June 8, 2021
Strength Training For Jiu Jitsu Players
WRITTEN BY Chris Banks

If you are a sport-specific individual, strength and conditioning training can expand your abilities and accelerate your progress. While there are similarities between many, each sport will have focuses that are uniquely important. A football player’s strength and conditioning needs will and should look very different from a gymnast’s.

At Central Athlete, we know and understand the different needs of athletes who participate in various sports and competitions. As coaches, our objective is to optimize the client’s physiology for sport-specific positions. The coach assesses the client’s needs for strength, speed, flexibility, and muscle endurance in order to direct adaptation. After a consistent period of time, this should equate to an improvement in physical capacity and a more successful athlete.

When on a path to competence and mastery of a sport, time is best spent working on that sport. The goal of a supplemental strength program is to allow you to reach your maximum physical potential in order to make the most out of every minute working on your craft. For a Braziliam jiu jitsu student, the bulk of your time should be spent on the mat, as that is where you will see the most improvement. However, having an intentional and thoughtful strength program will allow you to reach your potential faster.

While I am an avid participant in BJJ, admittedly, I am a complete amateur. But having keenly observed others, and through my own weekly experience, I’ve seen what a BJJ player would have to gain through a specific strength program to improve at the sport. There are many overarching concepts that would benefit most training programs across various sports, including BJJ. Doses of squatting, deadlifting, pressing and pulling will certainly improve the general strength for anyone doing anything. But for the specificity of improving yourself as a player in BJJ, there are six areas I would recommend focusing on.

If you’ve spent any time on the mat you understand that your movements are never symmetrical. You are pressing and pulling from different angles, twisting your torso, driving and pulling your legs at the same time. Training to get stronger in these patterns of single arm pressing and pulling, single leg hip flexion, and rotational stability work will help boost your game. Here are some exercises I incorporate in my own training for BJJ.

Single Arm Pressing

Single Arm Z Press

Single Arm Glute Bridge Bench Press

Single Arm Floor Press with Single Leg Glute Bridge

Single Leg Hip Flexion            

Dumbbell Single Leg Glute Bridge

Barbell Single Leg Hip Thrust

Rotational Strength

Half Turkish Get Up

Half Kneeling Low to Hi Chop

Rotational Ring Row

Single Arm Pulling

Single Arm Plank Rows

Single Arm Ring Rows

Chainsaw Row

Single leg and arm movements will help round out most of the strength needs of a BJJ player. Two aspects of a training program specific to this sport are strength speed and grip strength. Strength speed is a fancy term we use in describing the strength continuum, which consists of four parts:

Absolute strength > Strength Speed > Speed Strength > Absolute Speed.

Think of it this way: Absolute strength is your ability to move heavy things slowly, ie., a deadlift.

Absolute speed is moving your body or a light object like a ball with extremely high velocity, ie., a 40-yard sprint, or a baseball pitch.

The middle flows slightly lighter, with a bit faster rate of speed.

In BJJ your ability to move another person's body weight quickly and with enough force for you to create space is strength speed. It’s a lightning fast muscle contraction against a fairly heavy force. In BJJ most of your strength speed comes from rapid hip extension. Here are three ideal movements to help you improve:

Strength Speed

Speed Deadlifts

Hang Power Cleans

Heavy Banded KB Swings

Finally, one of the best strength gains you can give yourself is an improvement in your grip strength. Especially if you participate in Gi Jiu Jitsu, grip strength can be one of the biggest differentiators in your game. Nearly all moves and sparring involve copious amounts of holding on to lapels, sleeves, pant legs, wrists, and your own body to gain an advantageous position. Grip strength needs to be strong, but moreover it needs to have endurance. Being able to grip something heavy for a few seconds is great, but being able to hold on to it for minutes is imperative.

Grip Strength

Passive Hang

Supinated Chin Over Bar Hold

Farmer’s Walks

Chaos Farmer’s Walk


Here is how I would put these six key focuses together in a complete program:

Day 1:

A1) Back Squat @ 20X1; 3 sets x 10 reps; rest 45 sec

A2) Single Arm Z Press @ 20X1; 3 sets x 8-10 reps/side; rest 45 sec

B1) Single Leg Barbell Glute Bridge @ 20X1; 3 sets x 10 reps/side; rest 30 sec

B2) Passive Hang; 3 sets x 30-45 sec; rest 30 sec

B3) Tall Plank; 3 sets x 30-45 sec; rest 90 sec

C) Interval Conditioning

Day 2:

A1) Speed Deadlift; Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) complete 3 reps @ 00X1 tempo x 10-12 sets

B1) Single Arm Glute Bridge Bench Press @ 20X1 tempo; 3 sets x 10 reps/side; rest 45 sec

B2) Single Arm Plank Row @ 20X1 tempo; 3 sets x 10 reps/side; rest 45 sec

B3) Half Kneeling Low to High Chop; 3 sets x 10-12 reps/side; rest 45 sec

C) Aerobic Conditioning

Day 3:

A1) Barbell Strict Press @ 20X1 tempo; 4-5 sets x 5 reps; rest 90 sec

B1) Banded Russian KB Swing; 4 sets x 10-15 reps; rest 45 sec

B2) Half Turkish Get Up; 4 sets x 5-7 reps/side; rest 90 sec

C1) Chaos Farmer’s Walk; 5 sets x 20 meters; rest 1 min

C2) Single Leg Hip Thrust @10X2; 5 sets x 8-10 reps /side; rest 1 min

C3) Single Arm Floor Press with Glute Bridge @ 20X1; 5 sets x 5 reps/side; rest 1 min

Strength training for sport needs to be specific. An intentional training program for your needs allows you to be efficient and spend more time doing what you want: dominating and tapping out people on the mat. Bring yourself to another level by incorporating these six key areas of focus into your strength training. If you want help in upping your physicality so you can ascend in belt class, schedule a free strategy session with me below.

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