Training for Efficiency and Endurance


In the struggle for increasing mat performance I am always tinkering with my workout routines. It seems that a constant struggle is balancing jiu jitsu training with complementary workouts. I know that the common adage is that if you only have enough time to do one workout, then it should always be jiu jitsu. But I find that I really do better in training if I do some additional workouts off the mats.

The big struggle for me has been learning how much and what type of ancillary training to do, so that the additional workouts don’t burn me out too much. I used to lift heavy weights using the stronglifts program but I found that it left me overly tired when hitting the mats. I also found that the strength I was gaining from lifting heavy didn’t exactly transfer to the mats.

It seems to me that once you reach a certain level of “strong” that being much stronger is not generally going to help jiu jitsu. That’s not to say that if you’re sparring with someone much stronger than you that it won’t be more of a struggle to deal with their attacks, but I think if you have a baseline of strength then that will take you far in jiu jitsu.

I find that having muscular endurance is much more important than having an over-abundance of strength when rolling.  I feel like I can more easily leg press someone if I’m attempting something like an airplane sweep than I can keeping my legs under me when attempting to pass the guard of a strong guard player. My legs simply get tired out trying to scramble around their guard for too long of a time.

It’s the loss of muscular endurance that signals the beginning of the end for me in rolling. My goal is to be able to roll round after round without having my muscles give out from exhaustion (easier said than done for sure). So I’ve been tweaking my workouts to get there, and I’ve found the following routine to be the most helpful so far.

This is probably one of the simpler workouts I’ve done, but so far it has yielded  the best results when it comes to mat performance. Here’s the routine:

  1. Begin with a set of M-100s. This is essentially sets of burpees, mountain climbers, and double jump squats. If you’re unfamiliar with M-100’s, check out this video:
  2. Then do some sort of a core workout. Currently I’m just doing sets of leg raises.
  3. Do as many sets of 10 push-ups that you can.
  4. Follow this with as many sets of 10 body weight squats as  possible.
  5. Next do sets of body weight shoulder presses
  6. Finish with Kettlebell swings and/or Turkish Get-Ups.

That’s the routine. I’m smoked when I finish it, but unlike lifting heavy weights, it doesn’t burn me out so much that it impacts my jiu jitsu training. I find high repetitions of exercises like push-ups and body weight squats transfers well from an endurance perspective to the mats. It’s even mentioned in this Masahiko Kimura documentary that he made his students do 600-1000 push-ups a day. Intense.

Once I finish this routine I’ll get in some jiu jitsu specific solo drills. For this it’s useful to have some mats at home that you can pull out and drill on. I bought some for my basement and they have been very helpful when doing these drills. Before I had the mats I was always banging my knees and shoulders up grinding them into the concrete floor. Even with a Gi on the pressure points of bone on concrete (or on wood floors in the case of the rest of my house) was painful.  If you need some information on purchasing mats for you house, check out this article from bjj-spot.  It’s a nice run-down of affordable mats that should help you decide what’s best for you.

There’s a ton of videos online that describe solo jiu jitsu drills that you can do at home.  I’m currently doing bridge drills, sit-outs, and triangle drills, but I would suggest checking out this video for more ideas:

That’s my current routine, and it’s been helping a lot lately with my stamina on the mats. Workouts tend to evolve over time, and I’m sure that down the road I’ll be getting back into lifting heavy again, but for now this is the most helpful workout for me.

One parting word on efficiency. In addition to building mat stamina, it’s also important to realize that the better your technique is, the more perceived stamina you’ll have on the mats. There really is something to be said for spending a lot of time on the mats for developing your timing and understanding of the game. This all leads to a more efficient game so you don’t expend as much energy to begin with.  Couple that with endurance training, appropriate rest, a good diet and proper breathing and you’ll have a good recipe for healthy,  prolonged sparring.