Brazilian jiu-jitsu science

Describing and developing the Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete


Describing and developing the Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete was a six-year long research project that began in Q1 2015 and ended in Q4 2020. The project was divided into three stages. The first stage assessed physiological and psychological characteristics of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) athletes; the second stage explored different training interventions designed to target rapid improvements in strength and endurance; and the third stage summarized and contextualized key findings.

The project was led by Karsten Øvretveit and involved researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences as well as the research group Skill and Performance Development in Sports and School at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It also had contributions from the University of Verona and led to several collaborations with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Findings from the project have been requested and read by researchers and coaches across the world, including leading combat sports organizations. The overall goals of the project were to contribute quality data to the field of combat sport research and provide novel insight into the demands of BJJ and the characteristics of its practitioners. Read more about key contributions here.


Brazilian jiu-jitsu

All participants were active BJJ practitioners with a certain experience level and training frequency.


Body mass and composition were assessed to characterize the typical weight and body fat percentage in BJJ.

Maximal oxygen uptake

Direct pulmonary gas exchange was measured during exercise to determine aerobic power and work economy.

Force-generating capacity

Maximal strength was tested with compound movements; neuromuscular power was obtained with a force plate.

Grappling demands

Perceptual and physiological markers of exertion were investigated during unrestricted BJJ sparring.

Motivational dynamics

Achievement goals and training climate perceptions were explored using standardized questionnaires.


Years of research


Peer-reviewed publications


Peer-reviewed collaborations


Strength and Conditioning Journal

Mechanisms and trainability of peripheral fatigue in grapplers

Karsten Øvretveit & Fabio Giuseppe Laginestra

doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000594


Martial Arts Studies

Capacity and confidence: What can be gleaned from the link between perceived and actual physical ability in Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners?

Karsten Øvretveit

doi: 10.18573/mas.110

Strength and Conditioning Journal

High-intensity, non-sport-specific strength and conditioning for Brazilian jiu-jisu athletes: theoretical and practical considerations

Karsten Øvretveit

doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000542


Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Mastery goals are associated with training effort in Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Karsten Øvretveit, Stig Arve Sæther & Ingar Mehus

doi: 10.7752/jpes.2019.s4188

Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness

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

Karsten Øvretveit

doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09584-7


Archives of Budo

Achievement goal profiles, and perceptions of motivational climate and physical ability in male jiu-jitsu practitioners

Karsten Øvretveit, Stig Arve Sæther & Ingar Mehus


Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Maximal strength training improves strength performance in grapplers

Karsten Øvretveit & Tiril Tøien

doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002863

International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport

Acute physiological and perceptual responses to Brazilian jiu-jitsu sparring: the role of maximal oxygen uptake

Karsten Øvretveit

doi: 10.1080/24748668.2018.1493634

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Anthropometric and physiological characteristics of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes

Karsten Øvretveit

doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002471

Novel findings

Providing new knowledge to the existing BJJ literature was the fundamental goal of this project. Some of the novel contributions from this project were:

  • The first to assess maximal oxygen uptake using gold standard methods, establishing valid cardiorespiratory fitness reference values.
  • The first to directly and continously measure heart rate during BJJ sparring.
  • The first to assess the effects of non-specific high-intensity aerobic interval training in BJJ athletes.
  • The first to assess the effects of maximal strength training in BJJ athletes.
  • The first to provide body mass independent BJJ athlete performance values using principles of allometry.
  • The first to assess achievement goal theory and perceptions of the motivational climate in BJJ athletes.
  • The first to examine the relationship between training intensity and motivational dynamics in BJJ athletes.
  • The first to explore the link between perceived and actual physical ability in BJJ athletes.

Additionally, we summarized some of the findings by us and others in two reviews that also included practical guidelines on how to incorporate high-intensity strength and conditioning, both systemic and locally, in BJJ athletes.

If you are interested in research collaborations or have any other questions, feel free to email the principal investigator.