Should you really improve your cardio for BJJ?
In reality, it depends on your level and goals. Your cardio will obviously get better. The law of adaptation dictates that the response to a stimulus decreases as the stimulus is repeated. So yes, rolling will make you better and as you’ll gain experience, it will get easier. A similar law has to do with what is called Sensory Adaptation or Neural Adaptation, whereas Adaptation is defined in terms of changes in the body’s sense receptors. An example is the eye’s adjustment to the dark, or better yet, when you decide to go try another school and a big ass guy comes at you when it’s time to drill cross side.
Defining physiological adaptations, which is what we do when we start learning and training, is our body’s internal systematic responses to an external stimuli in order to help maintain homeostasis, where controlling cortisol, energy expenditure, heart rate, etc, is the task at hand.
Goals determine the outcome and the work to be done. If you are training, doing drills, the regular classes and go on with your day, and had zero experience in sports or did any physical activity prior to it, you will gain cardio capacity in a matter of weeks.
But is it your cardio that is getting better or you are learning to control your breathing, learning how to be efficient, not panic and use strength when you need it most and chill when you know you are not in danger? I would say a bit of both, but as you’ll gain experience, you’ll get better and your cardio will be at a standstill. Why? I’m sorry to say but you’ll get lazier…just don’t choke the messenger.
Welcome to competition training…
“Where there’s discomfort, there’s fear,” he said. “In these very tough positions, you’re in a little piece of hell. And through this daily suffering, you learn to survive in these situations. You have to find comfort in the uncomfortable situations. You have to be able to live your worst nightmare. It puts you completely in the moment where you must have complete focus on finding a solution to the problem. This trains the mind to build that focus, to increase your awareness, your capacity to solve problems. Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing.”
This is by far the most perfect way of describing competition training. We often discuss many subjects after we roll, some sort of psychological release. Those post roll philosophical talks on the mats with our brothers and sisters are often memorable. Some came to the conclusion that the training and preparation leading up to the competition is more memorable and self-fulfilling than the actual competition itself. You could train all you want, nerves always take over which is why most dread the day of the competition more than the training to get there. I already bring this up in some previous posts but this is the main reason why you need to prepare your cardio vascular capacities, especially in those highly stressful situations.
You are in a complete unknown territory, so stress levels are unusually high. You don’t want to look dumb, or you don’t want to get beaten, to show that you don’t give up easily. This type of response will dig deep into your central nervous system.
“Survival factors affected by the CNS system’’
- Once activated, the CNS pushes the heart rate from its normal level of 60-80 bpm to more than 200 bpm in seconds.
- The optimal range for a combat performance is between 115-145 bpm
After 115 bpm, dexterity begins to deteriorate
At 145 bpm, complex motor skills begin to deteriorate and judgment begins to be affected. Ex: reaction time to potentially dangerous situations.
At 175 bpm, the only physical actions you can control are the overall motor abilities. (crawling, running and climbing)
You will quickly go to the last level, 175 and up. You’ll probably gas out, unable to use strength to get out, or just grab something since your grips will give out…
Unfortunately, that’s only in the first minute or so. You still have 4 minutes ahead of you. So, the prepared athlete will always take the lead. Being able to withstand this type of heart rate fluctuation and stress is why you should have a good cardio vascular system. Don’t worry, the more competition you’ll do, the better you’ll deal with it, but the anxiety will never go away, embrace it.
How you should do cardio is the next question you should ask.
Cardio endurance is in my opinion the baseline, which is what you will build in the first few months but after that, you are coasting, even detraining in some cases just because you learn how to move and roll more efficiently.
I agree with the fact that there is no better way to roll than by rolling hard, with advanced belts. Get in trouble, get there often, and repeat as fast as possible, fuck rest betweens rolls, as little as possible. Make your training worst than it is in competition. The more you sweat in training, the less you’ll bleed in battle.
But is there another way to improve cardio capacity besides rolling harder and cutting breaks? Yes…
For our athletes, we like to do sport specific modified strongman training. We build the session around the perfect blend of strength, power, agility while pushing the boundaries of strength endurance, which is relatively how rolls are. If you look at the sport, we need grip strength, power and explosiveness for throws, takedowns and sweeps and also to get out of trouble. We bring in the techniques and exercises to improve all these abilities by blocks, following given periodization schemes depending on competition preps and weight classes.
Why should you do cardio, besides improving performance? Just for overall health of the respiratory system. You’ll maximize nutrient delivery, thus improving recovery and recuperation.
But here is the drawback, too much of a good thing could cost you. What you have to look out for is the fact that the there is an inverse relationship between endurance work and strength. As you do more cardio (endurance), you’ll lose out on strength as they are on the complete opposite of the spectrum. See it as if you are training to make a pro powerlifter do a marathon or vice versa, doesn’t make sense right?
Look at your game from different perspectives. What is your weakest chain, where are you lacking, what should you improve? You are only as good as the weaknesses that are holding you down.