Essential Strength Training For BJJ – Beginner Friendly Guide

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Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters have superb levels of success in the world of mixed martial arts since its beginning. Strength training for BJJ turns these average-looking guys into dangerous ground phenoms!

Forty years ago, athletes didn’t pay much attention to strength and conditioning sessions. Fighters who were “naturally” strong had the advantage on the mats, as training techniques were not much known.

But during the last 10-15 years, strength training for BJJ literally exploded.

You can see more and more BJJ fighters who seem physically weak, but sweep the strongest opponents with ease.

For example, Royce Gracie shocked the world at the first three out of four UFC competitions, where he forced so many bigger guys to surrender. Royce weighed only 180-185 lbs, squared off against heavier opponents, but won three titles!

How is that even possible? You don’t see David beat Goliath situations often, do you?

The human body knows no limits if you get to know it well.

This article will get to know you with the endless strength/conditioning possibilities of BJJ fighters and teach you how to balance between proper nutrition, exercises, and rest periods.

Assortment of healthy balanced food composition: meat, fish, vegetables, bread, cereals, beans, stone background. Raw ingredients for cooking healthy meal, good for diet, clean eating concept

Secrets Of Nutrition And Calories

Ok, there really are no secrets per say.

But most of the articles overcomplicate things and it might seem like there are secrets, because it’s oh so hard to understand everything about nutrition.

Most of the nutrition is divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macro means carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; while micro mean all the vitamins.

Carbohydrates are the basic source of fuel for your muscles, and the primary source of energy. They are very important when it comes to intensive activities such as bjj. Fats are a relatively good energy source for activities that last longer on a low-to-moderate intensity.

Proteins increase the levels of satiety and play a vital role in muscle building and recovery after a training session.

Great, but can we control the process? Yes, absolutely!

How do the macronutrients function? We measure macros in grams. Grams of macros get converted into calories.

1 gram of proteins equals 4 calories.1 gram of carbohydrates equals 4 calories as well.1 gram of fats equals 9 new calories ingested.

When you eat a meal, your body digests proteins, carbs, and fats, it all converts to grams, leading up to the calorie value of all you just ate. The number of calories is actually the combination of these three macronutrients.

Take full control of your actions with this macronutrient calculator!

Djordjevic-Nikic, M. (2004). Ishrana sportista. Fakultet sporta I fizickog vaspitanja. Univerzitet u Beogradu (another book from my college)

Let’s get to know BJJ strength training secrets. You will never wonder again why a jiu-jitsu warrior has the magical power to choke out a giant!

Wrestler. Studio shot over white.

What Makes BJJ So Different Compared To Other Grappling Martial Arts?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most efficient martial arts, known for submissions from all the angles. In MMA, BJJ fighters rarely slam the opponent on the ground and rather choose a technical takedown attempt to create an opportunity for a ground game.

So how the hell do BJJ fighters have so much power?

Because they are masters of strength stability! According to Stojiljkovic et al. (2009), there are three types of strength: maximum strength, hypertrophy oriented strength and strength stability.

Maximum strength is defined as an action at maximal or nearly maximal level of resistance, where the speed of action is relatively small. For example, 1-3 repetitions.

Hypertrophy oriented strength is manifested when you overcome relatively big resistance in the maximum rate of velocity (it means, the simplest explanation, completing the route from point A to point B in the shortest period of time). Bodybuilders often perform this kind of training sessions (12-15 repetitions).

Strength stability means comparing the strength of humans with different body mass who lift the same weight.

It is calculated when the absolute strength (it is also called 1 repetition maximum(RM) – the heaviest weight you can lift with maximum effort in a single repetition) is divided by the body mass of the practitioner.

If the relative force coefficient is smaller than 1, the weight lifted is smaller than a fighter’s body mass, otherwise; it is higher.

For example, BJJ fighter who squats 150 kg, but weighs only 75 kg has a relative strength value of 150:75 = 2. Jiu-jitsu fighters have greater relative strength lower body values (quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes) because they spend more time defending on their back pulling their opponents towards the ground and working against gravity.

Here is the secret!

Strength and conditioning for BJJ are not oriented towards lifting very heavy objects or transforming into Hulks. A jiu-jitsu fighter has one mission – wrapping his limbs around your arms, legs, back, or neck to force you to tap out!

A Brazilian jiu jitsu practicioner who happens to be a strength stability expertcan hold the rival in one position for a long time before he taps out.

Strength training for BJJ is based on the ability to maintain the position for as long as possible. Fighters achieve this wonderful ability due to the specific relation between load, weight, and the rest periods.

Book: Stojiljkovic, S. , Mitic, D., Nesic, D., Mandaric, S. (2005): Personalni fitness. Fakultet sporta I fizickog vaspitanja. Univerzitet u Beogradu. (it’s from my college)

BJJ Functional Strength – Science Behind Repetition Number

Many training routines will never explain to you why you do a specific number of repetitions. It is ok to work on a great program and become stronger, but really, most of the time you probably don’t have a clue as to why you’re doing these exercises or X number of reps , right?

