BRIEF REVIEW: Energy Systems in BJJ


Physical preparation for any sport requires a thorough understanding of the specific physical demands and dominant energy systems. BJJ is a sport consisting of repeated, intermittent, high-energy bursts of activity, and as such, requires contribution from all energy systems. 

This study sought to investigate the relative energy systems contribution using a sample of 10 male international-level (Purple-black belt) BJJ athletes. Preliminary assessment involved an incremental treadmill VO2 Max test, and a time-to-exhaustion treadmill test at 110% of VMAx

They then underwent 3 sessions of BJJ assessment with a partner of similar body mass, each consisting of one set each of armbar, takedown and guard pass, at a randomly selected duration of 30, 60 or 90 seconds, with 30 minutes rest in between. VO2 and HR were measured throughout, and the following values were recorded:

  • Peak VO2
  • Mean VO2 throughout the sets
  • Mean VO2 in the 10min following
  • Total VO2 through the sets and the recovery period

Aerobic contribution (V̇O2AER) was calculated from the incremental area under the curve of the V̇O2 during the BJJ sets(subtracting V̇O2 rest from V̇O2 effort), using the trapezoidal method. Alactic contribution was calculated by measuring the fast component of V̇O2EPOC.

Peak VO2 was elevated between 30s and 60s efforts, but not between 60 and 90s. Peak VO2 was lower during the armbar sets compared to takedown and guard pass. However, the decrease in performance between 30 and 60s was significant in the armbar sets but not in the others. 

The results of this study suggest that aerobic contribution increases with BJJ activity from 30 to 60 seconds, and that oxygen consumption is greater in standing activities compared to ground-based ones. These findings may provide insight into potential methods for improving VO2 Max in BJJ athletes.

Rodrigues-Krause J, Silveira FP da, Farinha JB, Junior JV, Marini C, Fragoso EB, et al. Cardiorespiratory Responses and Energy Contribution in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Exercise Sets. Int J Perform Anal Sport. 2020;1–15.

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert