7 Ways Accidentally Kept Myself Weak for BJJ
These are the 7 ways I kept myself weak while trying to get strong for BJJ.
I had to learn these lessons the hard way, so I'm sharing them with you so you can learn from my mistakes.
Number 7 is the most important lesson you can learn.
1) I Followed a Powerlifting Program
When I first started training jiujitsu, I wanted to get stronger (don't we all) to give me a competitive edge on the mats.
I thought to myself...
"I want to get strong for jiujitsu... so I should follow a powerlifting program."
I was wrong.
Powerlifting will get you strong in the big 3 lifts - bench press, deadlift and squat (because that's what it's designed to do).
I realised it was not getting me strong for jiujitsu.
It tightened my shoulders, hips, and posterior chain and made my elbows sore. It did nothing for my:
All are essential for jiujitsu performance.
I couldn't keep up with the progressive overload of the program. I had excessive fatigue and shitty workouts; I was getting weaker (and my grappling was suffering).
My approach needed to be more sustainable.
So, I got rid of powerlifting and started cherry-picking elements to develop a more holistic athletic approach.
The difference was night and day.
2) Program Hopping
Hopping from program to program is like 'studying' a technique from a jiujitsu instructional but never:
trying it out in a live scenario,
or problem-solving issues that arise.
Then, you wonder why you cannot do the technique, and you're not improving.
Like jiujitsu techniques, you need time and practice to improve your lifting.
Measuring your progress without consistent benchmarks makes progressive overload more difficult.
For example, if your goal is 5 bodyweight pull-ups but you're not consistently doing pull-ups... It makes it a lot harder to achieve your goal.
To avoid this problem, stick with a program and see it through. You can assess your progress and develop your next training block based on your goals.
3) I Was Lifting Too Often
How the hell did lifting more make me weaker?!
By putting me in a state known as "Non-Functional Overreaching".
When your training stimulus exceeds your ability to recover, this is called non-functional overreaching. It means you will end up where you started (or your training will reduce your performance and make you worse).
Grappling has a high physical demand on your body; it causes a huge amount of training stimulus. When I tried to maintain a 5-6 day per week training program, this tipped me over the edge of what's sustainable and recoverable.
The result was worse performance in the weights room and on the jiujitsu mats (and I felt like shit).
To solve this problem, I scaled back to 2-3 strength & conditioning sessions per week designed for grappling performance. I also implemented auto-regulation to 'regulate' my training to the demands of grappling for that week (more on this in a future post).
I went from non-functioning overreaching to functioning overreaching.
4) I Neglected My Core/Grip/Carry/Rotation
When you think about being strong for jiujitsu, it doesn't only mean picking up heavy sh#t and putting it back down. It also means:
- core strength
- rotational strength and explosiveness
- being able to carry heavy loads
- having an unbreakable iron grip
Think about the jiujitsu positions you often find yourself in, and then try to map those movements against a deadlift, bench press, or squat...
I'm sure you can find some examples. Still, you're often moving through oblique ranges of motion with an emphasis on your core and rotational strength.
I fixed this by including core/grip/carry/rotation supersets at the end of my training sessions.
I like to combine a core or rotation exercise with a grip or carry. Here are some example supersets:
5) I Neglected My Range of Motion
Having a heavy deadlift or bicep curl is cool.
But if you can't bend down to touch your toes or get your knees to your chest, good luck with jiujitsu.
I'm not saying you must be a 'super bendy boi'. Improving your range of motion will unlock your ability to apply strength throughout that range, which will significantly help.
One way you can do this is by adding mobility work into your training program (or even emphasising the full range of motion):
...and the list goes on.
Jiujitsu-specific mobility training will also help (but this is a topic for another day).
6) I Wasn't Training For My Sport
Training for the demands of jiujitsu has been a theme throughout this list. Still, it deserves its time in the spotlight.
Training for jiujitsu performance is training for sports performance (duh).
It does not mean making every exercise look like a jiujitsu technique, which is not only dumb - it won't help you.
It means regulating your training load to account for your grappling and focusing on the holistic athletic profile of a grappler. It can include:
range of motion
All these elements will give you the most bang for your buck and translate to strength on the mats.
Are you still trying to figure out where to start? I've got you covered; download a free 2-day per week strength program designed for grapplers by clicking here.
7) I Wasn't Being Consistent
Consistency is the most important lesson from this list.
It doesn't matter if you have all this knowledge and know how to train to support your jiujitsu if you don't show up and do the work.
Some of the most common excuses are:
A. "I don't have time."
B. "I don't know what to do or how to start."
C. "Training jiujitsu is the only way to get stronger for jiujitsu."
I'm going to tackle all three of these right now...
A. "I don't have time."
Here's some tough love.
Everyone is busy; you're not a unique, special little snowflake.
All you need is 2 sessions per week. That's it.
They can be 30-45 minutes (even 20 minutes will help).
If you cannot get to a gym or access one, buy a couple of cheap kettlebells and resistance bands and start at home.
Reframe this excuse from: "I don't have time" to...
"It's not a priority."
How do you feel about it now?
B. "I don't know what to do or how to start."
Not knowing what to do is the only legitimate excuse here.
Luckily for you, I've got you covered.
You can download my free 2-day per week strength program designed for grapplers by clicking here.
C. "Training jiujitsu is the only way to get strong for jiujitsu."
Saying lifting weights won't help your jiujitsu performance is like saying the earth is flat; it's not true.
It's the same when I hear coaches say the best way to get better cardio for jiujitsu is to train more jiujitsu; it's not the case (more on this topic another day).
Lifting weights for your sport is 'cross-training'.
Research on cross-training shows it improves your performance in your chosen sport and reduces your risk of injury (by as much as 50%.)
It's a win-win.
What To Do Now?
If you're doing one or more things on this list like I did, you may harm your strength progress and jiujitsu performance.
The best thing you can do is follow a jiujitsu-specific strength program 2-3 times per week, stop making excuses, and be consistent.
Learn from my mistakes, and you will get strong and reduce your risk of injury on the mats.
Remember, there is no advantage to being frail and weak.
Get Stronger, Faster and more Powerful on the mats, while reducing your risk of injury. Take my FREE Fitness Quiz here.