Weight Training For BJJ

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This week in our interview series with Dharma Shay we talk about how weight training helps your BJJ differently than bodybuilding style workouts?

Jiu-Jitsu Times: How is weight training to enhance grappling performance and general strength different from working out to get a beach physique?

Dharma Shay: Weight training or resistance training is a highly effective means of strengthening your musculoskeletal system and developing lean muscle mass, but unlike developing a beach body in the gym, the BJJ practitioner is training to be strong with compound movements, while the bodybuilder is developing optimal aesthetics.

Old school martial arts training (which I grew up doing) highlighted the benefit of strengthening your bones through striking hard surfaces at a low to medium impact intensity, but modern research has proven producing appropriate outside weight on the bones provides them with the optimal stress to strengthen them. Joints mobility is dictated by you muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone health in a related region.

Being that BJJ is the art of joint manipulation it behooves practitioners to ensure joints have mobility and the surrounding muscles are both strong and flexible. It would be fair to say that the ideal musculature in BJJ is wiry, meaning both long and dense musculature. Due to the majority of grappling capacity coming from core strength, upper body strength, and quadriceps strength endurance, it is essential to develop a good strength base utilizing compound movements that benefit your overall kinetic chain.

Currently, there is no research suggesting general standards for what BJJ practitioners should be lifting via major strength lifts, but I personally advise martial arts practitioners in general to at least begin doing a routine that involves squats, ground lifts, and upper body presses and pulls utilizing outside weight. Resistance training does not need to be vigorous for strength production and practitioners should utilize this time to implement stability strength routines. For the most part, BJJ practitioner’s goals with resistance training are developing a novice level of strength base and then focusing on improving their strength stability and strength endurance utilizing compound lifts.

Keep in mind, top level BJJ practitioners are utilizing top tier strength and conditioning coaches to assist in keeping an edge over the competition. Andre Galvao and Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu have both shown their elite BJJ skills only being matched by their elite levels of strength and conditioning. It is only likely that strength and conditioning will become more of a staple in BJJ for both injury prevention and optimal performance.

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