Read on to discover the essence, the ultimate reason why BJJ fighters stick to the specific number of repetitions for maximum performance on the mat!

1 to 5 repetitions with a heavy load will turn you into a muscle mountain, but your functionality and movement will decrease. Brazilian jiu-jitsu demands quick moves, explosive transition, and maintaining one position for a very long period of time.

BJJ fighters stick to moderate load but a greater number of repetitions.

In weight training sessions, most often their training programs consist of 12-15 repetitions, on 70% of 1 RM(1 repetition maximum(RM) – the heaviest weight one can lift with maximum effort in a single repetition), with 60-90 seconds of rest between the sets and exercises. Big weights can be done once per week, but only for leg muscles, if there is at least 3+ days before the competition, otherwise you won’t give your body enough time to recover.

The other part of BJJ strength/conditioning is made of bodyweight drills. Jiu-jitsu specific exercises are important, but don’t forget the importance of static drills too! Good grappler spends a lot of time rolling down the canvas, defending or securing a submission.

Static core exercise should last at least 60-90 seconds, while dynamic ones demand at least 30 repetitions. A good grappler sometimes holds the position for over one minute, especially when he squares off against a strong and dangerous rival.

Give your body a chance to prepare for the upcoming fighting challenges.

A good combination of a proper number of repetitions and outstanding BJJ strength exercises below will make your grappling performance progress as fast as lighting!

Best BJJ Strength Exercises

There are two types of BJJ strength exercises–general and specific. General drills strengthen targeted areas of your body and indirectly affect your grappling performance. Specific drills are jiu jitsu moves what are used on the mat

Let me guess. Should I train specific or general exercises? You have a dilemma, right?

If you want to be a good BJJ fighter, you must learn between balancing BJJ and weight training. The greatest growth in your performances will happen only if you combine these two elements properly.

General drills make a difference between two equal fighters, while the specific ones raise your BJJ moves to the next level!

General BJJ Exercises

These are strength/conditioning drills – they don’t contain BJJ movements. These drills have the greatest effect on bjj performance.

Sumo Squat

Reasons for doing this exercise

Working from the top. Whenever you try to pass to side control, full mount, or crucifix position, your legs are wide apart. It requires very strong glutes, hamstrings, and especially strong adductors. This exercise is the king of weight training for BJJ – it “covers all the angles of ground fighting”.

Technique

  • Start with the barbell supported on the top of your trapezius muscles, keeping your chest up and looking straight ahead, legs more than hip-width apart, feet pointed out.
  • Descend by flexing your knees keeping your torso as upright as possible. Your knees should travel forward and to the side.
  • Go down as much as you can, then slowly reverse the motion contracting your hamstrings and glutes.

Tips

  • Keep your spine flat, and do not look to the sides.
  • No explosive movements!

Barbell Lunge

Reasons for doing this exercise

Single-leg or double-leg takedown attempts. If you are an MMA fighter, it is a world-class way to shoot in and counter a straight punch attempt.

Technique

  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, keeping the barbell on your back, toes pointed forward, spine flat and looking straight ahead.
  • Step forward with your left leg, and assume an athletic lunge position and try to lower the knee of your right leg as much as you can towards the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the bottom of the movement.
  • Return to the starting position exploding off your hips.
  • Step forward with the same leg and perform the same movement pattern until you finish the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • The knee of your rear leg doesn’t have to touch the ground, you need an explosive reaction.
  • Do not lean with your body to one side or the other.
  • Rear leg remains on the tips of your toes all the time, you are allowed to point toes to the side when you go down (if you go for a takedown attempt, because sometimes you won’t go directly towards the rival).

Sumo Deadlift

Reasons for doing this exercise

The opponent will surely sometimes wrap his legs around your neck, and slam might be the only way to set yourself free. Also, working from the top position usually puts your adductor muscles on fire, especially if you square off against the master of a butterfly, worm, spider, or X-guard.Technique

  • The barbell is in front of your legs on the ground. Keeping your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, and the lateral part of your forearms inside your thighs, keeping your spine flat and relaxing your shoulder.
  • Approach the barbell so it intersects the middle of your feet, and bend your body setting the overhand grip on the barbell.
  • Drive through the floor with the weight on the back of your feet and inhale as you go up.
  • Lean back driving your hips into the barbell and pull your scapula bones together as the barbell passes the line of your knees. Contract glutes and lower back, and exhale when you reach the top position.
  • Relax your glutes and return the barbell to the ground, flexing your knees and bending your hips, controlling the movement.

Tips

  • Keep your spine flat and look ahead all the time.
  • Don’t drop the bar! Keep the movement smooth from top to bottom.
  • Don’t jump.

Static Core Exercise

Core static drills have a positive influence on your jiu-jitsu performance.

