If You Are Lifting Weights for BJJ It Is Not Enough...
When I started jiujitsu, I was an arrogant mess.
I wasn't arrogant in my grappling ability (I knew I sucked).
I was arrogant in my ability to train for my sport.
I had over a decade of training in many different fitness domains including powerlifting, CrossFit, I had stepped on stage as an amateur bodybuilder, and was a "mobility nerd" (I was also an established online fitness coach).
And yet, I had a massive problem... My training wasn't working.
I tried to maintain my bodybuilder-style workouts 5x per week all while training BJJ 4-6+ per week.
My joints were always sore, I could barely lift anything, and my mobility was getting worse, I was tired all the time and barely recovering (sound familiar?).
My body was falling apart.
I thought the problem was volume and focus — so, I changed to a 3-day per week powerlifting program.
"I want to get stronger for BJJ, so I should follow a 'strength sports' program like powerlifting, right?"
I soon discovered that powerlifting was a terrible approach.
The "strength gains" were not translated to the mats.
I felt stiff and inflexible — and I wasn't hitting the weightlifting targets the powerlifting program demanded of me.
After trial and error, joint pain, frustration, shit recovery and even giving up for a month (and a bunch of half-assed workouts),
I had one of the most important realisations of my athletic career...
"Lifting weights for jiujitsu is not enough."
Jiujitsu is a sport (duh).
To improve your jiujitsu performance you must train like an athlete.
You must cultivate a multifaceted approach and train for the demands of your sport.
The problem with powerlifting for grappling is that it doesn't work the way you think it will.
Powerlifting will make you stronger in big 3 lifts, bench press, deadlift and squat. That's what it's designed to do.
This is a microscopic narrow focus on strength.
When we simplify it, we can divide jiujitsu performance into 6 key areas.
- Power (and speed)
(each area has many different sub-categories)
The bench press, squat and deadlift are a "sub-sub-category" of strength.
Powerlifting neglects rotation, ballistics, plyometrics, dynamic strength, endurance, mobility, stability, balance and so much more.
No wonder it's not the catch-all solution you think it is.
My Beef with Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding for jiujitsu has a different problem.
Bodybuilding training's focus is on hypertrophy (gaining muscle).
But hypertrophy is not the sole focus of a jiujitsu athlete (at least it shouldn't be).
You're missing out on strength, endurance, stability, grip strength, ballistic training, power, rotation, dynamic strength, and so on.
Bodybuilding has its place — but its focus is too narrow.
The 5-Step Framework To Jiujitsu Performance
This is my 5-step framework to gain clarity on how to improve your jiujitsu performance:
Step 1: Assess your strengths and weaknesses
List out the main area of jiujitsu performance and rate yourself out of 10 in each area.
(You can use the area provided, or you can add sub-categories.)
Step 2: Focus on your 2 lowest performing areas first
Take the two lowest-scoring areas and focus on them first.
For example, if your list looks like this:
- Technique - 5/10
- Strength - 2/10
- Power - 2/10
- Mobility - 4/10
- Stability - 3/10
- Endurance - 6/10
Then you'd want to focus on strength and power first.
Step 3: Invest in your training, invest in yourself.
Your time is precious, and it always feels like you never have enough of it.
Here's the hard truth...
If you want to train jiujitsu, you must pay the toll.
Imagine you're heading on a road trip from one city to another. You punch the directions into the maps app on your phone and you're presented with two options:
1) Take the toll highway and get there 2 hours earlier but you pay a $3.99 fee.
2) Add 2 hours onto your trip by taking the slower, winding and bumpy back roads.
Which one would you choose?
Doing strength & conditioning for jiujitsu is like taking the toll road and the fee you pay is your time.
Or you can keep showing up to jiujitsu and train.
But you risk setbacks, more injuries, your mobility sucks, and your performance suffers.
This is like taking the 'free' backroads. It's not actually free, you're paying in the long run and it takes longer to 'get there' (your goals).
Research done on injury reduction in sports shows that strength training reduces the risk of injury by 30% and the risk of overuse injuries by 50%.
How Often Should You Train?
Training 2x per week to support your jiujitsu is the fee to 'use the toll road'.
This ensures results without causing excessive fatigue.
Make a commitment to 2-3x Strength & Conditioning sessions per week.
Step 4: Develop a Jiujitsu-Specific Training Program
Take your weak areas from Step 1 and develop a 2-3 per week training program to address them.
Everyone's weak areas are different, here are some general princples to follow:
- Focus on full-body workouts
- Prioritise compound movements
- Include strength and power
- Focus on interval training and zone 2 cardio for conditioning
- Add jiujitsu-specific mobility work before your sessions
If you want a done-for-you strength program designed for grapplers you can download my free program here.
For deep dives into each of the key areas of jiujitsu performance click on your key area of interest:
Step 5: Do the Work
This step is simple but not easy.
Show up and do the work.
I cannot do this for you.
I can only show you how to do it, what the benefits are and support you along the way.
The rest is up to you.
If you want to level up your performance, reduce your risk of injury and get step-by-step guidance from me then join BJJ Strong Online today.
Get Stronger, Faster and more Powerful on the mats, while reducing your risk of injury. Take my FREE Fitness Quiz here.