Sunday, July 26, 2015

Conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu: Generally Speaking

Question: Which off-mat, general conditioning technique is best for the jiu-jitsu artist?  

A. Running
B. Cycling
C. Rowing
D. Climbing
E. Other

Answer: A few years ago, a teammate and fellow black belt talked about how his BMX cycling was helping his guard work, and I've been intrigued ever since.

Now that I've joined a commercial gym and have access to a few resources, I'm going to start doing more of my general aerobic work on the bike instead of the treadmill or box step.

The "why" here is straightforward.  Pedaling doesn't exactly mimic the kind of extending and contracting with the legs that takes place in the guard (especially the open guard).  But it is impressively close - especially when we remember that we are talking about general rather than specific conditioning in this instance.

I'm also a big fan of rowing. In fact, I'm thinking that a combination of cycling and rowing might be optimal forms of general conditioning for jiu-jitsu artists. Both provide opportunities to improve aerobic capacity/output and power through LSD and intervals. And even though it's hard to advocate additional sitting in anyone's life, there's a strong argument that cycling might trump running for jiu-jitsu artists looking for conditioning techniques that are both effective and mimic as much as possible jiu-jitsu movements.

Rowing involves a great degree of upper body, horizontal pulling - which also has especially guard-friendly applications in terms of general conditioning. Like cycling, rowing has the "sitting down problem", but insofar as we're focused on which general conditioning activities are most supportive of jiu-jitsu, the benefits of 20-30 minutes cycling or rowing likely outweigh the downside of further improving the weight-bearing ability of your backside.

As for climbing, I think climbing as a conditioning strategy for jiu-jitsu is a perfect example of the "jiu-jitsu is isometric" fallacy that you still hear from some folks from time to time.

And with regard to the "Other" category, there are general conditioning strategies and resources, the most interesting to me being tools like the Versaclimber. And while the VersaClimber is a very attractive piece of equipment, most people have a much harder time accessing one compared to a bike or even a rowing machine - to say nothing of a treadmill, track, or trail.

Read previous installments of my Conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu series: