When your sport is as complex as BJJ, your strength training must be as simple as possible. In fact, your strength training should be simple anyway. No, I didn’t say easy. Simple means I don’t have to worry as a coach too much, and the training looks boring on paper, but it is challenging in real life. If my guys need more excitement, they roll. Believe me, that is crazy enough.
BJJ is quite demanding on the body, and keeps the practitioners in constant flexion. You make turns and rolls; you pull and you get pulled; you push and you get pushed; and you pull and push at the same time, quite often while your opponent does the same. So, against all that flexion, we must do a bunch of extension, and we neutralize the rotation with anti-rotation exercises.
When you train BJJ more than two times a week, you have no business with cardio, strength endurance, or any type of crazy interval program. If you have no strength, what will you endure? (Pavel.) True that. Instead of adding more risk factors to your life, let’s work on your body armor. Strength is some of the best armor, unless you can combine it with some extra muscle. But in BJJ competition, weight can be an issue. What you need is simple, effective strength training, neutralizing all the negative adaptations you might build while fighting on the tatami.
You can have incorporate variables when you work on your strength, but changing exercises often is the poorest choice. Again, many trainers use exercises as a tool to entertain clients. BJJ is already entertaining. You need an effective, low-risk, simple strength program, based on principles that target movements versus muscles.
Movements we should train to support rule number three: deadlift, one-hand floor or bench press, single leg deadlift variations, kettlebell two-hand swing, pull-ups, and dips.
Movements you should practice to maintain quality movement: goblet squat, kettlebell front squat, Turkish get-up, partial get-up, Pallof press, single-leg deadlift variations, one-hand swings, one-hand rows, and lunging presses.
Strength moves should be two to three exercises maximum, and normally a total of 9-12 total reps, somewhere in 75-90% of the 1RM. How many sets? Well, it takes normally 3-4 sets to accomplish the given number, with good quality movements, where all repetitions are challenging but not hard, without going to failure at all. Oh yes, the above principles are good for all the listed exercises, except heavy swings. Heavy swings are a different category. Normally I use 5×5 or 10×5 of a very heavy swing. No cardio here.
Practice moves should be two or three exercises, and normally total 18-25 repetitions, mainly with a 60%-80% of 1RM. Again, all reps must be good quality.
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