The Strength and Conditioning Megathread

Hello BJJ Gold Forum,

This thread is dedicated to all things Strength and Conditioning as they relate to BJJ.

This thread will be an ongoing work in progress that I hope we can build as a community into a good strength and conditioning resource for BJJ practitioners.

I wanted to get the thread up and running, and plan to add pictures and additional content down the line.

Scroll down to the Basic Bodyweight BJJ Strength Routine if you are looking for a quick program to get you started.

Ask any question, post any comment, share any thoughts or experience, and get motivated to pick up some weight!

Who Should Be Doing Strength and Conditioning?

Whether you are a competitive player looking for an edge over your opponent or a BJJ hobbyist looking to get the most out of your time on the mat, you need to be doing strength and conditioning.

Strength and conditioning for BJJ is not just about building muscle, getting lean, or lifting a bunch of heavy weights.

At the fundamental level, a BJJ strength routine should be about maximizing the health and longevity of your joints and muscles, followed by ensuring adequate strength across a full range of motion.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is incredibly hard on the joints and spine/neck. It requires our body to take pressure under random conditions while in less-than-optimal body positions.

BJJ also requires proper mobility through all joints, but particularly the hip joint, in order to be able to move optimally while rolling.

In the future I will go over mobility more in depth, training for mobility requires foam rolling (myofascial release), certain forms of stretching, and then strengthening that joint using external resistance.

Safely training strength also requires perfecting the form on most of the basic exercises coaches and athletes use to strengthen the body.

I will continue to update this thread with routines as well as answer any questions, however the following is a basic routine that can get you going on your strength and conditioning

Basic Bodyweight + Barbell BJJ Strength routine - 2x per week

The following routine is designed to train all the major planes of motion and take advantage of the weight of your own body to produce resistance and begin using one of the foundational strength tools: the barbell.

Even if you are in decent shape, bodyweight and barbell training can be surprisingly difficult, and there are infinite ways to scale almost every exercise to allow for continual progression.

If you have access tokettlebells and are familiar with their use, you can perform weighted squats as well as kettlebell swings

NOTE:

This is not a be all end all workout program.

It is a basic intro into bodyweight and strength training.

Many exercises can be substituted, however it would be overwhelming to go over every single option in one program.

I plan to continue to add better photos for each exercise with better instruction.

Day 1 - Upper Body -

Required equipment - pull up and dip bars/make-shift pull-up/dip bars
Recommended - Pull up/dip rack or gymnastics ring and a barbell with weight plates.

Perform each exercise pair by alternating between the two exercises for 3 sets each. Perform the second exercise immediately after the first, then wait 60-90 seconds to begin the second set.

I.e. - 10 pull ups followed by 10 dips, wait 60-90 seconds, repeat two more times

You really do need access to a pull up bar and something to do dips on for serious bodyweight strength.

Its difficult to load a horizontal row with no equipment. Even a bodyweight horizontal row requires access to suspension equipement.

If you don’t have any equipement, you can use your BJJ belt in the top of a doorframe to make a make-shift cable suspension and perform bodyweight rows.

Seriously… just find a barbell

Exercise Pair 1
Pull ups - 3x6-10 -
Dips 3x5-10

These photos demonstrate some options for pull-up progression depending on your equipment.

Band-assisted

Bar Pull ups


Ring pull up

Exercise Pair 2
Push ups 3x15
Barbell Row or suspension bodyweight row 3x8

Day 2 - Lower Body -
Required equipment: none
Recommended equipment - kettlebells, barbell, medicine ball

Do not pair the squats and lunges/swing/deadlifts (perform all three sets of squats, all three sets of deadlifts, with a full 60-90 seconds between each set)

Squats -
3x15
Progression - bodyweight squats - goblet squat (if weight is available) - barbell squat - pistol squat (bodyweight)

Lunges (if no weight equipement)

3x20 (10 lunges each side)

OR

Kettlebell Swing/Deadlift (if you have equipement): -

3x15 (10 if deadlift) -

Will have more photos soon, but here is a barbell squat example. There is a lot of form involved in squatting properly and safely with weight and this is something I plan to go over in the future.
If you are squatting with bodyweight you are unlikely to injure yourself as long as you don’t move in a way that causes pain/tweaking during the movement. This is a good option if you aren’t confident in your squatting form yet.

