Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, more than an incredible and super effective Martial Art, is a complete exercise. Even active individuals that are used to workout end their first BJJ classes feeling completely exhausted. That’s comprehensible, as the positions and techniques taught during a class will work muscles of the whole body, burning hundreds of calories due to high energy demand. But can Brazilian Jit Jitsu build muscle?
As a general rule, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can build muscle when accompanied by a well-planned diet. As BJJ works the whole body, it’s possible to obtain muscle gains, but at lower levels than in weight training. Plus, Jiu-Jitsu is a high-calorie burning activity and improves strength significantly.
To build muscle any individual needs basically two things: muscle training and a high-calorie diet. That is, you need to consume more calories than you burn. With Jiu-Jitsu, this can be hard to achieve, as in a single session you can burn up to 1000 calories. So BJJ is not the ideal exercise for those seeking to be very big muscular individuals. For those looking for a fit and strong body, similar to a UFC fighter, these results are totally achievable with BJJ and a good diet.
Building Muscle With Jiu Jitsu Training
The pillars of muscle gain are always the same: exercise, diet, and rest. In that sense, it’s important to know that some sports are more appropriate for muscle gain than others. The final goal of BJJ for example is to teach you how to fight. In the process, you’ll receive a lot more benefits, such as flexibility, improving your overall fitness, and muscle gains. But this is not what BJJ is about, so the results will not be the same for a person that workout every day focusing on mass gain and aesthetics.
Even so, there is a great way for you to build muscle with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ll describe it here in a nutshell, but if you want to know the detailed process jump for the step-by-step guide in the next section. The first thing to evaluate is your Body Fat. If your BF levels are higher than 20%, the best option for you is to use your first months doing Jiu-Jitsu to lose some weight. Jiu-Jitsu classes are great for cutting some pounds as in a single session you can burn up to 1000 calories.
Once your BF levels are lower, you can start thinking about getting some muscle gains. In general, to build mass you need a high-calorie diet (eat more calories than you burn). To get solid muscle gains in BJJ, the ideal is slowly increasing your daily calorie surplus, keeping it around 200-300 calories a day. If you start eating too much right in the first days of the diet there’s a chance you’ll gain too much fat in the process, that’s the opposite of what we want here. Plus, it can slow you down on sparring sessions. And don’t get confused, being a big and heavy guy in BJJ will only be a good thing if you are well-conditioned.
I like controlling my diet by scaling my food. It’s kind of boring, but it’s the most precise way to keep track of your calories. Focus on eating clean, especially good carbs, protein, and vegetables. You can use apps such as MyFitnessPal in the process and keep a journal of your daily calories. Remembering to check your results weekly, comparing weight and pictures of before and after (start a journal). If you start to gain too much fat, reduce your calories. If you’re still losing weight, slowly increase your daily calorie intake.
There are other techniques to build muscle, but for someone looking to have a great BJJ performance and small yet solid muscle gains, that’s the best way.
The Step By Step Guide To Gain Muscle With BJJ Only
To make easier the process of build muscle with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I’ve made a step-by-step guide that you can start executing today to achieve a good performance in Jiu-Jitsu and still build mass.
1) Get A Body Fat Level Of About 15% Or Less
For an average individual, a BF of around 15% is pretty good. In fact, for BJJ, a BF lower than 20% is enough for you to achieve an excellent performance (and gain muscle without getting fat). For bodybuilders that look for huge gains, it’s almost impossible to burn fat and build muscle mass at the same time. So they opt for getting big (and gaining fat in the process) and then passing through a cutting phase in the future.
For Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, this is not ideal. It’s easier (and better) to gain mass little by little, without accumulating too much fat. So if you’re BF is too high, focus on losing some pounds in the first months of training. BJJ training is a super effective way to burn fat. So you’ll cut weight and learn a lot in the process.
