It is crucial to know an athlete’s body composition in combat sport modalities in order to control and define the weight category. In the adult category, the weight classes range from <48.5 to >84.3 kg with kimono for females, and <57.5 to >100.5 kg with kimono for male athletes . Thus, it is impracticable to establish a fat percentage profile for all weight classes. In addition, in other combat sports such as judo, a higher body fat percentage is negatively correlated with performance in locomotion and technical entrance activities [17, 18].
In the present study (Table 1), a higher variation in the body fat percentage was observed, ranging from 5.3 to 19.9% for male athletes. However, the average values observed were of ~12%. Only two studies were found involving female athletes and the results showed average values of 19.3 and 24.2% body fat percentage. It is worth emphasizing that the protocols used in order to estimate the percentage of body fat in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes were generic, or may exhibit variation in the method selected; therefore, comparisons between athletes of different studies should be made with caution.
In judo, it has been observed that there are gradual increases in body fat with the increase in the weight class . In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, this phenomenon also seems to occur, despite the small number of subjects in the single study that showed the body fat values of athletes from different categories .
Two studies found no differences between novice and expert athletes when comparing body composition [20, 21]. When comparing elite and non-elite athletes, three studies [22–24] found no differences, but one study  found differences in body composition, with a lower body fat percentage for the elite group. However, an interesting fact observed was that the fighting style may require different biotypes, since a pass fighter had a lower percentage of fat than a guard fighter . In this sense, research that considers the association among body fat percentage, technical actions and fighting style (passer and guard player) may be relevant for the training prescription of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes.
It has been suggested that somatotype and sports success are positively correlated. In grappling sports (e.g. judo, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu), the mesomorphy component has been highlighted as the most relevant for performance [8, 10, 11], and one that also allows discrimination of athletes from different performance levels [27, 28].
The systematic search indicated that only four studies examined the somatotype of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes (Table 2). However, in all of them the mesomorphic component was predominant (range 5.5 to 7.9), a fact that coincides with previous studies that evaluated body composition, indicating a good muscle development of the athletes in other grappling sports [10, 11]. In addition, in one of these studies  the athletes were divided based on their fighting style and it was observed that pass fighters showed higher values of mesomorphy and lower values of ectomorphy than guard fighters. Based on empirical observations, these results were to be expected, since it has been observed that there is a greater use of strength in guard pass work, and that athletes with ectomorphic characteristics tend to have more facility in performing guard works. However, further studies in this direction are needed to confirm these findings.
In combat sports, high levels of aerobic power and capacity allow athletes to maintain a high intensity throughout the match, contribute to sustaining effort for the entire combat duration and help in achieving a better/faster recovery between matches [6, 29, 30].
For aerobic power, VO2max values were observed between 42 and 52 mL/kg/min in males. In fact, there are still a few studies that have investigated the aerobic profile in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes. Only four studies employed the gold-standard method, i.e. direct spirometry to analyse maximal oxygen uptake (generic means to measure the VO2max) [31–34]. However, those studies measured VO2max during treadmill tests, a condition that does not occur during matches. The remaining studies (six in total) utilized indirect methods to predict the athletes’ VO2max [1, 16, 35–38]. Additionally, no studies have been found that investigated the aerobic profile of female athletes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a combat sport, characterized by intermittency, due to the performance of high-intensity efforts interspersed with rest periods . During the match, fluctuations are observed in effort intensity; however, this intensity is very difficult to measure, as the actions performed during the match depend on technical and tactical movements, the opponents and the fighting style [3, 40]. Indeed, the aerobic contribution is predominant in other combat sports, such as karate [41, 42], taekwondo [43, 44] and boxing . Nevertheless, no studies have been found that investigated aerobic fitness during Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches. The measurement of the energy system’s contribution during a Brazilian jiu-jitsu match seems to present a challenge for sport science researchers. This is because it is difficult to assess the specific pathways in the fight demand, given that the fight involves guard passing techniques, sweeps, takedowns, back control, submissions, and direct contact with the ground and the opponent . The development of specific tests would be important to estimate the physiological demand of Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches, as tests for guarder and passer athletes could help coaches to adjust their training prescriptions.
