One of the questions I am often asked at seminars is “What are good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA workouts?” In an earlier post, I spoke of “attribute maximization”. This article will discuss specific ways to condition and prepare the body for jiu-jitsu.
I believe that the most important question you need to ask yourself when doing any training to improve your grappling is “Why am I doing this?”. For example, let’s say you are doing a session consisting of jumping jacks, sprints and pull ups. Why are you doing those exercises? How will the they aid you, specifically, on the mat. If you can’t answer that question about your workouts or even each specific exercise, then you need to reevaluate what you’re doing. Below I give a general overview of the exercises I engage in and, more importantly, why I use them.
At this point, I have found no better compliment to my jiu-jitsu training than climbing. The improvement in grip strength alone is worth the effort. After about 6 months of rock-climbing once per week I noticed a major increase in my forearm and finger strength.
A study on bone density between two control groups, one of weightlifters and one of rock climbers, found that the climbers had far higher levels of bone density. Obviously, increased bone density is invaluable to a jiu-jitsoka.
Climbing enhances strength, balance and weight distribution. What more could a jiu-jitsu fighter want? It’s fun as hell too.
Best for: Grip Strength
Swimming is great for jiu-jitsu. In my opinion it’s far superior to running as a form of conditioning because there is no impact on the ankles, knees and hips. It lengthens and strengthens the muscles and opens up the back and shoulders – areas of the body which often tighten up after a lot of grappling.
Best for: Cardiovascular Fitness
Resistance Training with Equipment
The beauty of using equipment is that is allows great control over the resistance variable of the exercise. When I use weights and kettlebells I tend to focus on compound, multi-joint movements such as full squats, barbell rows and Turkish get-ups. Using rubber cables/strands is also very effective as they more accurately simulate the tensile strength of an opponent.
Best for: Explosive Power, Muscle-specific strengthening
Gymnastic / Bodyweight Training
If you wanted to, you could get in shape to grapple without ever using a pool, weight, cable or any other equipment for that matter.
Moving the body through space using push ups, squats and pull ups is a challenging and effective way to build strength and/or endurance. At the more challenging end of the spectrum, gymnastic style movements such as handstands and bridging develop pretty much every attribute. The animals drills are also great for co-ordination and agility.
At the moment I am working with unilateral movements such as pistol squats and one-arm push-ups because I feel they offer the superior functional strength for jiu-jitsu.
Best for: Agility, Core Strength
Yoga is the most widely practiced exercise system in the world. Rickson Gracie is a yoga master, and without question that plays a role in his incredible mat skills.
Regular yoga practice strengthens your muscles, massages your internal organs and calms your mind. But to me, the biggest benefit derived from yoga is flexibility. It increases lubrication of joints, ligaments and tendons and corrects muscular-skeletal imbalances that can affect your health and and jiu-jitsu performance. I don’t do as much yoga as I should, but when I have time I tend to prefer the more dynamic, physical styles such as Astanga. Read my detailed article on yoga here.
Oh yeah, there are loads of hot girls in yoga classes too…
Best for: Flexibility
I hope this has helped some of you. I would love to hear from you guys regarding the training methods you employ to make yourselves better jiu-jitsokas.
Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood Recommends: Here are our recommendations for products and services that can improve your jiu jitsu and health. This is a short list since it only includes our top picks. For white and blue belts: BJJ Building Blocks - The ultimate fundamentals program for jiu jitsu beginners For those wanting to use yoga to improve their jiu jitsu: Yoga for Grapplers - The ultimate fundamentals program for jiu jitsu beginners For those wanting more advanced techniques: Flow Jitsu - Smooth-flowing combinations from 'BJJ After 40' Legend Mike Bidwell For those struggling to remember their techniques: Beyond Technique - concept-focused jiu jitsu program by black belts Nic Gregoriades and Kit Dale For those wanting a reference manual for BJJ: The Black Belt Blueprint - Nic Gregoriades’ bestselling book on the art of jiu jitsu