If you have spent any time watching top-level jiu-jitsu players you might have noticed that many of them are quite ripped. After all, grappling sports like BJJ and wrestling are some of the most physically demanding sports in the world. But will BJJ alone get you ripped?
BJJ is a good workout and can be a tool for helping you get lean and muscular. However, without a good diet and workout plan, BJJ alone is not likely going to get you ripped like Gordon Ryan or Andre Galvao.
Before going into more detail let me explain what I mean by getting ripped. Being ripped would imply that you not only have a decent amount of muscle but that you are also lean enough for your muscles to be well-defined.
This means to be truly ripped, then you need a good amount of muscle while also being at a low body fat level.
Why BJJ Alone Won’t Get You Ripped
Unless you are just extremely genetically blessed it takes quite a bit of discipline and dedication to get ripped like top-level grapplers. Most if not all of these players not only train BJJ many times per week, but they are also on strict diet plans as well as a strength and conditioning regime.
In addition, many of these athletes do have great genetics to go along with their hard work ethic.
Also though I would not accuse anyone in particular of taking performance-enhancing drugs, we can assume that it certainly does happen in the sport. That said if you are a natural athlete you never know if the person you are comparing yourself to is taking something to enhance their body.
Don’t get me wrong BJJ is a fantastic workout that will certainly help you burn a ton of calories. It’s just that if you want to get ”ripped” with BJJ you will likely need to follow a good diet and strength training plan as well. In addition, it will take some time and probably will not be easy.
Will BJJ Build Muscle?
No matter how lean you get you will never really look ripped unless you first have built up some muscle. This might make you wonder if BJJ itself will help you build muscle. Well, this really depends on your current level of muscular development.
If you have never picked up a weight in your life then the extra stress on your muscles when rolling BJJ will likely help you build more muscle. However, BJJ alone is only going to take you so far. After a while, you are going want to do some progressive strength training in order to add more mass.
If you have been lifting weights for some time then BJJ will likely not do much in the way of adding more muscle mass. In fact, I actually lost quite a bit of muscle when I started doing Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. Not because Jui-Jitsu itself caused me to lose muscle but because I was sacrificing time I had previously devoted to weight training on BJJ.
When I started BJJ I was actually running my own strength training company. Strength training was and still is a very important part of my life. At the time I was devoting most days to weight training. However, after I got serious about BJJ I decided to spend more time at my BJJ academy instead.
The technical aspect of BJJ, after all, is the most important part of a solid BJJ game. That said if two BJJ competitors are of equal skill the stronger of the two will likely be the winner. Strength still plays a major role in just about any sport. This is most definitely true when it comes to competitive grappling.
If your goal is to be good at BJJ then you should not think about strength training as being separate from your BJJ. Instead, think about it as a tool to help you become a better overall grappler. Anyone who is serious about BJJ should be doing at least one or two strength training workouts per week at a minimum.
Is BJJ Good Cardio?
So we already talked about BJJ for building muscle but what about cardio? Typically we think of jogging or jumping rope as cardio. However, anything that gets your cardiovascular system working at a higher than usual compacity can be cardio.
Technically speaking cardio is any exercise that is aerobic in nature. Meaning your body is dependent on using oxygen to meet your energy demands. In this case, then yes BJJ can be an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. In fact, BJJ is both a great form of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
I for one can attest to the fact that I am usually gasping for air after a hard rolling session. In fact, if you are trying to get in shape for a BJJ competition then doing rounds of BJJ is likely the best form of cardio to focus on. After all, if you want to get become a more efficient runner the best thing to do is run.
So if you want to improve your BJJ cardio the best way to do it is with BJJ rolling. That said, if you are simply wondering if BJJ is good for your cardiovascular health, I would say that it is. That said, it probably would not hurt to throw in a little bit of steady-state cardio such as jogging or riding a bike.
How To Get Ripped For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
As you can see BJJ is a great workout. That said, it will probably not get you ripped without a solid diet and weight training plan. Being ripped implies that you are both well-muscled and very lean. The first is to evaluate where you are at the moment.
Perhaps you already have a good amount of muscle but just need to lean up a bit. Or maybe you are already lean but simply need to add some size. Or most likely you probably need to both add muscle and lose a fair amount of body fat. Think about where you are in the mix and we will develop a strategy from there.
Scenario 1 You Have Plenty Of Muscle But Need To Lose Some Fat
Let’s say you already have a fair amount of muscle but you simply need to get very lean. What you are going to want to do is burn more calories than you are consuming while trying to keep as much muscle as possible. Since you already have a fair bit of muscle I am going to assume that you already have a good weight training program.
Now is the time to reduce your calories while still lifting the same amount of weight at the gym. This is not a time to try and set personal best at the gym. Simply not losing strength is the goal. Of course, it is normal to lose a small amount of strength when leaning out. However, if you are losing strength fast it might be a sign that you are trying to lose weight too quickly.
My advice is to reduce your calories to 500-1000 below your maintenance calories. That is the number of calories it takes to maintain your current body weight. For most people, this is somewhere around 15 times their current body weight in calories. You can check out this calculator as well to get an estimate of how many calories you burn in a day.
Both of those are simply estimates however it is a good place to start. Once you find out your maintenance calories simply reduce your daily calories by 500-1000 below that number. For a smaller individual, you should stick closer to the 500. If you are bigger or have quite a bit of body fat to lose then you can cut calories by up to 1000 below maintenance. By eating 500 calories under maintenance you should lose roughly one pound per week.
In addition, you are going to want to eat at least one gram of protein per pound of goal body weight. So if your goal is to weigh 170 pounds then you should eat 170 grams or more of protein per day. This will help to keep you from losing muscle. In addition, get in some extra rolls in to help burn some extra calories.
Scenario 2 You’re Already Lean But Need To Add Some Size
In this scenario, you are going to want to add muscle slowly without adding much body fat. Instead of eating below maintenance calories, you are going to want to eat more calories than you burn. This way you have calories to turn into muscle. I would suggest eating 250-5oo calories more than your maintenance. Since you are going to be training jiu-jitsu and lifting weights I suggest most of these calories come from carbohydrates. Carbs help supply our energy and replenish our muscle glycogen.
In addition, aim for about one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Along with this, you are going to focus on getting stronger and building muscle. There are a ton of great weight training programs out there. Just make sure to pick one that focuses on compound lifts and progressive overload. In other words, a program where the goal is to get stronger on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, and pullups.
Of course, you do not want this to get in the way of your BJJ training. That said, you can make good progress with only 2-3 weight training sessions per week. If you find you are not gaining weight you might need to add a few more calories. That said, building muscle takes time so do not expect to gain more than a couple of pounds of muscle per month unless you are completely new to lifting.
On the other hand, if you are starting to gain some fat you may be eating too many calories. The goal is to stay as lean as possible while gaining muscle. That said, expect to add a few pounds of fat when trying to gain muscle. You can drop those few extra pounds afterward. Besides, that keep training your BJJ as often as you can.
Scenario 3 You Need To Lose Fat And Gain Muscle
If you need to both lose fat and gain muscle then I would suggest you start by getting lean first. Trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time is very difficult if not impossible. I would suggest you get lean first.
After you are lean then add muscle. There are several advantages to gaining muscle once you are already lean. The first is that you can easily monitor if you are putting on weight too fast. When you are lean it is easier to tell if the mass you are putting on is muscle or fat. Another advantage is you will always close to your ideal competition weight if you decide to compete.
No matter what program you are on, weight lifting should always be part of your routine. All the while making sure you are doing plenty of BJJ for cardio and to keep your technique dialed in.