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.
- Secrets Of Nutrition And Calories
- What Makes BJJ So Different Compared To Other Grappling Martial Arts?
- BJJ Functional Strength – Science Behind Repetition Number
- Best BJJ Strength Exercises
- General BJJ Exercises
- Specific BJJ Exercises
- Training Program (Example)
- An Example Routine
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
You can work on your sweeps and transitions and prepare your body for the upcoming challenges even without a partner!
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
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!