Progression: perform kettlebell swings unless you know how to barbell deadlift, in which case you can perform the deadlift if you prefer.

Exercise Pair
Russian twist 3x20 (10 twists in each direction) - medicine ball
Leg raises - lying down or hanging - bench/floor or hanging straps

Russian Twists with Medicine Ball (can be performed with on the floor without equipment as well)


Leg Raises (can also be performed on the floor/bench)


Basic Bodyweight Strength Guidelines

Below is a basic outline of a good baseline general mobility and strength levels to have some concrete numbers to shoot for.

Push ups -
You should shoot to comfortably be able to perform sets of at least 20 strict form push-ups with stopping to rest or breaking the plank position.

Dips

Shooting for 10 strict bodyweight dips for males, and 5 for females, indicates good upper body strength.

Pull-ups -

For men, being able to comfortably perform sets of 10-12 strict pull-ups or chin ups, wide or narrow, is a good indicator of sufficient upper body pulling strength.

For women, sets of 5-6 bodyweight pull-ups is a good upper body strength guideline

Squats -

Performing sets of 25+ full range of motion bodyweight squats indicates a good baseline lower body strength and mobility.

The ability to perform full-depth pistol squats for sets of 10 indicates a full range of motion and strength in the lower and upper body.

Please ask me any questions related to this routine or anything strength and conditioning!

My Background in Strength and Conditioning

Since I began training, I have been very interested in figuring out the best way to strengthen the body for BJJ (spoiler: there’s no best/perfect routine, everything you do is cost/benefit).

In the last year I feel that I’ve really begun to dial in a good strength and conditioning program for myself as well as my wife. We both train BJJ 3-4 days a week and therefore have to adjust our strength and conditioning.

I hold two different training certifications through NASM, and most of my training style and philosophy is based on the scientific principles laid out in their Optimum Performance Training model.

I use this model for many non-BJJ strength and fitness clients I train in person, however the principles can be used to develop programs geared for any athletic pursuit.

I also frequently reference the National Strength and Conditioning Association manual as well as a number of physical therapists and coaches who I have read and learned from.

In addition, I have learned a lot from many expert guests on various BJJ podcasts I’ve listened to over the years, and I will keep an ongoing compilation as part of this thread.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I recommend as a program to either a client, friend, or training partner are exercises or workouts that I have practiced and performed myself over time.

What this means is that there are many exercises that other people may do/recommend in other strength and conditioning programs that I do not mention or teach.

I generally skip things like Olympic lifting, advanced gymnastics, and other technically demanding skills, even if those skills may be useful for athletic development.

I’m not good at those movements, and I cannot perform them safely myself, so I don’t include them in my programs. There are plenty of simple, safe, and effective ways to develop optimal athleticism for BJJ.

UPDATE:

As requested @Sky, here is a brief picture guide to the mobility/recovery I do pretty much after every training session or before bed. I hope to improve photo/space quality as I make more content, but I wanted to get you guys some info ASAP.

Calf (lateral gastrocnemius and soleus) release - find a tender spot on the outer edge of the calf or just above the Achilles and hold pressure on that spot for 30 seconds.
Calf3

Gluteus medius - find a tender spot on the upper outer edge of your hip (lateral hip) - hold 30 seconds
Glute%20med1

Latissimus Dorsi - Lie on your side and find a tender spot below the armpit - hold for 30 seconds
Lats1

Piriformis - cross leg (left leg in picture) and sit on the foam roller. Find a tender spot on your hip/butt on the side of the crossed leg (in the picture its the left hip) - hold for 30 seconds
Piriformis1

Quadriceps - find a tender spot on the top/front of the quad - you can find tension all along the quad many times
Quad3

T-spine - find a spot on the upper spine - hold 30 seconds and spread your arms to feel a stretch across the chest.

