“Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?” is a question made famous by the legendary Jiu-Jitsu competitor Dean Lister that changed the revolutionary John Danaher’s outlook in grappling. While this quote pertains to the use of leg locks, the same can be said when strengthening the human body. The legs are mainly responsible for providing a solid base whenever you grapple. Undoubtedly, having a powerful set of legs allows you to explore uncharted areas of your game. In this article, we will talk about the six best exercises to strengthen your legs for BJJ.
The Six Leg Strengthening Exercises For BJJ
The legs are commonly referred to as the entire lower half of the human body. In BJJ, legs and learning are deeply connected. Generally, using the legs is a fundamental requirement for grappling, especially in the standup. The legs and hips are by far the most vital part of our bodies, and according to John Danaher, learning how to grapple primarily with your legs will speed up your progress in Jiu-Jitsu. Below are the six essential leg-strengthening exercises you should perform for BJJ.
1) Barbell Squat
Starting off the list, widely known as the king of all exercises, the squat. Not only is this the best exercise to train your legs for BJJ, but it also triggers the release of testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). The squat works out the core, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, which are all activated when doing takedowns or passing the guard.
The great thing about the squat is that it can be performed in different variations. For instance, the front squat movement can be compared to a high crotch takedown, where you direct your hips close to your opponent as you change level to put their weight on top of you. After placing the weight around the shoulder area, it is followed by pushing off the ground with your feet as you translate the power to your hips to lift the weight, keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
2) Walking Lunges
The second exercise is the walking lunge. This exercise dominantly works the quads and glutes and helps with your ability to balance and safe weight distribution. Unlike doing the lunges stationary, doing it while walking forward will significantly level your game when changing levels and shooting for the takedown. Walking lunges is a versatile exercise that can be performed with different types of free weights or simply with your bodyweight.
To perform walking lunges, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step one leg forward and slowly kneel your back leg while also bending your lead leg. Stand back up, use your other leg to step forward, and repeat as you advance.
3) Pistol Squat
The pistol squat, also known as the one-legged squat, is one of the best exercises that helps with muscular imbalances in the lower body. People typically experience difficulty doing this exercise because of the balance and stability that it requires. While it is usually performed with your body weight, you can also hold on to a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell to add more weight.
This exercise is convenient as it simulates defending the single-leg takedown and passing guard like the reverse DLR. Remember when performing this exercise to keep your foot flat and your arm in front of your body to help keep your balance while squatting down.
4) Trap Bar Deadlift
The deadlift is one of the most important exercises to build overall strength. While the conventional deadlift significantly targets the posterior chain, the trap bar deadlift mainly works the lower body, particularly the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Apart from this deadlift being easy to learn and requiring less technical proficiency, it is also a safer variation for grapplers with back issues, allowing them to lift heavier loads.
To perform the trap bar deadlift, stand in the center shoulder-width apart inside the trap bar. Squeeze your glutes and slowly lower yourself by bending your hips and knees. Keep your back and arms straight to the side while gripping the bar. Pull the weight off the floor while your feet push on the ground. Remember to keep your back and head neutral throughout the movement.
5) Box Jump
The box jump is an excellent exercise to build strength and power in your lower body. The explosiveness that this exercise builds is beneficial when doing explosive takedowns and guard passes. There are different ways to do the box jump, some of which start with kneeling. Typically, the box jump is performed by placing your arms in front of your body as you explosively jump off using your legs while using the momentum from the arms in front of your body.
6) Cossack Squat
The Cossack squat is a variation of the single-leg squat that significantly develops hip mobility, flexibility, and strength of your legs. The hip mobility and leg flexibility you can gain from this exercise can translate well to your Jiu-Jitsu, especially when performing submissions like the triangle, armbar, and guards like the DLR and spider. The Cossack squat may look like the regular part of your warm-ups, but this exercise will activate your quads the deeper you bend your knees.
To perform the Cossack squat, stand straight with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Point your toes outward and slowly lower your knee to one side. Do the same thing on the opposite side while keeping your heels on the ground.
There is a common saying that to become better at Jiu-Jitsu, you have to do more Jiu-Jitsu. While most Jiu-Jitsu practitioners prefer to spend most of their time training on the mats, training in the weight room is an essential aspect that will help you become a better grappler.
Not only can it make you a force to reckon with on the mats, but it can also prevent unnecessary injuries and accidents from occurring. For longevity, include strength and conditioning exercises in your program to allow your body to catch up with your techniques.
You may also like: