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Musings on how to get fitter for BJJ, part deux

Part 2

I wrote Musings on How to get Fitter for BJJ a couple of weeks back and got a lot of reaction from it. More than usual anyway. I think most people who read it misinterpreted the message as “never do any strength and conditioning work”, which wasn’t the way I intended it. I’m going to expand a bit on the points I raised in the article and answer some of the queries I’ve received since.

Point 1, I don’t believe you shouldn’t do conditioning ever, but I do believe you can get adequate conditioning from hard mat work and heavier rolling sessions as long as you structure it properly. The central point of my argument is that when a partner and a matted area are available, why would you decide to go sprinting? You can structure an actual training session that would be just as taxing and also have the benefit of improving or refining your skills on the mat.

Point 2, I don’t believe you shouldn’t be stronger, but how much mat time are you willing to sacrifice to get there? For me, not very much is the short answer. I have a number of strength goals, listed below, and I think these should be the priority for most people as they’re what will keep you on the mat for longer. Most people have the wrong idea about strength and conditioning training generally. They believe it to be some magic pill for improvement, whereas the priority in your gym work should be to first of all prevent injury, and after that generate more strength and power.

Barry’s very short list of strength goals:

  • Bulletproof knees- I’d like to avoid knee surgery thanks
  • Better balance- that is to say more stability when standing but also anatomical balance from chest to back, quad to ham etc. etc.
  • A strong, stable core- buzzword aside, this is very important, just chuck away the Swiss ball
  • Stable neck and shoulders- they get a lot of punishment, so they need looking after
  • Greater grip- there’s no substitute for grabbing a lapel and hanging on, but it’s just one method of building grip strength

The real problem is fitting everything in. I’ll use an analogy I use all the time. You have a bucket that is always full. It’s full of everything you have in your life from work, to family and right through to the elements of your training whatever they may be. Once you add something to this bucket, it doesn’t get bigger, it just spills over the side as it is already full. So for me, and probably for you if you’re reading this blog, the bucket should be full of grappling as much as possible. Once I begin to add in mobility work, and Yoga, and stretching, and conditioning, and strength work, and all of the other elements ancillary to Jiu Jitsu training, something has got to give in that bucket and lap over the sides. It’s a bit like spinning plates, you have to keep running form one to the other to make sure they all stay upright. Sooner or later though, they all come crashing down.

There are very few girls in BJJ, so one of the things I'm doing soon is to allow all girls to train for free for a month. Stay tuned to http://www.kyuzogym.com for details

So what to do? Well I like bargains, when you’re a full time coach you have to keep an eye out for bargains as we don’t earn that much. A bargain is something that adds value without costing too much, so here’s what I do. Firstly, I look at what needs to be done. Not what I want to be done mind, but the things that are absolutely necessary to my training. Look at the bullet points above for those. I need these things to stay injury-free and on the mat, so I need to find time for them. The struggle is that between coaching and being in the gym, travelling to and from the gym, taking care of the business of the gym, looking after my family and of course finding time for a social life, my bucket is quite full. As is yours I’m sure, though possibly with different elements. This means that you first have to identify your priorities, and then come up with either some sort of time freezing device (costly and require knowledge of advanced physics. It also has the disadvantage of probably being impossible) or of coming up with bargain sessions; sessions that don’t take a lot of time but that offer you the best value for the time that you’re investing. A good example would be to use your warm up as a dynamic stability and mobility session (15 minutes prior to training), or to tack on some strength work on the end of your lightest session for 15 minutes or so.

That’s all for now, but I’ll follow this entry up with some specific examples of basic strength, mobility and stability work you can do before, during and after training.

See you on the mat,




  1. Pingback: Modest strength for BJJ « The very limited adventures of a grappling lover - August 25, 2011

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