The most important thing to remember when beginning a jiu jitsu conditioning routine is that for the best results, it should be as sport specific as possible. An ordinary workout might make you stronger, but not necessarily a better grappler. In order to become both stronger and a more effective jiu jitsu player, you should concentrate on two primary areas: lung capacity and muscle endurance.
- Increase your lung capacity. The good news is that you will use your lung capacity less as your jiu jitsu skill and technique increases. A very skillful grappler who knows how to conserve energy correctly will rarely find himself winded, at least when rolling with a player of similar or lesser skill. Still, it is always wise to have far more lung capacity then is needed, simply to prevent any possibility of a losing a match to a player of similar skill because of his superior conditioning. Increasing lung capacity is one of the less complicated components of a good jiu jitsu conditioning routine. In addition to your regular roll sessions, any exercise that increases your heart rate will help. In order of their effectiveness for jiu jitsu, you should run, bike and especially swim on a regular basis. One of the best strategies is to mirror your jiu jitsu match length. For example, if you are training for a tournament with six minute rounds, train by swimming (for example) for six minutes as intensely as possible. Catch your breath for 60 seconds after the round, then repeat as many times as possible — at least as many times as you could have matches during the tournament.
- Increase your muscle endurance. Aside from your actual jiu jitsu practice, the most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness as a grappler is enhance your muscle endurance. Even the most technical grappler will sometimes find himself in a situation (particularly when paired with another grappler of similar skill) that an attempted submission, sweep or other move is countered with an equally technical move. In this situation, the two factors impacting which grappler imposes their will on the other are first, the speed and fluidity with which they transition from move to move, and second, which one of them is forced to abandon their attempt first due to muscle fatigue. One of the best tools you can use to enhance your muscle endurance is simple heavy elastic bands. Squats, upright rows, good mornings, forward presses, band curls, etc. are all far more effective for jiu jitsu if performed against the resistance of an elastic band. This gradually increasing resistance throughout the exercise simulates an opponent's resistance very well. Just as with the lung capacity exercises, mirror your match length. Divide the round length by the number of exercises you are incorporating that round, then transition directly from one to the next. Don't rest until you've reached the round's end!
- Roll! At the end of the day, no routine you can do will condition you for jiu jitsu as well as well as simply doing jiu jitsu. Drill, train and roll, and both your lung capacity and your lung capacity will increase dramatically (not to mention, of course, your technique and skill). That is not to say that separate routines like the ones mentioned above have no value — quite the contrary! You will see your best results by alternating days, one day for the exercises listed under the lung capacity heading, and the next day for those under the muscle endurance heading (mixed with one or two rest days per week). But these exercise should be only supplemental to your jiu jitsu training, particularly since they can be performed without the assistance of a partner. As long as you keep these supplemental exercises from interfering with your specific jiu jitsu training, you should see your endurance and power make dramatic increases.