Strength and Conditioning for BJJ (theory)

The right strength and conditioning program must be tailored specifically around the individual practitioner. Many variables will influence the design of an athlete’s strength and conditioning program. A coach must consider how long has the athlete been training for, what’s the athlete’s history of training, and does the athlete want to compete? A competitor’s strength and conditioning program will greatly vary from a hobbyist. The level of competition in today’s BJJ scene is drastically different than in the nascent days of the sport. There is no longer debate over whether technique is more important than strength. A good BJJ competitor will possess both technique and strength. All top level competitors must have a strength and conditioning program. A hobbyist will not need an intensive strength and conditioning program as a competitor will, as their requirements are drastically lower. However, even hobbyists need a strength and conditioning program in order to resist injury and increase their BJJ longevity.

The strength and conditioning training athletes should be subjected to should directly improve their BJJ. Since many practitioners will be working full-time jobs time must be used as efficiently as possible. Because BJJ is a skill based sport, athletes must spend the majority of their time on the mats in order to accumulate hours in technical tactical training. Due to this, the strength and conditioning of a practitioner must be fast and efficient. The major parts of the practitioners physicality that should be addressed is strength, balance, power, endurance, and joint flexibility.

New practitioners should follow a periodization protocol with hypertrophy, strength, and power. To be the most time efficient, students should make compound multi-joint exercises as their fundamental base exercise. Isolative movements should be disregarded as they will lead to muscle imbalances and do not reflect the way muscles are used in a realistic way. It is important to note that our students are not looking to compete as weightlifters or bodybuilders, the strength and conditioning training is a means to an end – becoming better at BJJ. There should be a focus on function and movement over specific muscle groups Another consideration is that BJJ is a weight class sport, so hypertrophy can be detrimental to practitioners. Load intensity should be prioritized over total volume in order to decrease hypertrophy and increase strength.

Along with strength training, competitors must improve their energy systems, colloquially referred to as their “cardio”. While most coaches have a shallow understanding of energy systems, often suggesting to students to run long distances in order to increase their “cardio”, it is important to train all three energy systems, the ATP-Pcr, glycolytic, and oxidative phosphorylation system. Since a BJJ match can range from 5-10 minutes, athletes must have good anaerobic and aerobic endurance in order to perform well throughout a single match and on subsequent matches.

Another consideration is that the training paradigm a BJJ athlete will differ from the traditional annual planning template due to the lack of a competition season in BJJ. There are only a few large BJJ tournaments that occur throughout the year, with many smaller local tournaments occurring consistently throughout the year. The paradigm of training for a competition season does not work within the sport of BJJ. Athletes must maintain a base level of athleticism throughout the year.

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