Tspine1

Stretches - I use a strap for lying hamstring and inner thigh stretches. Your knee should be straight throughout these stretches even if that means your leg doesn’t come up that high. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, per leg, and repeat 2-3 sets if possible
LyingHammyStretchSideView

Notice how I cross my stretching leg slightly over the relaxed leg - this adds a bit more stretch to the outer edge of your calf and hamstring.
LyingHammyTopView

Once I stretch my hamstrings, I take my leg to the side and do 30 seconds to stretch the inner thigh/adductor muscles. Again keep the knee straight and hold for 30 seconds.
LyingAdductorStretchTopView

Performed consistently as a cooldown or recovery routine, you will feel a difference in your body.

You should experience less soreness/aches and pains, improved recovery, and over time, greater range of motion and mobility.

1 Like

Thanks so much for this thread JJL!

At the fundamental level, a BJJ strength routine should be about maximizing the health and longevity of your joints and muscles, followed by ensuring adequate strength across a full range of motion.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is incredibly hard on the joints and spine/neck. It requires our body to take pressure under random conditions while in less-than-optimal body positions.

BJJ also requires proper mobility through all joints, but particularly the hip joint, in order to be able to move optimally while rolling.

This resonates with me as I am getting older. I feel like I am constantly nursing little strains in my neck and back that need to be addressed with a better stretching and strength routine (and I should probably stop trying triangles and getting stacked- haha).

Looking forward to this thread and doing something besides just pushups!

Really nice! I’ve been looking for a good work out program but I’ve been struggling with scheduling as well. I help out with kids class 3 times a week and that means I’ll often spend 3-4.5 hours in a single day training.

Used to be able to get strength and conditioning in once a week, but now it’s just possible unless I do it before class. Sad life.

This hit me hard. Thank you for this thread @jiujitsu.lifts!

I’ll make sure to closely follow this and do my best to execute it! Good to know we have you here in our community!

Thank you so much for this very detailed post. Your insights are very helpful and I feel so lucky that we have a certified NASM trainer in this forum. :blush:

I share the same sentiment with @David, though. I only started to do some serious training this year and I have to say that your body really does remind you what it feels like to be 30 years old. :laughing:

So I think it’s already kind of off-topic, and would probably be better off in separate thread, but can you maybe also share some of your post-training recovery routines? I’ve been taking some advice from the other guys that I roll with but I would love to get some advice from you too, if it’s not too much to ask. :sweat_smile:

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What do you recommend for people who want to do only bodyweight with no equipment really?

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Hey guys I appreciate the responses

@Sky - Post-training routines are absolutely ON TOPIC for strength and conditioning!:grinning::grin:

I have been doing mostly night BJJ classes lately.

Once I am home, showered, fed, and relaxed, I roll out a yoga mat and a lacrosse ball and do some self-massage on my calves, hips, glutes, quads, and lats.

After the lacrosse ball work - which NASM calls “Self Myofascial Release” aka “SMR” I do some hamstring, glute, and inner thigh stretches with a clean belt or strap.

I have been doing this religiously lately and I honestly feel a lot better both when I go to bed and when I wake up the next day.

I will be going over more details on how to properly perform SMR, there is a right and wrong way, but these are the methods I typically use for physical recovery.

Lacrosse balls can be a bit intense at first, so starting with a soft foam roller is probably a good entry level SMR tool.

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@jhorwitz - This depends on what you mean by “no equipment”…

If you mean a bare floor only, the options start with pushup and squat variations. There are many ways to scale the pushup, including wide, narrow, explosive, and planche variations.

With squats you can do bodyweight, jumping squats, and pistol squats (generally these take time to learn).

Lunges are also a good bodyweight exercise that can provide athletic benefit with just bodyweight,

The biggest problem with zero equipment training is the pulling motion.

Without a way to suspend yourself, such as a pullup bar, or an object that is shaped to allow you to row it from the ground (ie. barbell, dummbell, kettlebell), it is incredibly difficult to load the pulling motion with any resistance.

Do you have access to a pullup bar or anything you can hang from?

Doorway pull-up bars can be found for 10-15 dollars in the U.S. and are a must-have game changer even for minimalist workouts.

