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Does Jiu-Jitsu Build Muscle?

Updated: Apr 30

Curious about the world of martial arts and specifically wondering whether Jiu-Jitsu can help you build muscle? You’ve come to the right place. We’re here to share some insights into this fascinating sport and its benefits, especially when it comes to muscle development. Jiu-Jitsu, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as it’s commonly known, has been gaining popularity across Australia—and it’s all for good reasons. Today, let’s answer one of the most frequently asked questions about the sport: “Does Jiu-Jitsu build muscle?” and discuss how it can be a valuable addition to your fitness routine.

What is Jiu-Jitsu?

First off, let’s clarify what Jiu-Jitsu is. Originating from Japan and later adopted in Brazil, Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting and submission holds. It emphasises technique and leverage, enabling smaller individuals to defend against larger opponents effectively. BJJ is not merely a sport. Think of it as a lifestyle incorporating physical and mental discipline, self-defence, and a deep sense of community.

So, Does BJJ or Jiu-Jitsu Build Muscle?

The short answer is yes, Jiu-Jitsu can build muscle—but not in the way traditional bodybuilding or weightlifting does. Jiu-Jitsu is more about functional strength and endurance rather than bulking up. Here’s a breakdown of how Jiu-Jitsu contributes to muscle development:

  • Functional Strength

BJJ training involves a lot of grappling, which requires using multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This type of training builds functional strength, which is a strength that’s useful in real-life situations. You’ll find yourself becoming stronger in ways that matter, whether it’s improving your grip strength or enhancing your core stability.

  • Muscle Endurance

Jiu-Jitsu sessions are intense. They usually involve sparring rounds (rolling) that can last anywhere from five to 10 minutes each. This continuous exertion builds muscle endurance, allowing muscles to perform well over extended periods without fatigue. It’s a different kind of muscle development compared to the short bursts of power you might train for in the gym.

  • Lean Muscle Mass

While Jiu-Jitsu may not give you massive, bulging muscles, it does help in developing lean muscle mass. The constant movement and techniques practised in BJJ work out the entire body, leading to a toned and fit physique. So, if you’re looking for the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu for muscle development, remember that this sport is all about building a body that’s not just for show but for go.

  • Cardiovascular Fitness

An often overlooked aspect of Jiu-Jitsu’s impact on the body is its cardiovascular benefits. The high-intensity nature of sparring sessions provides a great cardio workout, which helps improve heart health while aiding in fat loss. This, in turn, helps reveal the lean muscle mass you’ve been working hard to build.

What Muscles Does Jiu-Jitsu Work?

Focusing on functional strength, endurance, and mobility rather than just bulking up, Jiu-Jitsu builds a variety of muscles across the body. Here are the primary muscle groups and types of muscle development emphasised in Jiu-Jitsu training:

  • Core Muscles: Jiu-Jitsu training can put your core muscles to work, which include the abdominal muscles, multifidus muscles, transverse abdominis, and the muscles surrounding the spine. The core is crucial for stabilising the body, generating power, and performing many Jiu-Jitsu techniques effectively.

  • Hip Muscles: The muscles around the hips, such as the gluteals, quadriceps, iliopsoas, hamstrings, and groin muscles, are extensively worked in Jiu Jitsu. These muscles are essential for executing movements and techniques that require hip mobility and strength.

  • Lower Torso: Even though Jiu-Jitsu does not involve kicking techniques, it still exercises the lower torso muscles through movements that require leg strength, flexibility, and footwork. This includes the muscles used for maintaining balance, executing sweeps, and controlling foot and knee placement.

  • Upper Torso: The upper torso muscles, including the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and forearms, are developed through various Jiu-Jitsu techniques that involve leverage, holds, throws, and submissions. These muscles are crucial for controlling and manipulating opponents.

Will BJJ Get You Ripped?

Not exactly. As mentioned above, Jiu-Jitsu can help you build muscle endurance and functional strength. If you want to train BJJ while aiming to gain muscle, here are some tips that can help you:

1. Incorporate Strength Training

Integrate strength training sessions into your weekly fitness routine. Focus on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups, which can also be beneficial for the functional movements used in Jiu-Jitsu. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses & rows are particularly effective. Aim for two to three weight training sessions per week, ensuring they don’t interfere with your Jiu-Jitsu training. 

Ideally, you must separate your BJJ and weight training by days or multiple hours. But if your primary goal is muscle building and you don’t have much time in a week, you can perform your weight or strength training earlier in the day. Then, enjoy a high-protein meal with some carbohydrates and get enough rest and recovery before attending your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class later in the day. 

2. Moderate Your Intensity on the Mat

Effective muscle growth happens between your weight training sessions, especially if it’s supported by proper nutrition and adequate recovery. So, if you want to bulk up, you should focus on training your BJJ techniques with moderate intensity. That way, you don’t burn yourself out and fail to recover from weight training. 

There are still a lot of BJJ drilling benefits without ramping up the intensity on the mat. Focus on the fundamental Jiu-Jitsu movement and technique skills to enhance your muscle endurance and functional strength without placing an additional recovery demand for your muscle fibres to grow effectively. 

3. Manage Your Diet

Balance your macronutrients properly to fuel both your Jiu-Jitsu training and muscle growth. A typical recommendation for athletes is to consume a diet consisting of 50-60% carbohydrates, 20-30% protein, and 20-30% fats. Carbohydrates fuel your training sessions and recovery, while fats are essential for hormonal health.

4. Focus on Protein Intake

Consume enough protein to support muscle repair and growth. The recommended protein intake for athletes is about one gram per pound of body weight per day. So, as you manage your diet, be sure to include high-quality protein sources like lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based alternatives such as legumes and tofu in your diet.

5. Supplement Wisely

Consider supplements if you find it challenging to meet your nutritional needs through diet alone. Protein powders can help you reach your protein goals, and creatine has been shown to support strength gains and muscle recovery.

6. Put Premium on Recovery and Rest

Adequate rest and recovery are as important as the training itself. Ensure you get enough sleep each night (seven to nine hours), and consider incorporating active recovery days where you focus on mobility work or light aerobic activity to enhance muscle recovery and reduce soreness.

7. Implement Progressive Overload

Apply the principle of progressive overload by gradually increasing the weights or the number of repetitions in your strength training. This continuous challenge promotes muscle growth and strength improvements.

8. Don’t Forget About Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition

Focus on pre and post-workout nutrition to maximise your training results. Eat a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein before training to fuel your session. After training, consume a protein-rich snack or shake to aid in muscle recovery.

Summing It Up

In summary, Jiu-Jitsu does build muscle, albeit in a more functional and balanced way. It will help you create a body that’s strong, agile, and capable—rather than just visually muscular. Whether you’re in Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia, we encourage you to give Jiu-Jitsu a try. Not only will you build muscle, but you’ll also gain confidence & discipline and become part of a supportive community. 

If you’re interested in trying BJJ, whether you aim to build muscle or simply want to enjoy the sport while reaching your fitness goals, check out our Beginners Program. Also, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have more questions about BJJ or our classes. 

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