Maximal efforts performed with a duration of more than 75 s show the predominance of the aerobic contribution , and high-intensity interval training has been shown to be a good method for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness for the general population, as well as for athletes from several sports modalities . In combat sports, few studies have investigated high-intensity interval training [36, 47–51]. Only Ribeiro et al.  used specific actions/movements of Brazilian jiu-jitsu; the other studies employed generic means, such as running, for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness. However, the study by Ribeiro et al.  has some limitations, such as the use of indirect tests to estimate VO2max and a lack of statistical comparisons between groups. They only used the effect size to verify that high-intensity interval training was better than the usual Brazilian jiu-jitsu training.
An analysis of the table (Table 3) shows that aerobic fitness is not able to discriminate the performance of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes of different competitive levels (in accordance with the statistical analysis). These results are in line with other combat sports, such as judo . However, the development of aerobic fitness can be relevant to the recovery between/during matches . This would be important because Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes perform several matches during one day of competition . Finally, it would be interesting to carry out tests to estimate VO2max on a cycle ergometer for upper and lower limbs as these responses could help coaches in the prescription of generic and specific training.
This topic is not a review of the glycolytic anaerobic system. However, to enable better understanding, it was decided to include some information concerning this system, to provide a greater insight into the energetic demand of Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches. Anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power are widely involved in different combat sports because the decisive moments in these sports involve great energy demands, which cannot be supplied solely by oxidative metabolism . The Wingate test has often been used to estimate anaerobic performance in the combat sports domain, such as for judo and wrestling [10, 53]. Although the Wingate test is a generic test and cannot be classified as a gold-standard measure, the test presents a large sensibility in the different phases of sports training periodization . Furthermore, the maintenance of high-intensity efforts is associated with anaerobic power and capacity, i.e. power refers to the peak, while capacity refers to the average during 30 s of the Wingate test . Del Vecchio et al.  performed a Wingate test for lower limbs on Brazilian jiu-jitsu high-level athletes (n = 7), with 7.5% of the body mass of the athletes, and observed the following values for the variables analysed: peak power (10.1 ± 1.2 W/kg), mean power (9.9 ± 1.4 W/kg) and fatigue index (48.2 ± 9.4%), respectively. In another study, Leitão da Silva  reported the following values for the Wingate test on lower limbs in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes (n = 5), also using 7.5% of the body mass: peak power (11.5 ± 1.4 W/kg), mean power (9.8 ± 0.4 W/kg) and fatigue index (56.5 ± 11.0%), respectively.
In fact, anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity represent the ability to generate and maintain a high-intensity performance over seconds that can be extended up to a few minutes . Moreover, anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power are associated with maintaining an intermittent performance of high intensity, in which the decisive sports actions are dependent on movement and powerful actions [55, 56]. The values obtained for peak power and mean power from Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes are higher than those considered excellent for healthy people . However, the elaboration of an anaerobic profile of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes is limited by low number of studies. Only two studies reporting the anaerobic responses in the Wingate test for lower limbs were found, and the anaerobic responses in the Wingate test to upper limbs are still unknown.
Based on the aspects listed above, the lack of studies that have investigated the anaerobic responses in lower limbs and the absence of studies focusing on upper limbs are noteworthy. Nevertheless, recently a specific jiu-jitsu anaerobic performance test was proposed that required performance in an adapted protocol (i.e. Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique). The authors found a correlation between high lactate concentrations and heart rate values measured during simulated Brazilian jiu-jitsu combat and the specific jiu-jitsu anaerobic performance test . Thus, the realization of adapted protocols for the measurement of high-intensity intermittent performance (for example: four sets × 1 min execution with 45 s recovery time) can assist coaches in their training prescriptions aimed at maintaining high-intensity intermittent performance .
