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4 Step Blueprint To Get Strong For BJJ


As a jiu jitsu performance coach, I've assisted over one thousand (1,083+) grapplers in their journey to get strong and reduce their risk of injury on the mats over the past three years. 


By the end of this article, you will have the exact roadmap I use to get strong for BJJ. Save time by cutting the fluff and focusing on what works.


Here are the four steps:

  1. Stop Guessing -> Start Assessing 
  2. Stop Winging It -> Structure It 
  3. Stop Maxing Out -> Autoregulate
  4. Get Off The Treadmill -> Test & Adjust 


Step 1:  Assess your current level and where you want to go.


Imagine you were going on a road trip to somewhere you haven't been before. 


One of the first things you do is open Google Maps and type in the address of where you're trying to go. 


To give you directions to reach your destination (your goal), Google Maps needs to know two things:

  1. Where you are
  2. Where you want to be


With this information, Google Maps can do its job. 


Goal setting is the same.


To achieve your BJJ performance goals, you must accurately assess your current level and determine exactly where you want to be. 


This can be as straightforward or as complex as you make it.


Let's look at an example:


Where you're currently at (assess):

"I have limited weightlifting experience, but I know my way around a barbell. I haven't consistently lifted weights in years, but I want to get back into the swing of things."


Where you want to go (goal):

"I want to get stronger and more powerful on the mats and reduce my risk of injury." 


Using creative goal setting, we can modify your desire into a measurable goal.


In this example, the goal is to get stronger and more powerful on the mats.


Research has shown that to get the maximum benefit from power training, you must first achieve a baseline level of strength.


Specifically, you must be able to squat 1.6 times your body weight and bench press around 1.2 times your body weight


Armed with this information, we can rewrite our goal to be something like:


"I will increase my barbell back squat to 1.6x my body weight (currently at 1.0x) and my barbell bench press to 1.2x my body weight (currently at 0.8x).

I will achieve this by following a performance-based training program and consistently lifting 3 times weekly for 12 weeks."


Your goal may be to gain muscle, get mobile and stronger, improve your conditioning, physically prepare for your first grappling tournament, or reduce your risk of injury on the mats. 


Whatever your goal, the first step in road mapping your way to Jiu Jitsu performance is to assess your current level and get specific about where you want to be. 


Step 2: Follow a structured program 


Failing to plan is planning to fail. 


Don't randomly select exercises based on what you feel like doing on a given day. 


Follow a structured program to achieve the goals you set in step 1. 


Add your jiu jitsu sessions to your schedule, then allocate 2-3 lifting sessions around your grappling. Once your schedule is set, you want to develop the program.


Here are some key considerations:

  • Can you train 2 days or 3 days per week?
  • Plan to address your main goal (muscle gain, hybrid approach, mobility and strength, strength and conditioning or reducing your risk of injury?) 
  • Include your maintenance work (core, grip, carry rotation, stability, power etc.) 
  • Allow for adequate recovery between sessions. 
  • Organise your training into full-body, upper/lower, or push/pull/legs split. 
  • Select your primary exercises, rep range, rest time, RPE, and other program details based on your goals. 


Creating and structuring a grappling strength program requires a robust understanding of exercise science and grappling's requirements. 


You don't have to do this yourself. You can take my free program quiz to find the perfect program.


Step 3: Implement Autoregulation


When people think about getting strong, they often lift the heaviest weight for as many reps as possible or follow a powerlifting program.


Powerlifting will get you strong in the big 3 lifts - bench press, deadlift and squat (because that's what it's designed to do).


Powerlifting programs are designed for the strength sport of powerlifting rather than grappling. 


Powerlifting programs often neglect essential areas of jiu-jitsu strength like:

  • Rotation
  • Dynamic strength
  • Stability 
  • Balance 
  • Muscle endurance 
  • Grip strength 
  • Explosive power (plyometrics)


Powerlifting often relies on percentage-based lifting, where the goal is to lift the big 3 (squat, bench, and deadlift) by a percentage of your 1 rep max. 


This approach is suitable when your training variables are accounted for entirely within the powerlifting program. But we're not powerlifters; we are grapplers.


That's why I recommend implementing autoregulation. 


Autoregulation is a training principle that allows you to adjust your training volume and intensity based on your recovery. 


I recommend two autoregulation training tools: Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Reps in Reserve (RIR).


RPE is a scale from 1 to 10 that allows athletes to rate the intensity of their exercise.



RIR estimates how many repetitions you could have performed after you have completed a given set while maintaining proper form.


For example, an RIR of 2 would mean you estimate that you had 2 more reps left in the tank before muscular failure. 


Both RPE and RIR are powerful tools for gauging intensity and managing volume in strength training. 


Recent studies have shown that RPE is slightly more accurate in less trained individuals compared with RIR. Accurately determining how many more reps you have left in the tank mid-set is quite a challenge, and often, people's estimates are widely inaccurate.


RPE-based training can lead to strength and muscle size gains similar to percentage-based training but without the added risk of putting you into a state of non-functioning overreaching and, therefore, detrimental to your grappling. 


Step 4:  Test your progress, adjust your training


If you don't track it, you can't hack it. 


This step brings the whole process together. 


So far, we have established our goals, developed a plan to achieve them, and accounted for our grappling training via autoregulation.


Now, we must test whether our processes are getting us where we want to go and then adjust our training accordingly. 


There is no right or wrong here; assess your progress, make adjustments based on your observations, and implement your new plan. 


You can also cycle back to Step 1 and repeat the process indefinitely. 


I recommend tracking your workouts by writing down the weight you lifted and a subjective rating of how the workout felt. The more data you collect throughout your training blocks, the easier this process will be. 


Every program on BJJ Strong Online is accompanied by a state-of-the-art fitness app (TrainHeroic), that makes this progress seamless; check out the programs here. 


Where To Go Now

Getting strong for Jiu Jitsu is not easy, but it is simple. 


Use the four-step roadmap to clarify your goals, create a plan, account for your grappling, and continuously test and adjust.


Take action today to get strong, improve your performance and, most importantly, reduce your risk of injury on the mats. 

Get Stronger, Faster and more Powerful on the mats, while reducing your risk of injury. Take my FREE Fitness Quiz here.

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