But please, hold the position at least for 30 seconds or more before you switch to a different drill.

You can see 63 beautiful exercises by clicking on the link below.

A strong fighter is a tough cookie, but specific-oriented strength will boost your BJJ performance to even greater levels!

Specific BJJ Exercises

Do you always need a partner to train?

NO!

You can work on your sweeps and transitions and prepare your body for the upcoming challenges even without a partner!

Hip Thrust

Reasons for doing this exercise

When you are mounted or the opponent transitions from half-guard to mount. It is very hard to defend from this position, but powerful hips and glutes are your best hope for a successful transition or reversal attempt.

Technique

  • Sit on the ground with a bench directly behind you, putting a loaded barbell over your legs.
  • Roll the bar straight above the level of your hips and lean your back against the bench. Your shoulder blades should touch its lateral parts.
  • Drive through your feet and extend your hips vertically through the bar.
  • Extend as far as possible, then slowly return to the starting position with control.

Tips

  • Place a pad on the bar, it will reduce the discomfort.
  • Only your heels should have contact with the ground throughout the motion, it will increase difficulty.

Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Reasons for doing this exercise

Half-guard defense. When one of your legs is trapped, you must use another one to defend or push the opponent. Keeping your hips up will make his job harder.

Technique

  • Lay on your back, keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  • Lift one leg off the ground and pull the knee to the chest for a starting position.
  • Drive through your heel, extend your hip forward, and raise your buttocks off the ground.
  • When you extend as much as possible, slowly relax your muscles and return to the starting position, then perform the same movement with the other leg.

Tips

  • Keep your passive leg extended all the time throughout the movement.
  • Work at a moderate speed. Fast-paced execution is not good for a BJJ beginner.

B Stance Squat

Reasons for doing this exercise

Takedown attempts, getting up, passing the guard.

Technique

  • Keep your legs shoulder-width apart. Toes pointed forward. Spine flat and looking straight ahead. The right leg is your leading leg. Rotate your left foot counterclockwise and lift it on the tips of your toes. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly squat down squeezing your glutes.
  • Explode off your hips and return to the starting position.

Tips

  • Do not move your torso left or right.
  • Do not let the heel of your rear leg touch the ground.

Dead Bug

Reasons for doing this exercise

X-guard, spider guard, defending off the back.

Technique

  • Lay on your back. Your hands extended above you towards the sky. Bring your hips, knees, and feet up to 90-degrees.
  • Exhale to bring your ribs down, flattening your back onto the floor, and rotate your pelvis up. Squeeze your glutes. This is your starting position.
  • Extend one leg, strengthening its knee and hip, and bring the leg a few inches above the ground.
  • Maintain the position for two-three seconds, then return the working leg to the starting position and repeat the same movement pattern for the opposite leg, alternating until you finish the set.

Tips

  • Keeping your lumbar area and pelvis tucked to the bottom is very important, do not let your spine arch.
  • Perform the exercise slowly.

Do you think you’re ready to roll like a mad man after these exercises? Great, but you still need a proper expertise training program to boost your skill set to the next level.

Training Program (Example)

Before you start, here are some beginner tips

  • Don’t work with weights that are too heavy.
  • You don’t need more than 2 training sessions per week, but feel free to increase intensity of workouts as you get stronger.
  • The number of repetitions depends on the exercise. Weight exercise–stick to 12-20 reps, while you can do more reps for a bodyweight drill.
  • Train on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday.
  • This is not the best weight training program for BJJ out there, but this combination of barbells, dumbbells, and bodyweight exercises can turn you into a rolling superstar at your gym in no time!

An Example Routine

Monday

  • Sumo Squat, 12-20 reps
  • Barbell Lunge, 12-20 reps
  • Do these exercises one after another, then take 90 seconds rest. Repeat for 4 sets.
  • Single-Leg Glute Bridge, 30 repetitions for each leg
  • Dead Bug, 20 repetitions
  • This is one set, repeat 3 times, with 60 seconds of rest.
  • Static Core Exercises
  • Pick 10 exercises, hold 30 seconds or more, taking no breaks between the drills

Thursday

  • Sumo Deadlift, 12-20 reps
  • Hip Thrust, 12-20 reps
  • B Stance Squat, 20 reps each leg
  • This is one set, perform 5 sets and rest for 2 minutes between the sets.
  • Static Core Exercises

Pick 10 exercises, hold them for 30 seconds or more and take no breaks between the drills.

The importance of strength training for BJJ summarized.

Strength training for BJJ is very important if you want to get really good at this sport. It requires a great balance between jiu-jitsu training and weight training sessions, alongside doing the bodyweight exercises of your choice.

Follow the guidlines outlined here and try to improve your diet and habits and you’ll see progress in a few weeks, guaranteed!

Bad habits + great training = not a good bjj practicioner.

Good habits + good training discipline = now we’re talking!

Share your favorite routines and your progress with us in the comments section!

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