2) Discover How Much Calories You Burn A Day
To plan your diet to meet your daily needs, you have to find out how many calories you burn in a day. To do so, you need to calculate your Metabolic Basal Rate (BMR). The name is fancy, but it basically gives you the number of calories you need to ingest a day to keep your current weight. Eat more than the BMR, and you’ll gain weight. Eat less, and you’ll lose weight. It’s as simples as this.
Knowing your BMR is essential to plan a good diet. There are various calculators online, the one I like to use is this: BMR Calculator. Fill the form with your personal data and your activity level. If you’re a beginner at BJJ, your activity level is probably “Exercise 1-3 times/week” or “Exercise 4-5 times/week”. But adjust that according to your reality if you’re routine is more active than that. With a number in your hands, move to the next step.
3) Plan Your Daily Meal Plan With A Calorie Surplus
A calorie surplus is the only way to gain weight (muscle and fat). To build mass, your muscle cells need fuel. But if you’re burning all your fuel to keep essential functions working, it’ll be impossible to have gains. Your body was made to keep you fat and without muscles. That’s pure biology: the body prefers to store fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories (energy) you consume. That’s why it’s much easier for most people to accumulate fat than it is to gain muscle.
To gain muscle training BJJ only, a good starting point in your diet is a daily calorie surplus of about 200-300 calories. This way you can start to see some modest gains without compromising your performance and gaining too much fat. Focus on eating clean, mostly proteins, good carbs, and vegetables.
4) Keep A Weekly Journal (And Adjust Your Diet)
Choose a day of the week to track your progress and start a journal. Before the start of every week, take a shirtless picture and note how many pounds you are weighing. You must know if the process is working or not. At the end of every week, compare your current status with the prior data. If you gained too much weight (more than 500g a week), or you’re noticing that you gained too much fat, it’s time to adjust your diet. Maybe reducing some calories off your surplus. If what you see is the opposite, and you’re still not gaining weight, it’s time to eat more.
This is a slow and steady way of gaining mass, but it’s more appropriate for individuals that only train BJJ, as it’ll keep you sharp for training and give you solid muscles.
5) Keep Training Hard
I assure you this is the best way to build muscle with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, despite it not being the ultimate goal of BJJ. The purpose It’s teaching you how to fight and make you a better person, but it gives you a lot more. There are so many benefits of training Jiu-Jitsu that’s even hard to enumerate. From mental health to building confidence and a lot more. If you choose BJJ, notice that it’s possible that you’ll not see aesthetics results of muscle gains, but I guarantee: you’ll build strong muscles and your strength levels will grow significantly.
Finally, remember that you can combine sports. BJJ and Weight Training is a powerful combination. If you want huge muscle gains, maybe that’s the best option for you. But remember steps 2 to 4, as the principles are always the same.
Can Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Get You In Shape? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an excellent way to get in shape, as an average person can burn up to 1000 calories in a single BJJ class. The goal of BJJ is to teach how to fight, but it brings a lot of benefits in the process, such as weight loss, muscle gains, reducing stress, and improving flexibility.
Do I Need To Be Fit To Start Jiu Jitsu? You don’t need to be fit to start doing Jiu Jitsu. It’ll be hard in the beginning, but BJJ training itself will help you improve your fitness levels with time. Although, keep in mind that fitness results will always be way better with a balanced diet, weight training, and proper rest.
Will BJJ Get You Abs? As a general rule, BJJ is a great way to get abs. The muscles of the abdomen are constantly stimulated in a Jiu-Jitsu session, as most of the techniques depend on strong hips and abs. As BJJ is also great for fat loss, training 3x a week and eating clean is an excellent way to get a six-pack.
Can Overweight People Do Jiu-Jitsu? Overweight people can do Jiu-Jitsu without any fear. BJJ is a sport for everyone, a martial art that was literally created for the weak to beat the strong. Each type of body has pros and cons in BJJ and finding the techniques that adapt the best for will be part of your developing process.