Category Archives: Strength and Conditioning
Supplemental training for BJJ
I spend a lot of time at the gym both watching and participating in Jiu jitsu classes here in Appleton. During these times, I hear a lot of discussion regarding body type and jiu jitsu. Even the kids in our BJJ program have realized that body type makes a huge difference. Many times the discussion is more of a complaint than anything…
“I am not strong enough to bump him”
“I am not flexible enough for this move”
“I can’t lock my guard/touch my knees to the floor in mount”
And then, there is the speculation that “That guy has the perfect jiu-jitsu body!”
The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a perfect jiu-jitsu body. Every body type has its advantages. Tall and lean is great for the guard. They may not be big and strong, but small guys can ball up, move fast and fluidly, and take advantage of little spaces. Those that aren’t that naturally flexible tend to take up a strong pressure and passing games. You must use what nature gave you and work with it! Not every move shown in class is going to be perfect for your game or be your #1 move; we all pick and choose. If you like to watch jiu jitsu videos, it may be a good idea to find someone that shares your body type!
That being said, remember that if you are frustrated with a certain technique or training partner, your body type may not be to blame! You may be missing details, a frame here or a hip movement there, or may need to modify your strategy…it’s probably something that your instructor can help you with!
There are a lot of different ways to cross train. One tool that has changed my Brazilian jiu-jitsu game is the exercise ball (also called a stability ball). If you have never seen an exercise ball used for Gracie jiu-jitsu, check out this video (sorry for the weird music…the guy knows how to move, but may need some help with his soundtrack choices):
I love the exercise ball for jiu-jitsu because it teaches a lot of different principles.
1) Balance and flow come from RELAXING the right parts of your body: If you are tense, you will lose your balance. The ball will “sweep” you. You need to relax the majority of your body and make minor adjustments to keep the main balance point. This is also helpful with your jiu-jitsu because it conserves energy and allows you to roll better longer.
2) A lot of CONTROL comes from your HIPS: You control the ball with your hips. You determine the direction it can roll and the places it will stop. This is a great concept for top positions in BJJ: Your hips create pressures and barriers for your opponent when you are rolling!
3) Mistakes happen, but you can MITIGATE the consequences if you FLOW: Tensing up and holding onto a bad position or base will get you swept or subbed. If I relax and counterbalance the mistake I may be able to salvage the position, deter my opponent’s game plan, or go to the next best position. I need to flow instead of panic.
Get started! There are a lot of videos out there to give you some ideas of where to start. You can also just start experimenting on your own, even if it is just starting with basic balancing positions (butt, stomach, knees). Have fun!
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
— Jim Ryan
Some say getting started is the hardest part when it comes to training or achieving fitness goals; but I think that once you have a goal and some motivation, it is a straightforward task to get a plan and get started (especially if you have a good set of coaches, trainers, teammates, etc.!). The hard part is maintaining your plan once the excitement of a new endeavor has faded or once your initial goal has been achieved. Once you decide to be a year-round athlete or decide it’s time to just “be in shape”, creating good training habits is essential.
I consider good training habits to be a sort of momentum that I keep by maintaining a consistent training schedule. It can be as simple as three days on, two days off. I personally train BJJ Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, with strength and conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday and Sunday are my rest/recovery days. If you keep a framework to your training schedule, it is simple for your body and brain to sustain a training baseline, or minimum that you will be doing each week, so that your technique or strength or conditioning is at least maintained throughout the year. When you have a baseline, it is easy to ramp up the training by increasing the intensity of your workout or adding sessions throughout the week once you have an imminent goal, like a tournament or fight.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people train hard for a tournament or a fight, then drop off the face of the earth for two or three weeks or until they have a new tournament or fight coming up. I watch these guys struggle to progress in their technique and their conditioning; it’s as though they are starting from square one each time. They come back feeling out of shape, tired, out of the loop, rusty, and having to work hard just to get back to a level where they can really start to work for their fight. Or, they come back and wonder why that guy they used to beat up on seems so much better now.
Other times, “life just gets in the way”. People have long work hours and families and social schedules. One week off turns into two and three and, soon, it is easy to feel discouraged and give up when that first class back is so much harder than you remember.
I’m not saying that you can never go on vacation or that missing practice for your kid’s piano recital is a bad thing. But I will say that the more you stay consistent (just showing up!), the more you will steadily progress and the easier it is to maintain in the long run for both your body and your brain.
What should I be doing when I am not in jiu-jitsu class?
When you are looking to be in great shape, one of the most important things is to get a variety of different workouts that work different muscle groups and functions. Jiu-jitsu is great in that it has the potential to work muscle endurance, explosive muscle movement, flexibility and cardio. However, sometimes it is good to pick up the intensity in some of those categories…Here are some of my favorite cross-training activities for BJJ:
Some people prefer to run or use the exercise bike, but because my knees are not in the greatest shape, swimming is my favorite way to boost my cardio fast. It is easy on the joints and not too taxing on your muscles on your “off days”. I swim for 25-35 minutes at a time, doing a mix of swimming laps, using the kickboard, running front and back…and just moving, moving, moving to work your heart and lungs!
Flexibility and Static Strength: Yoga
Yoga is a great activity for BJJ for a few reasons. Yoga is great for increasing flexibility (think: great guard work and flow) and your static strength for holding positions. Yoga is also great for learning to control your breath! If you can’t make it to a yoga class and still want to increase your flexibility, spend 15-20 minutes after BJJ class doing static stretching and breathing…Make sure that you are already warm! Never stretch cold!
Muscle Endurance/Explosive Movement:
For this, use a combination of body weight exercises and resistance training (using weights, resistance bands, medicine balls, etc)…Just come to Team Conditioning at Team FVGC 😉 But, generally we pick 6 exercises that work different muscle groups to get a full body workout. For muscle endurance use low weight and high reps. For more explosive movement, do less reps but make sure you either have resistance or are exploding through the movement (e.g. for each burpie you do, jump as high as you can, rather than doing more burpies with small jumps). I personally don’t use a lot of traditional weight lifting. My “heavy lifting” ends up being rolling guys bigger than I am. For cross-training, I focus on controlled, functional movement.