benefit from doing strength training.

Don’t get me wrong BJJ is a good workout but strength training plus BJJ is even better. I’m not saying that you need to be lifting weights every day, but even 1 to 2 strength training sessions per week can greatly improve your quality of life. 

In addition, strength training is only going to make you better at BJJ. So don’t be afraid that adding some muscle is going to slow you down or anything like that. Muscle makes you fast and powerful.

As long as you are a natural athlete you are not going to look like a bodybuilder by adding a few strength training sessions to your BJJ routine.

So even though BJJ alone might be a good enough workout for some people. I think the best route is to do a combination of BJJ, strength training, mobility work, and maybe a bit of extra light cardio. 

BJJ Is A Great Workout But Does Have A Risk Of Injury

Of course, you could get injuries while working out at the gym as well. That said, it is much less likely as long as you are working out properly. Injuries are common in just about any sport and are certainly not exclusive to BJJ.

It is just that if your only goal is to get a good workout then you might want to simply join the local gym. However, if you want to burn some calories and learn excellent martial art, then BJJ is a great option.

BJJ has many other benefits as well such as learning to defend yourself and building confidence. Not to mention that jiu-jitsu is a lot of fun. That said, not only is BJJ a good workout, but it is also just a great skill to learn altogether.

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