Strength and conditioning is an important aspect when it comes to improving your performance on the mat. While strength and endurance are not substitutes for good technique, they are very beneficial when used to complement Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) training.
Strength and conditioning training will improve your strength relative to your body weight, increase your energy levels while rolling, and minimize the muscle loss that occurs as you age.
Your strength-to-weight ratio matters even more if you plan to compete. Most competitions require you to make weight for a specific weight class. Let’s say you sign up for the 70 kg division at a local tournament. If you can bench 120 kg, while your opponent can only bench 60 kg, you are going to enjoy a strength advantage during a contest. If the two of you happen to be evenly skilled, that strength difference might become the difference maker.
Conditioning training is just as important. It does not matter how skilled you are. We all turn into white belts when we get tired enough. You probably hear sports commentators talk about an athlete having a stronger will than an opponent, but what they are often trying to say is that the person has better endurance.
Good cardiovascular endurance is what keeps you going when you have been rolling hard for over 10 minutes. Pay close attention to what’s going on when you watch combat sports and you will quickly realize that it is not that uncommon for competitors to give up during contests due to being tired.
By working on your endurance, you will increase your chances of being able to outlast your opponent. Add strength training to that and you will be able to go hard for even longer. Always remember that strength training and endurance go hand in hand.
For example, let’s say you start a weight lifting program. At the beginning, you can only squat 100 kg for 3 reps. Your total workload for such a workout would be 300 kg. By the end of a three-month program, you might be able to go 12 reps using the same weight, pushing your workload to 1,200 kg. Your workload capacity would now be four times more than what it was when you started. It means you would be able to perform four times more work with your core leg muscles when you are on the mat.
Strength training becomes even more important when you begin to feel the effects of aging. It is natural to lose some muscle mass during this stage, it is called sarcopenia. Fortunately, this muscle loss can be reduced with strength training.
Being stronger than your opponent can propel you to success against opponents who are more skilled than you are if the skill gap is not too wide. Spend enough time observing people sparring, and you will notice a few brutes imposing their will on opponents who seem to have a better understanding of the technical aspects of things.
However, always remember that good technique trumps it all. You might get away with muscling some people into disadvantageous positions and submissions, but you will eventually run into someone who is able to negate your strength with superior technique.
Popular Myths About Strength Training In BJJ
Not all BJJ practitioners are fans of strength training. There are still many grapplers who feel strength training is not beneficial to them. It is mostly misconceptions though, since science clearly shows that grapplers would benefit greatly from incorporating strength training into their routines.
For example, type II muscles fibers – which are optimized for fast, explosive and short movements – are primarily used when lifting weights. These are the same muscles that are used when executing many grappling techniques.
Other grapplers refuse to strength train because they feel it will slow them down and make them feel bulky. That only occurs if you decide to lift like a powerlifter or a bodybuilder. The huge, bulky powerlifters you see on TV look the way they do because their sport is focused on generating incredible bursts of energy for only a few seconds.
BJJ is a high-intensity activity that requires you to roll for up to at least five minutes at most competitions. That means your body should be able to continuously perform explosive, quick movements for this duration without exhaustion creeping in.
Your strength and conditioning program should not be focused on building bigger muscles or size. Instead, the focus should be to improve your strength and endurance.
A grappler’s weightlifting routine should be made up of exercises that mimic the movements used in BJJ. It should include exercises that work compound muscles like hip thrusts, bench presses, and squats. Since size is not the focus, you want to use weights where you can get 12-18 reps. Circuit training is particularly great for BJJ players since you do not get any rest between sets. You simply move to another exercise and work out a different muscle group. Try to design circuits that last as long as you often roll.
Strength training is never a substitute for learning good technique, so you should never get to a point where strength training becomes more important than going to BJJ class. Strength training just happens to be one of those things that improve your BJJ. If you ever have to choose between lifting weights or drilling techniques, improving your BJJ should be your priority.
The best way to build up grappling endurance is by spending time on the mat, while the weight room is the best place to become stronger. Working on other attributes like your agility, flexibility, balance, and mobility will also help to improve your BJJ game. Eating properly is just as important as all these things since it provides the fuel your body burns.
It is the combination of all these things that often separates elite BJJ players from everyone else.
Feel free to talk to your instructors if you have any questions about strength and conditioning. If you’re interested to try out BJJ or a strength and conditioning program, sign up for a complimentary trial class below!
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