I’m going to nail some flags to the mast in this article. Usually I sit on the fence with respect to what is “best” or “worst” but I got this email yesterday. I’ve altered it slightly to both disguise the sender and to make it sound more like it was sent to a recently deceased DJ.
I have about 30 minutes or less free before or after training. I would like to do some strength training in this time to help with my grappling. I have access to dumbells and kettlebells, no squat rack. I also have a pull up bar/dip station in my gym and a couple of small bars for curls. I want to do something and obviously I can’t squat or deadlift or bench. What would you recommend. My favourite band is Wham and my favourite footballer is Ian Rush. Please could you fix it for me to get stronger and to one day be able to grow Rushie’s moustache?
James, age 26
Now then, now then, now then James. The time constraints are very common, as are the equipment restraints. The first answer is that you can always press your bodyweight instead of benching, or press those dumbbells over your head. You can goblet squat, overhead squat, pistol squat, skater squat or split squat. Obviously you can pull up and chin up using the bar too.
This morning, me and two of my training partners did the following:
Pull ups- 2 sets of 8 (assisted) 5 sets of 5 (weighted or not depending on level)
Turkish Get Ups- 5 sets of 5
That was before some drilling. That took us about 30 minutes mostly because we were talking shite and were in no hurry. Given a time constraint, we could have done all that in about 20 minutes. The point being on any given day, you don’t have to squat and pull up and press and do your prehab and deadlift and push. You can pick your battles. If you’re training BJJ most days, you’re going to have some days where you probably won’t be able to do much more anyway due to training load. Last Monday I did this same session and my top set on the pull ups was 5 reps with 10kgs. This morning, I squeezed out 4 reps with 5kgs attached. I didn’t get weaker over the 10 days, I just had a really hard day’s training yesterday.
So given the above and a 3 day a week, 20 min a day template, I would do the following:
Day 1- Warm Up. 5sets of Pull Ups, Single leg deadlift 3×8, leg raises 5×8
Day 2- Warm Up. Push Ups 5×15, Turkish get up, 5×5
Day 3- Overhead press 5×8, single arm row 5×12, single leg squat variation 3×8
Just spitballing there. There are some things I’d change depending on the person but (and here’s the definitive, nail me down moment) I would definitely not change either the pull ups or the Turkish Get Up. And here’s why.
Pull Ups are a motivator. I always reckon the reason The Squat is so highly regarded as the king of the lifts is because you can be fat and still do it. It gives you a great excuse to eat what you want and if you can rest your belly on your legs when you bend your knees, then it’s okay because you’re a powerlifter and it’s all about reducing your leverages brah. The pull up is a no hiding place type exercise. It’s also a builder of that most injured spot in all of Grapplerdom, the upper and mid back. Having more strength in the neck and back will help you. Take it from someone who knows all too well what it means when you don’t have extra armour in that region.
The Turkish Get Up. Look I’ll probably change my mind here but if we want to talk about functionality, I think the TGU is the exercise that most reminds me of the feel of grappling. I know that’s vague and a bit wishy washy, but the stability/flexibility/mobility mix required to do 5 of these in a row with decent weight always brings to mind a single leg from sitting guard, or a hook sweep, or any number of positions in BJJ, though the movement itself doesn’t resemble them. It most resembles a technical stand up if anything. My point is that the combination of a strong, stable shoulder and mid back, a tight core, mobile hips and flexible legs, is the perfect total body strength exercise for BJJ in my opinion, at this minute in time, while I’m sitting here. If I move chair I might change my mind.
Your best BJJ exercise? Post your comment or mail me firstname.lastname@example.org