Maximum Isometric Handgrip Strength
Maximum isometric strength is characterized by actions that do not alter the muscle length, i.e. there is no movement of the joint, and thus, it is static [58, 59]. In grappling combat sports, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and wrestling, there is a great demand for maximal isometric handgrip strength . For elite or experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes, the different studies showed maximum isometric handgrip strength values of between 48 and 57 kg force (kgf) (Table 4). Grip endurance seems to be an important factor for success in immobilizations, takedowns, throws and submissions. It is worth highlighting as a possible limitation that these adjustments generated by isometric training are angle-dependent; thus, the adaptations occur at the angles in which the stimuli occur . One study shows differences between maximum isometric handgrip strength of the right and left hands, in which the right hand had higher values than the left hand in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes .
The data available in the scientific literature are limited to maximum dynamic strength in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes, and a few studies have investigated these responses in these athletes; furthermore, there are no data available in the scientific literature for maximum strength in female Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes. Thus, more research needs to be conducted on this topic. One-repetition-maximum (1RM) tests have been widely used for strength training prescription . Maximal dynamic strength can be associated with sporting excellence or success in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes because studies have shown that 1RM performance for the bench press was greater in advanced or elite than in non-advanced or non-elite athletes [25, 31] (Table 5). In Olympic wrestlers, these same differences between different level groups are also observed for the bench press exercise and are also found in lower limbs (e.g. squat exercise) .
Moreover, strength training plays an important role in training periodization, because it serves as the basis for the other periodization phases, such as strength endurance and muscle power (Table 6) . It is worth mentioning that strength training must emphasize the main muscles related to the movements and actions performed during the matches. Hypertrophy training may be harmful to the athlete who is weighing in near the upper limit of their category because the hypertrophy will provide weight gain . In addition, maximum strength training can be an important tool for athletes, since there will be an increase in this capacity and not muscular hypertrophy . In this regard, the specific literature gives to sport scientists and coaches some interesting values in relation to relative 1RM score both for upper and lower limbs in Brazilian jiu-jitsu elite athletes (i.e. bench press 1.3–1.5 kg/body mass, squat 1.2 kg/body mass and deadlift 1.7 kg/body mass) (Table 4). Knowledge of these results is important for drawing comparisons.
Similarly, a few studies have described the maximum torque in Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes. This test (isokinetic) has been used extensively to measure muscle imbalances between the different sides of the body and the antagonistic muscles. Usually, this test is indicated after surgery and injuries during rehabilitation; moreover, values equal to or less than 5% for the different limbs are considered ideal after rehabilitation for returning to sports training .
Several authors explain that the decisive moments that determine the result of a match (guard passes, sweeps, takedowns etc.) require muscular power actions [34, 68, 69]. Jump performance can be a factor that discriminates between two groups with different levels of training and experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu . Recent studies have found that Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes scored high results in the CMJ, which ranged between 30 and 45 cm (Table 7), which was higher than data from Olympic wrestlers  and similar to that from senior top elite judo athletes . The vertical jump height showed no gradual decrease during the simulated competition (i.e. four matches of 10 min) .
However, when the bench press throwing exercise was used to determine peak power, no difference was found with loads of 1RM between 30 and 60% between advanced and non-advanced Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors . Lastly, there are two research studies that analysed the load that optimized muscle power output in Brazilian jiu-jitsu  in the bench press throw exercise (~42% of 1RM) and  in the bench press (45.1 ± 12.9% of 1RM). Slightly lower results in the bench press exercise were observed for wrestlers, who obtained their maximal power production at 34–37% of 1RM.
Based on the results specified above, it can be concluded that decisive actions and therefore athletic performance during Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches are mainly dependent on muscular power, both in upper and lower limbs.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against resistance for an extended period . The Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete during a match is in contact with the opponent most of the time and must maintain a strong grip on different body parts . Thus, due to this dynamic, the most gripping actions performed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu require high resistance to maintain constant levels of strength endurance for a long time. In addition, there is a consensus in the specific literature on the importance of grip strength endurance or gripping endurance [1, 34, 74]. Corroborating this assertion, Andreato et al.  revealed that Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes in competitive situations reported higher perceptions of fatigue in the forearm region (68%). Thus, the training of this region should be covered in the training programme.
