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Considerations for the BJJ Athlete

Updated: May 7, 2020

"In your opinion from training BJJ, what workouts would you recommend to better your game" I got this question through my Instagram story from a good friend of mine Arpo from across the ditch. Arpo is an ex-teammate of mine from Rockingham Rugby Club and an avid BJJ athlete. I was meant to answer this on the podcast but me being me, completely forgot about it and rambled on like I usually do. I thought it was a great question so rather than forget about it I thought I'd put a bit of thought and time into a wee blog post to explain some thoughts on the matter. Just for some context, I very barely trained BJJ, when and if I start up again I will still call myself a complete beginner. But even with that limited experience doing BJJ, as a Strength and Conditioning Coach I can highlight a few areas which may help improve your game and take you to the next level. Firstly, I think it needs to be highlighted the importance of understanding the goal of each session and phase of training. I feel a lot of combat sports athletes and coaches, not just BJJ, make the mistake of turning everything into some form of conditioning. They feel that if they aren't working to capacity, to their pain threshold and eliciting huge amounts of fatigue they aren't working hard enough. I'd argue there is a time and a place for that but it's certainly not every gym session. So now that we've cleared that up, it's up to the athlete and/or coach to get a training plan together that has clear goals for each session and training phase. It makes sense to ask what, if/any, glaring weakness do you have in your game. Do you lack the strength/power to put the finishing touches on submission? Do you run out of steam quickly after a couple of minutes? Can you not hold your intensity for a full match? Do you feel a certain body part is lacking and needs work? These are all questions that need answers. If there is a glaring weakness, obviously it makes sense to address that with the appropriate training. So I suppose to answer Arpo's original question, here's how I would go about things practically; Get as much conditioning from mat work and rolling as possible! This will be getting drummed into you already for sure, the more time you can spend on the mat, not only will your skill improve but so will your specific conditioning. You can then use intervals and circuit work to put the icing on the cake. There are plenty of ways to skin the cat when it comes to your "off mat" conditioning and it will look different depending on where you are in your season, but always remember you want your conditioning to be specific, long slow runs aren't going to help too much. To keep it specific to BJJ, think repeated bouts of high intensity on a moderate intensity base. I’d suggest intervals on the air bike, hill sprints and circuit work with large easy to perform exercises. I've popped a few ideas below. Whilst high intensity conditioning work is important, just because something is good doesn't always mean more is better. It's important to understand how each session will impact the next session and/or subsequent training days. This is where planning, coaching and monitoring will help immensely as you don't want to slip into a perpetual state of fatigue. Conditioning sets. #1 Air Bike 5 seconds max sprint 30 seconds moderate/low intensity Repeat for 10 rounds #2 Hill Sprint Ladder 40m Sprint, Jog back, 30m sprint, Jog back, 20m Sprint, Jog Back, 10m Sprint. 5 times. Add in bodyweight exercises at start line as an extra. #3 Circuit - 5 Mins Sprawl x 5 Bear & Reverse Crawl x 30s Squat Jump x 5 Skip x 30s When it comes to resistance training the name of the game is strength, our ability to create force, and power, how rapidly we can display that force. Even if a period of focused hypertrophy (muscle building) is necessary, that added muscle is then required to increase its strength and power output. Don't lose sight of this fact when organising your resistance training work, the goal of the session/phase is either to build muscle (probably pretty rare), build strength, or build power, though each is not mutually exclusive. In a practical sense I love combining strength and strength endurance movements, like a squat and a farmers walk, in early phases of training to build work capacity, motor patterns and hypertrophy. From a BJJ point of view I like the idea of using an isometric (static hold) variation for that strength endurance exercise where practical. That's something I'd definitely experiment with. Then as the athlete moves closer to competition I'd lower the repetition range and pair the strength movement up with an explosive movement, like a jump or a throw. Here's a couple of examples I like; Strength/Strength Endurance Squat & Farmers Walk Romanian Deadlift & Heavy Ball Carry Bench Press & Static Pin Press Bent Over Row & Static Pull Up hold Strength/Power Squat & Squat Jump Trap Bar Deadlift & Banded Kettlebell Swing Bench Press & 1 Med Ball Throw Pull Up & Explosive sled row Without seeing the specific athlete in-front of you it's very hard to prescribe anything, but I would suggest a focus on the posterior chain (hamstring, glutes, lower & upper back) will be beneficial for most BJJ athletes. Strong powerful hips will provide a solid base. A healthy mix of Romanian Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings (done properly), Hip Thrusts, Bent Rows and Pull Ups will do the trick. Something I will highlight; it's easy to get carried away with different variations of movements in an attempt to make them more specific for a given sport. Always remember the goal for your resistance training is to increase strength and power, that is to create the most force and/or do it as rapidly as possible. If said variation negates that in any way it might not be optimal. So there you have it, a few of my quick thoughts on the matter when it comes to BJJ. Definitely not an exhaustive blog on the topic and I feel like I could go on for pages and pages on this stuff but I will leave it there for now, I hope it helps.

If your a BJJ athlete and would like some guidance with your Strength & Conditioning work please do not hesitate to get in touch, I would love to help.


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