Breathing Properly for Endurance

By Matt Cram, 3rd Degree Black Belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor

Breathing Properly for Endurance

Do you often find yourself drop dead tired in the middle of a BJJ rolling session? Would you love to have better grappling endurance without having to grind out any extra conditioning exercises? It may sound too good to be true, but by learning to breathe properly, you can instantly double or triple your grappling gas tank or for anything you do!

I learned about this breathing hack over 20 years ago, from my first BJJ professor, Pedro Sauer. I have been using this technique ever since. It has been a real life saver for me, both in the training room and in competition.

The trick is to train yourself to consciously and actively exhale in the midst of movement. A quick explanation of why this works: When the body is working hard, there is a strong tendency to hold the breath – especially in moments of extreme exertion. Doing this denies your muscles of the fresh oxygen they need. However, even if you are not holding your breath, once you start to get tired, just trying to suck in new oxygen won’t help you feel better. This is because you have a build-up of carbon dioxide in your body from the hard work you have already done. The carbon dioxide is toxic to the body and creates excessive lactic acid in the muscles. It must be expelled before the new oxygen can be utilized.

Though it seems counter intuitive, in order to give your muscles the constant fresh supply of oxygen they need for optimal performance, consistently focus on expelling the toxic gas from your system. A great way to do this is to use some sort of audiable noise as you exhale, such as “cha” or “shoo”. Many of you may have noticed myself or other advanced grapplers making such sounds during training. I remember Pedro doing this all of the time. Any time he was rolling, you could always hear short sharp “shoo shoo” sounds. I greatly encourage you to try this little hack, it is supper simple but has a profound effect! Hope to see you on the mat soon.

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