Aerobic interval training improves maximal oxygen uptake and reduces body fat in grapplers

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2019 Dec;59(12):1985-1990. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09584-7. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


Background: Despite regularly engaging in high-intensity grappling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) athletes have a moderate maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max). The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of high-intensity aerobic interval training as an accessory to BJJ training for improvements in V̇O2max.

Methods: Twelve active male BJJ practitioners (age: 30.3±4.0 [SD] years; height: 183.0±5.3 cm; body mass: 82.7±8.3 kg; body fat: 11.9±3.8%) with 5.6±5.8 years of experience and a training volume of 9.9±4.6 hours·week-1 were randomly allocated to either a training group (TG) or control group (CG). The TG incorporated two high-intensity aerobic interval training sessions·week-1 comprising four 4-minute intervals at 85-95% of maximal heart rate (HRmax) separated by 3-minute active breaks at 70% of HRmax.

Results: After six weeks, the TG increased their V̇O2max by 8±3% (95% CI=3.84, 12.73; P=0.04; ES=0.64), from 52.7 to 56.8 mL·kg-1·min-1. This was accompanied by a 1±1% reduction in absolute body fat (95% CI=-0.13, -2.2; P=0.04; ES=0.64). No changes in V̇O2max (P=0.12) or body composition (P=0.34) were detected in the CG.

Conclusions: These findings reveal compelling short-term effects of low-volume high-intensity aerobic interval training on V̇O2max and body composition in active BJJ athletes. There may be a ceiling effect in terms of developing V̇O2max in supine, intermittent grappling sports, making alternative approaches to aerobic conditioning particularly relevant for this athlete population.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Aerobiosis
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Composition
  • Brazil
  • Heart Rate
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Martial Arts
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption


  • Oxygen