Is BJJ good for burning calories?

Quick answer

Yes, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is an excellent way to burn calories and lose weight. BJJ is a grappling-based martial art that involves intense rolling and sparring sessions that can burn 500-1000 calories per hour. The constant movement and resistance training nature of BJJ makes it a highly effective calorie-burning exercise.

How many calories does BJJ burn?

The number of calories burned during BJJ depends on a few key factors:

  • Your weight – Heavier people burn more calories per hour
  • Intensity – More intense rolling/sparring burns more calories
  • Duration – Longer training sessions burn more calories
  • Experience level – Beginners tend to burn slightly more calories as they are less efficient with their movements

On average, a 155 lb person will burn around 600 calories per hour of BJJ training. Heavier individuals can expect to burn 700-800+ calories.

Here are some estimates on calories burned during BJJ based on weight and intensity level:

Weight Low Intensity Moderate Intensity High Intensity
120 lbs 360 calories 480 calories 540 calories
155 lbs 460 calories 600 calories 700 calories
190 lbs 575 calories 750 calories 850 calories

As you can see, the more intense the rolling and training, the more calories are burned. Competitive sparring and free rolling burns the most calories.

How does BJJ compare to other exercise for burning calories?

BJJ stacks up very well against other forms of exercise when it comes to burning calories:

  • BJJ burns around 30-50% more calories than general weight training
  • BJJ burns about the same or slightly more calories than kickboxing/MMA training
  • BJJ burns significantly more calories than yoga, pilates, stretching, etc.
  • BJJ burns slightly less calories compared to running at a moderate pace (But has the advantage of also building muscle)

The only forms of exercise that consistently burn more calories per hour than BJJ are:

  • Sprinting/HIIT training
  • Swimming laps
  • Cycling at high speeds

However, BJJ has the advantage of burning fat while also building muscle. This boosts your resting metabolism over time, allowing you to burn more calories around the clock.

Why is BJJ such an effective calorie burner?

There are a few key reasons why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is able to burn so many calories:

Full body engagement

BJJ involves constant use of the upper body, core, and lower body for controlling your opponent and escaping positions. This total body tension and resistance is very metabolically demanding.

Anaerobic bursts

Grappling involves lots of explosive movements to escape pins and advance positions. These anaerobic bursts of power burn through calories and increase EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).

High muscle activation

Nearly all the major muscle groups are activated while grappling due to the body-on-body nature of the sport. This full muscle activation requires a lot of energy expenditure.

Extended duration

BJJ training sessions often last 1-2 hours. The prolonged active time burns calories and keeps metabolism elevated compared to shorter duration exercises.

Minimal rest

Unlike weight training, breaks are minimal during rolling/sparring. You are constantly working and using energy, maximizing calorie burn.

Cardiovascular benefits of BJJ

In addition to being an excellent calorie-burning exercise, BJJ also provides tremendous cardiovascular and aerobic benefits:

  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Increased lung capacity and VO2 max
  • Improved heart health and circulation
  • Endurance gains
  • Greater resistance to fatigue

The constant motion, muscle exertion, and oxygen demands of grappling improve cardiovascular conditioning similarly to how running or swimming does. However, BJJ provides the added benefit of also developing strength, power, and flexibility.

Muscle-building effects

While excellent for cardio, BJJ should not be thought of solely as an aerobic activity. The grappling and resistance element also builds lean muscle mass.

Some of the key muscle groups strengthened through BJJ include:

  • Back – For controlling opponent’s limbs
  • Lats – Gripping strength and power
  • Shoulders – Stability and framing
  • Arms – Blocking/framing and grips
  • Chest – Pushing power
  • Core – Stability, bridging, shrimping
  • Glutes – Explosiveness, bridging
  • Legs – Dynamic power and tension

The muscle development from BJJ results in:

  • Increased resting metabolism – More calories burned
  • Improved strength-to-weight ratio
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Reduced injury risk

This makes BJJ a uniquely well-rounded exercise for fat loss, muscle gain, and overall fitness.

Is BJJ good for weight loss?

Due to its heavy calorie burn and metabolism boosting effects, BJJ can be an extremely effective exercise for losing weight and fat.

Here are some of the key reasons BJJ aids weight loss:

  • Burns a large amount of calories per session – Between 500-1000 calories/hour
  • Increases resting metabolism from added muscle mass
  • Maintains/builds strength and athleticism while losing fat
  • Provides motivation and accountability for training consistently

For substantial weight loss, BJJ alone may not be enough and dietary changes are also required. But when combined with a solid nutrition plan, training BJJ 3-5 days per week can lead to some incredible body transformations.

There are countless stories of people losing 50+ pounds after starting BJJ. The highly active nature of grappling meshes perfectly with a fat loss regimen.

BJJ tips for faster weight loss

Here are some tips to maximize fat loss from BJJ training:

  • Attend classes consistently – At least 3x a week
  • Have some high intensity rolling sessions
  • Minimize rest time between rolls/rounds
  • Focus on healthy meal prep and nutrition
  • Incorporate sprints, rowing, or cycling on off days
  • Stay hydrated and recover well between sessions

With the right effort and consistency, BJJ can transform your body composition and help you shed pounds of fat.

Is BJJ good exercise for women?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a fantastic form of exercise and self-defense for women. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Builds confidence and self-efficacy
  • Develops physical strength and fitness
  • Burns a large amount of calories and fat
  • Tones muscles in the legs, core, back, and arms
  • Challenging, fun, and empowering training
  • Teaches practical self-defense skills and awareness

The technical nature of BJJ helps neutralize size and athleticism advantages, allowing smaller grapplers to control and submit larger opponents with proper technique. This is especially empowering for women.

While most BJJ gyms are male dominated, the number of women practicing BJJ has skyrocketed in recent years. The community is generally very welcoming of female practitioners.

As with any martial art, it’s important to find an academy with a culture that supports and encourages female participation. But the vast majority of BJJ gyms appreciate and value female members.

For fitness, self-defense, and fun – BJJ is one of the best forms of exercise and training for women. The workout burns calories, relieves stress, and builds vital real-world skills.

Is BJJ good exercise for seniors and older adults?

BJJ can absolutely be a safe, effective exercise program for seniors and older adults. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Remains challenging as you advance in skill
  • Constantly learning new techniques provides mental stimulation
  • Low impact and adjustable intensity level
  • Builds balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Social atmosphere helps combat isolation

Of course, some care should be taken as an older adult:

  • Tap early and often to avoid injuries
  • Let training partners know if you have any pre-existing conditions
  • Focus more on technique than speed/strength
  • Listen to your body and don’t overdo it

But with some common sense precautions, BJJ can be a fun, engaging activity for older men and women looking to stay active and improve their health as they age.

How to start BJJ for weight loss

If you are new to BJJ and looking to start training for weight loss, here are some tips:

Find a beginner-friendly BJJ gym

Look for gyms that offer fundamental/basics classes. Avoid gyms that throw brand new students straight into intense sparring.

Go consistently – at least 3x a week

Consistent training is key to getting results. Attend regularly and stay motivated.

Focus on learning proper technique

Don’t use too much strength or tension as you are learning. Save energy for intense rolls later.

Partner with helpful upper belts

Let experienced students know you are new and want to learn. Tap often when rolling.

Track your calories and nutrition

Monitor your diet and be in a caloric deficit to maximize fat loss alongside training.

Incorporate supplemental training

Add in strength training, cardio intervals, mobility work to complement your BJJ sessions.

Rest and recover properly

Get enough sleep, hydrate well, and don’t overtrain. Let your body adapt and get stronger.

Stick with it and you’ll be amazed by the improvements to your cardio, strength, and body composition after training BJJ consistently. Oss!


BJJ is one of the most effective forms of exercise for burning calories and losing weight. The full-body grappling, resistance training, and sustained active time add up to massive calorie expenditure during training.

When combined with proper nutrition, BJJ can lead to incredible fat loss transformation. The training also develops functional strength and fitness to sculpt an athletic physique.

For self-defense, physical health, and enjoyment – BJJ is a rewarding activity for individuals of all backgrounds and fitness levels looking to burn maximum calories and improve their bodies.

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