The best way to build ‘strength & conditioning’ for BJJ, is to drill techniques and roll. 🤙 💪 The body will always adapt specifically to the demands placed upon it. To get fit for BJJ, you must do BJJ! in addition, the better your technique, the stronger & fitter you will appear.
For MMA – see our MMA Strength & Conditioning Program
This article includes a BJJ Workout program & a BJJ body weight workout in the form of a circuit that can be done at home or at the gym.
However, weights and specific conditioning exercises can make a big difference and give you the edge – if you utilise the gym correctly.
Strength for BJJ comes down mainly to:
- Specific Core Strength
- Neck Strength
- Grip Strength
- Hip & Glute strength & Power
- Isometric strength i.e. squeeze strength in the upper body
Please note – that in my opinion at least – Nogi requires a lot more explosive power for optimal, functional fitness. With less emphasis on gripping, generally in no-gi you can explode out of bottom position and escapes more easily than with a gi.
Gi is ‘tighter’ and slower, generally. If you are a gi-player, I’d therefore say that it might not be worth risking injuries with a high amount of explosive, plyometrics & Olympic Lifts.
Things to Avoid with BJJ Strength & Conditioning
- Remember you are training for BJJ, avoid bodybuilding exercises
- Remember BJJ is your priority, don’t get injured going too heavy or overtraining in the gym
General Tips for Strength & Conditioning for BJJ
- Train Movements not Muscles. Use bands, weighted vests etc to replicate techniques
- Don’t over-train your grip – you’ll end up with tendinitis pretty quickly
- Train the fundamental compound movements – squats, military press
- Be cautious with Olympic Lifts & Plyometrics*
- Train your ‘squeeze’ with isometric exercises
- Have AT LEAST 1 complete rest day per week
- Leave at least 1 day between conditioning sessions/workouts
- Consider the Add-On-Technique described below
*These are fantastic exercises to improve your explosive power. No doubt Yoel Romero is a fan of plyometrics, but they do dramatically increase your risk of injury. Start of with a low volume & light weights. Get a coach or mentor whenever possible.
BJJ Strength & Conditioning – Session 1
- Warm up with specific BJJ movements*
e.g. 10 sit throughs, 10 get-ups, 10 triangle choke-hip-ups, 10 chest 2 chest sweeps
- skipping – 5 minutes
- Barbell Front Squat – 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Push Press – 4 sets of 6 reps
- Floor Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 6-10 reps
- Chin Ups (or rope climb) – 3 sets of max reps
- Tabata Interval on Airdyne Bike x 2
|Barbell Front Squats||4||6-8|
|Barbell Push Press||4||6|
|Barbell Bench Press (Floor)||3||6-10|
|Airdyne Bike||2 Tabata Intervals||1 min rest between intervals|
*Hold your body at the top of the bar for an isometric hold of 3 seconds. You can also add band-exercises, and practice squeezing at the bottom of the movement for as long as possible:
A Functional Warm up using BJJ movements:
BJJ Strength & Conditioning – Session 2
- Warm up with specific BJJ movements
- 5 minute skip
- High Pulls x 4 sets x 5 reps
- Split Squat x 2 sets of 10 reps (2 sets on each leg)
- Barbell Squat & Press x 2 sets of 10 reps
- Barbell Rows x 2 sets of 6 reps
- Turkish Get Ups x 2 sets of 8 reps (click to see video of get ups)
|Barbell Squat & Press||2||10|
|Turkish Get Ups||2||8||2 sets on each ‘side’|
*Consider doing explosive shrugs instead of high pulls. High pulls can aggravate should injuries
BJJ Strength & Conditioning – Session 3
- Warm up with specific BJJ movements
- Hindu Press ups – 2 sets of max reps
- Shoulder Bridge Press – 2 sets of max reps
- Stability Ball Hamstring Curls – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Stability Ball Back Extensions – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Stability Ball Pikes – 2 sets of 10 reps
|Hindu Press ups||2||Max reps|
|Shoulder Bridge Presses||2||Max reps|
|Stability Ball Hamstring Curls||2||20|
|Stability Ball Back Extensions||2||10|
|Stability Ball Pikes||2||10|
Use a weighted vest to create a highly specific BJJ Circuit
- Fight-stance – Sidestep Squats
- Rotational Box Jumps*
- Triangle ‘hip ups’**
- Medicine Ball Slams
- Band Curls
- Militarily Press
- Glute Bridge into Mount Hip Escape***
- Fight Stance Squat & Step****
- Thrusters (Squat & Press) with band or dumbbells
*Stand on a box. Face forwards. Jump and rotate so that you land looking to the right. Video here.
**Lie on your back. Lift your feet off the ground & perform a triangle choke movement, in mid air
***Lie on your back. Bring feet to your buttocks. Bridge up by lifting your buttocks off the floor as high as possible. Then perform the mount hip escape by ‘shrimping’
****Adopt the stance of a wrestler/BJJ Player, standing up with one leg in front of the other, slightly side on. Squat down, and then as you come up, step forwards as far as you can by driving off your back foot. Then squat down and repeat.
Below is a video of a hip escape with a ‘shrimping’ movement
The Add On Program
If you are training 4 or 5 times a week, and rolling for hours each week, your body needs rest, not more conditioning & stress.
I would recommend looking to periodise you training, but also consider using the “add-on program”.
Instead of dedicated an hour or two, to your strength & conditioning each week. Consider performing 3 or 4 sets before you train. Make your rolling more intense and use it as your fitness training.
With an extra 15-20 minutes before training, you can give yourself 2 or 3 days full rest.
A single set of resistance training, can significantly increase strength, according to research – see study here. Also, I believe this is the approach to conditioning that Firas Zahabi uses.
Front Squats – 2 sets of 8 reps
Plyometric Rotational Jump – 1 set of 10 reps
kettlebell clean & Press – 3 sets of 10 reps on each arm
Chin ups – 2 sets of max reps
Clap press ups – 2 sets of 6 reps
15 minutes, 3 times a week, before you train BJJ.
|1||Barbell Front Squats||2||6-8|
|1||Plyometric Rotational Jumps||1||12|
|2||kettlebell clean & Press||3||10||3 sets per arm|
|3||Clap/Plyo Press Ups||2||8|
Exercise at your own risk.
Jumps, plyometrics & Olympic Lifts all carry a relatively high risk of injury.
Always consider to risk-to-return ratio of your conditioning program.
For example, barbell High Pulls are a great Olympic Lift for developing power, but also carry a high risk of injury.
PreHab Exercises for BJJ
Do these exercises at least twice a week to help prevent injuries.
Rotator Cuff Exercises:
Reverse Curls with a band & Bottom-up Kettlebell Shoulder Press
Crucial Stretches for BJJ
The World’s Greatest Stretch
Hang off a bar
Literally hang off a chin up bar for 1 minute. Be careful not to lift yourself up and then drop into position though, as you could damage your shoulders.
More info about the benefits off bar-hanging on my post here
Finally, I’d just like to mention that supplementing with baking soda and doing the Wim Hof technique helped me fitness for BJJ & MMA tremendously. The baking soda makes a big difference with muscular endurance and Wim Hof helps to control your breathing.
For some more ideas on strength & conditioning, please see my strength & conditioning for boxing post