There are two specific tests that evaluate gripping endurance, one statically: maximum static lift (grip endurance with gi or kimono) and one dynamically: maximum dynamic lift (chin-up repetitions with gi or kimono) [75–78]. Mean grip endurance performances reported for national and international competitors in the literature ranged from 54 to 62 s (Table 8). These grip endurance performances are higher than those generated by elite judo athletes at 35 ± 18 s , whereas the repetitions with kimono performances ranged between 15 and 18 reps (Table 8), which was also slightly higher than elite judo athletes at 12 ± 5 reps . However, Franchini et al.  indicated that state-level athletes had similar values to elite athletes in judogi chin-up repetitions (isometric and dynamic endurance strength). Therefore, the development of studies that elaborate normative tables with a large sample size may be relevant for classifying Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes.
Both tests can discriminate among athletes with different levels and experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu [38, 75, 78]. However, the permanence of static isometric grip strength could be a completely specific and individualized manifestation for Brazilian jiu-jitsu due to the major permanence of grip holding during Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches versus other grappling sports .
It is common in combat sports to evaluate muscular endurance using sit-ups and push-ups. Brazilian jiu-jitsu elite athletes were rated as excellent for abdominal and upper limb strength endurance . The results in sit-ups (Table 7) are similar to those for elite junior judo athletes  and international medallists in taekwondo . In the push-ups test, lower results are observed compared to other similar elite athletes both in judo  and wrestling . From all the results presented above, it is possible to conclude that muscle endurance is one of the most critical components of Brazilian jiu-jitsu performance, for many reasons: athletes need to have high abdominal strength endurance and maintain a strong grip for an extended amount of time [1, 2, 4, 69], and additionally, they must repeat muscular power actions during the development of combat or as match duration increases .
Flexibility is a relevant physical component of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, specifically in the thoracolumbar spine and hamstrings, which are required to perform specific situations of attack or defence [1, 7]. A high level of flexibility can help Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes to perform positions. In addition, good flexibility can facilitate the learning of these motor gestures . However, there are no specific tests for evaluating the flexibility of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes, and therefore, it is necessary to develop tests for such purposes. Table 9 shows the results on the flexibility of Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes in the sit-and-reach test.
For flexibility, evaluated by the sit-and-reach test, there were wide-ranging results, with variations of 22 cm in adults and senior fighters  and up to 43 cm in high-performance athletes . Thus experience and competitive level seem to influence an athlete’s flexibility responses, as experienced athletes had greater flexibility than beginner athletes  and elite athletes showed more flexibility than non-elite athletes . Therefore, further studies are needed to confirm the idea that the competitive level can have an influence on flexibility. This idea is plausible, since these results have already been seen in wrestlers, with high-level athletes showing greater flexibility than low-level athletes .
Success in open skills seems to be determined by the capacity of an individual to adapt his behaviour to changes imposed by their opponent. Often, this adaptation has to be extremely fast . In combat sports, reaction speed is important for athletes to dodge and/or anticipate their opponent’s attacks or take advantage of opportune moments for their own attacks [4, 7]. Thus, reaction speed can be crucial in defining matches, in addition to being one of the factors that could explain a drop in performance during a competition. However, despite the importance of this variable, only two studies have evaluated it. In the first study, reaction time (the time it took for the athlete to identify the beep sound; in other words, the first movement in the contact pad) was evaluated, and a value of 239 ± 17 ms was found in practitioners of the modality (n = 11). Moreover, older individuals (27–35 years old; n = 3; 248 ± 14 ms) did not differ from younger individuals (18–26 years old; n = 8; 236 ± 17 ms) . In the second study, the response time (the time that athletes take to make a jump after identifying the beep sound) was evaluated and a mean value of 0.40 ± 0.04 s was observed in brown and black belt athletes (n = 9) . It is important to note that there is a lack of studies evaluating the reaction time in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Moreover, there are serious limitations in interpreting the results because the test used to evaluate the reaction time is very generic, and the same test is used in different sports.