The benefits of cycling for your general health are well known. But what about for a more specific type of athlete? If you practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoy cycling, you might being wondering about the benefits of cycling for BJJ.
Boxers, footballers, and gym-goers have long used cycling as a cardio option. But if you're a BJJ practitioner, you know that the cardiovascular requirements of grappling feel entirely different from your standard biking experience.
Grappling cardio is not the same as regular cardio.
That said, is cycling useless for BJJ? Absolutely not. This article will go into the pros and cons of cycling for BJJ, while also giving some basic information on things to keep in mind if you opt to use cycling as a conditioning method for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Let's get started with the benefits of cycling for grapplers.
Bike cardio is better than no cardio
Regardless of which way you spin it, it's better to have great cardiovascular endurance when you play a grappling sport (or pretty much any sport). While the cardiovascular benefits of cycling may not translate on a one-to-one basis to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it's better to be practicing BJJ with cycling cardio than with no cardiovascular endurance.
Are there other options? Absolutely, running. Hills. More rounds of BJJ. All great options. But so is cycling.
Cycling strengthens the legs
Depending on the terrain where you live and the way you ride, cycling can be a fantastic way to strengthen your legs. Not only are exposing your legs to exhaustion, but steep hilly terrain can be considered a sort of strength training.
With a little thought to what routes you take, and how hard you ride, your weekend ride can be a fantastic supplementary conditioning.
A forced cooldown
A lot of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes (and really most sport classes) are guilty of this - lack of an adequate cooldown. Just like your body should be warmed up before jumping into strenuous rolls, your body will appreciate a cooldown once you're done with your jiu jitsu workout.
A gentle cycle ride home is a great way to do it. Supplement with a quick full-body stretch once you're home, and you can consider yourself golden.
Balance & coordination
Riding a bike requires balance and coordination. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires balance and coordination. Match made in Heaven.
Suffering is suffering.
This is something that often goes underemphasized in the sport of BJJ. Improvements require suffering. Drill, grind, repeat. Everyday porrada (or at the very least, some days porrada) is a necessity if you're looking for significant improvements.
And if you've spent a good amount of time cycling, you'll know that suffering is one of its biggest parts. Getting tired? Keep pedalling. Legs sore? Keep pedalling.
The mental resilience built by cycling can make a real difference to your BJJ game, especially on those days where you're being crushed by that super heavy black belt. You might only be stuck in side control for 30 seconds, but man, do those 30 seconds feel like an hour. Get comfortable suffering.
It's clear to see that cycling definitely presents some benefits to the avid grappler. However, like with most things in sports performance, there are some risks as well.
Be sure to keep the following in mind if you're programming cycling into your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu routines.
Your body can only stand so much punishment. Depending on how active your lifestyle is, what state of health you're in, your BJJ schedule, and your cycling schedule, there's a risk that you may be doing too much!
When deciding how much cycling for BJJ you plan to do, make sure to consider all the relevant factors. Don't forget you need to plan out your recovery and nutrition as well!
Ideally, a dedicated expert is the best way to begin planning.
Unless you're a full-time athlete, you're likely to have several commitments you're trying to balance - work/studies, family, friends, relaxation and training - often, it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day!
If time is at a premium and you're cycling to improve your BJJ, keep in mind that you likely won't gain too much from incredibly long, arduous days on the saddle. Instead consider focussing on short-medium length rides with a variation of pace and terrain to get an all-round benefit.
Lack of optimisation
Most of us don't have the luxury of a dedicated trainer who will look over our training and nutrition plans. And while cycling is generally a great complement to any BJJ program, you may find that you're program isn't truly optimised for success. (For example, the steady state benefits of cycling may not be the optimal choice for you if you already jog every morning.)
While a decent bike doesn't need to be a massive expense, there's no doubt that cycling can be costly to get started, especially if you feel you'd benefit from a good road bike. (And then there's the cost of cycling shoes, gear, and any cycling accessories!)
While life and one's personal circumstance can sometime create limitations, it's certainly fair to say that the benefits of cycling for BJJ outweigh the cons. However, whether cycling is the best supplement for your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey is a question you'll have to decide for yourself.