Running For BJJ: Should You Run For Conditioning?

March 18, 2022

Long 5 am runs are ingrained in tradition within martial arts. Within BJJ, however, roadwork doesn’t have such a hold on the grappling art as it does with boxing. But is running an effective method for BJJ?

Running for BJJ can be an effective way to develop aerobic and anaerobic endurance. However, running will not fully prepare you for the rigors of BJJ.

If running isn’t going to prepare you for BJJ completely, why do so many people do it?

Benefits Of Running For BJJ

Even if you don’t enjoy running, there are some benefits to running for BJJ, which is why it is so popular.

Get Outside

As with most martial arts, you’re stuck inside for hours every day you train. Sometimes, getting outside in nature and breathing fresh air can be great for the mind. Not to mention, vitamin D is vital for bone health and regulating hormones.

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As Graeme Morris states in Sweet Science of Fighting podcast episode #2, getting outside to run can be worth more than trying always to be so specific to the sport and being stuck indoors.

Control The Intensity

It’s difficult to control the intensity when in a BJJ class or rolling. This means you are going hard and redlining or drilling too light to improve BJJ conditioning. Running allows you to control the intensity to target different adaptations and energy systems.

While all three energy systems supply energy during exercise, we can preferentially target one over the others based on exercise intensity. Low intensity, steady-state running will develop our aerobic energy system.

Short and sharp, high-intensity interval training at maximal or near-maximal effort will target the anaerobic lactic energy system. Pure sprints with complete rest will target the alactic energy system.

Running is an easy way to do this.

Disadvantages Of Running For BJJ

Is Running Good For BJJ

But it’s not all benefits when running for BJJ. There are some serious disadvantages to consider.

Not Full Body

While an advantage of running is controlling the intensity, targeting energy systems isn’t the only factor underpinning conditioning for BJJ. Adaptations also happen at the muscular level to use the oxygen being delivered to them.

Running is primarily a lower-body activity. So, the endurance adaptations mainly take place in the legs. However, as you may know from experience, BJJ is also fatiguing for the upper body. Unfortunately, running isn’t going to prepare you for wrestling endurance, where you need to grip and fight for position.

Doesn’t Replicate BJJ Movements

BJJ conditioning is more than just energy systems and physiological adaptations in movement economy. Movement economy is a vital part of overall conditioning that is often overlooked. If you can perform a movement more efficiently, it takes less energy to perform and, therefore, is easier.

The only way to develop this is through performing the movements themselves repeatedly. This is why specific BJJ conditioning is so important and typically more beneficial than running. For example, shadow wrestling and BJJ solo drills.

Increase Injury Risk During Maximum Efforts

Regardless of how unrelated they are to BJJ, most exercises will always have a purpose, depending on the individual. However, one exercise I will never recommend for a BJJ athlete is a sprint. The risk to reward ratio is skewed far towards the risk.

Sprinting is an eccentrically high force, high-velocity exercise for the hamstrings. If you are not adequately prepared for sprinting or your sprint mechanics are terrible, you are bound to pull a hamstring.

Is Running Good For BJJ?

Running can be good for BJJ when used in moderation and for the right reasons. The right reasons being getting outside in the fresh air and providing some variation in training. Further, if you enjoy running, there is no issue with going for a run.

Should You Run For BJJ?

Whether you should run for BJJ is another story. You don’t need to run to maximize BJJ performance. It is just not necessary. So, should you run? Only if you enjoy it and want to do an activity entirely different for BJJ that will provide some general exercise.

Do Sprints Help With BJJ?

As mentioned earlier, sprints are something I would avoid entirely. The risk of injury is too significant, and the benefits to BJJ aren’t enough to offset the risk. If you want to target the alatic energy system, do it with heavy throws and power exercises in the gym.

These will have a far greater transfer to BJJ than sprinting.

Summary

Running for BJJ preparation is unnecessary, but running can be an option if you enjoy going for a run and want an activity to break away from BJJ. It will provide some general conditioning and fresh air outside. However, avoid maximal effort sprinting as the risk of injury is too high.

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About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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