I’m not saying cardio isn’t important. It definitely is. In fact, it’s extremely important; just not as important as getting strong. Why? Let’s go through some of the reasons together.
1. You Need to be Strong for Your Weight Class
I’m a big guy. I compete against the biggest of the big when I go to a tournament. There is a huge strength disparity in my weight class. Since some guys are big just because they’re fat, they might not have much muscle and are easily over-powered. Others are in the weight class because they are very muscular.
I don’t advocate becoming a bodybuilder to compete in BJJ. You just need to make sure you’re as strong, or stronger than the bulk of people in your weight class. If you are stronger than most of your opponents, you are more easily able to manipulate their bodies as you need to.
2. Strength = Better Cardio
This might not immediately make sense, but allow me a moment to explain. Say you come in to a competition literally twice as strong as your opponent. That means in order for you to match their strength, you only have to use half of your strength.
Who is going to get tired faster in that situation? The weaker guy, of course. He might have amazing cardio, but without the strength to match you, he’s going to use all of that energy way before you ever do.
3. You will Move Better When You’re Stronger
When a person is strong, they can make big movements more easily. There is a reason most BJJ schools have you do a dynamic warm-up at the beginning of class. It’s not just to get your muscles warm and your blood pumping. It’s also to strengthen some muscles you may not work often in your everyday routine.
Take shrimping drills for instance. They exist so BJJ practitioners can better move their hips. It’s a drill for your core muscles. A strong core alone will make your BJJ game better by leaps and bounds. It will allow you to easily work from guard or escape from bottom.
So how do we get stronger? Well, as Justin Curtis said, “The best way to get stronger is to get under the bar and squat, deadlift, clean, press, and bench.”
Does that mean you should stop doing cardio? No. Not even. I would recommend still doing cardio, but it really becomes more important after you’ve built up your strength a little bit.
So lift hard, using a good program (we wrote about an excellent starting program HERE), and make sure you pick a good protein powder to finish off a session with. I recommend a protein powder with more of an Isolate than a Concentrate (Isolates are absorbed faster and better by the body).
Now get out there and get strong!