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For all you over 30s BJJ guys

Before we begin here I am issuing a public health warning.

I am not sure if this works! I’m only on my second cycle of this so read on with caution and a critical eye.

I’ve been asked a fair few times how to strength train and keep whatever modest size you may have while training intensively in combat sports when you’re over 30 and the body’s powers of recovery are considerably less powerful than before. This is something I’ve thought of a lot, because:

1. One likes being pretty strong,
2. One likes to train Jiu Jitsu as often as one can
3. One likes having muscles, one has to keep one’s vanity

So in the interest of all men who have left their 20s behind, and who are now looking to thread the delicate line of lifting, rolling, and looking good in a suit, I have experimented using my own body as the laboratory. I’m your canary old man!

I’ve tried most things and they all have their benefits and drawbacks- In the last 3 years I’ve tried:

1. Lifting hard and intensively concurrently with hard Jiu Jitsu training- Too hard to do both well. Too sore to roll, and too broken up to lift. I was injured a lot. This is the pits.

2. Lifting moderately with hard Jiu Jitsu training- Great for Jiu Jitsu, no progress in the weight room. Kept injury free more than the other times though.

3. Lifting hard and reducing Jiu Jitsu training- Increases in the gym, boredom on the mats, even when I wasn’t sore from lifting which wasn’t often. Everything hurt and I was unhappy with not choking people.

4. Bodyweight training only- Fun, definitely has carryover, but no real enjoyment if you like weights if I’m honest. Also just felt like I was trying to be a crappy gymnast.

So what I’m now doing is this, which once again comes with a warning that I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Will I be broken? Will I be fixed? Here’s what I say to you:

Every 6 months, for 6 weeks at a time, I’m going to lift heavy and intensively in an effort to increase strength and muscle size, with little or no regard for the way it makes me feel on the mats during this period. This is basically like option 3. above, only this time I’m reducing Jiu Jitsu training to less than one hour per day, and I’m going to just grit my teeth and get on with it during those sessions. I’m also going to eat to support the lifting and to maximise growth during this period. If this means getting a little more corpulent during that time I’m going to take that one on the (double) chin. Once the 6 weeks are done, so am I. I won’t touch a weight for another 4 months, 2 weeks from that day onward. 

My theory is essentially that I can’t keep both plates spinning, so I won’t even try. I’m going to try to pack on as much muscle as I can in a short period while keeping my Jiu Jitsu training ticking over in that time. Then I will stop, and give my Jiu Jitsu 100% of my attention for 4 months and 2 weeks, the start again.

The benefits are (for me)-

1. I get to concentrate on BJJ for a long period without worrying about whether my strength and size keeps up. Essentially, I will build that during the lifting periods and do some moderate maintenance work in the BJJ periods
2. I get to not stress myself over whether I really should be rolling instead of lifting
3. I get to give serious attention to the things I need to make stronger, like my hips, my back, and my neck
4. I get to make genuine progress in the weight room without worrying about being tired for the mats, and vice versa

So how’s it going I hear you ask. Well it’s been okay. I laid a pretty good foundation in February with some good work, but I chose to experiment with my programming instead of working simply, so I didn’t really reap the benefits I might have. This time, I’m 2 weeks in, and I’m sore all the time, but I already feel a little stronger and I’m 1.5kg up in weight. Here’s how my week looks:

Sunday: Squat heavy 5×5. Hamstring assistance, some core work, some arm work. Eat large Sunday roast, couch, sleep.
Monday: Wake up, cry getting out of bed onto legs. Work. BJJ for >1hr. Sleep.
Tuesday: OH GOD THE DOMS! BJJ>1hr. Power Clean Day. Bench Press. Dynamic Core Work. Sleep.
Wednesday: BJJ>1hr, then work, then BJJ>1hr
Thursday: Deadlift Day. Bulgarian Squat. Neck work. Sleep.
Friday: Eat, eat, eat, BJJ>1hr
Saturday: Rest, Eat, Eat, Eat.

That is it in a nutshell. In between sessions I still stretch and look after my mobility and all that yawn stuff that the internet tells you to do. If I get an injury or sore I just whine to my wife and try to get out of housework but basically ignore it until it gets bad enough that I have to take a day off something. 

How for the BJJ months. Basically my notion is that during this time if I miss a session for anything other than work or family I’ve to go home and whip myself like the guy out of The Da Vinci Code. I’ve to never, ever, turn down a roll, and in between the times I’m rolling I am planning the next time I’m rolling. Now whatever about the benefits of the lifting, this one has defined positive consequences. I still want to keep some strength but pull ups on the way into the gym, push ups, and general Jiu Jitsu training takes care of that I reckon.

This is the longest body experiment I’ve ever done on myself, considering the real results won’t be in on this for at least another year. In that time I’ll either be much stronger and better at BJJ, or I’ll be crap on the mats and weak as piss. Either way, it’ll be interesting!


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