Many of the more advanced bodyweight stuff, such as the planche and handstand/handstand presses are great for no equipment if you can already do them, however it’s very difficult to learn these movements without any equipment to assist you as you progress the beginner stages.

Although I hate to tell people that they have to get a gym, you will very quickly reach a point with zero equipment workouts where you can’t really get any stronger or build up any lean mass or strengthen joints.

If you can do sets of 20+ pushups, lunges, and squats, you are basically just doing cardio, and not even great cardio. Rolling is your cardio for BJJ, and maybe a circuit or 2 in the week (more on that later)

I teach group fitness to non-BJJers and a lot of the stuff is bodyweight.

I will tell you that even the people who are consistent pretty much stay at the same strength level once they are moderately conditioned because they cannot increase the intensity through anything other than more reps.

Its not to say that its not worth doing bodyweight, but for long term strength and conditioning progress, you will need access to some basic equipment.

Even a pull up bar at your BJJ gym that you do 50+ pull-ups per week on would be a huge step.

I know it’s not the cleanest answer, but at a certain point trying to get stronger without having ANY equipment is like trying to get better at BJJ without having a dojo.

As much as I understood some of the jargon here. I believe I do understand the gist of it.

Will rollers – for the releasing – like this work? e.g. (picture below)

I learned this from another S&C Coach here.

As for the stretching, can i assume towels can help assist as well? Forgive the practicality, there’s only so much time I can allot in looking for such items. I try to make do with what I have at the moment!

Nevertheless, we appreciate your help deeply and is learning alot just by reading through this thread. :smiley:

Lots of useful gems in just a single post. Thanks man!

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Now THIS is what I’m really interested about. I mean, I’m the type of person who really pushes herself during training because I want to give it my all even in the warmup drills. I don’t say no to heavier and bigger partners and I don’t complain when sometimes the spar gets a little bit more brutal than what I’m used to.

It’s the feeling AFTER the class and the open mats are over that kills me. Sometimes I even ask myself if its just some sort of extreme soreness or if my body is telling me that its broken and that I should stop or something. :rofl:

Kidding aside, yes, please do tell us more details about proper SMR and if you can provide some pictures too, that would be great! :grin:

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I added a mobility section to the first post, have a look!

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Hey take a look at the brief foam rolling guide I added to the top of the thread.

Definitely a lot more to discuss and demonstrate, but this should get your started.

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@jiujitsu.lifts epic thread, thank you for sharing!! What are your thoughts on yoga as part of a BJJ strength and conditioning program? I feel like the times I’ve kept up a regular yoga practice (few and far between haha) I’ve been noticeably more flexible and less creaky especially at the start of training sessions.

@David had a 30 day challenge ago a few months ago where he had to knock out a few hundred pushups every day. He was cranking out 10-20 at a time all day long at the office, and everyone could really tell a difference in his rolling strength after the challenge.

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Yoga is great. I’ve done quite a few beginner yoga classes, thoroughly embarassing myself in front of women my mother’s age. Most of what was done in the yoga flow I found beneficial.

I will say that I think you can take techniques/principles of yoga and probably make a more efficient recovery/stretch routine if you don’t have the time or interest to go to a yoga studio.

If you do have the time and inclination… namaste.

The added part is awesome! Can I ask if it’s just purely hold or do we roll back and forth on the said spot?

I’m setting an alarm to do this before bed!

Thanks again! I’m learning alot!

Hey @jiujitsu.lifts! These foam rolling photos are awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time and making the effort to pose and share these. I’m sure this will really help me a lot and also some guys on here who have hardcore delayed muscle soreness like I do :laughing:. I thank you, profusely and will let you know how it goes. :blush:

I agree with the push up challenge part. It helps alot. I’ve got a teammate who’s around 36 to 38 years of age, but has insane old man strength. He told us that he was actually quite busy running around doing lots of work, but what made him really strong is the 1 minute straight push ups. As much as he can do in a minute. This made him solid and had cardio at the same time.

Did the stretches/recovery routine just now before bed and I must say… The soreness sucks, but the mobility afterwards is rewarding!