Needless abstraction is cancer to a S&C program, trying to mimic sports specific performance using general preparatory tools never ends well.
One thing I repeat almost endlessly on this blog and to those I train is that “The basics of S&C never change”. BJJ is in its infancy as a competitive sport, professionalism is on the rise and the approach of athletes to their training is always improving. I was delighted to see Roger Gracie doing sprints and olympic lifts in his prep for Metamoris event.
Finally we are seeing BJJ get on the same strength and conditioning convergence as other sports. If you dig around for beginner and intermediate athletes routines the strength training component for most of these will be very similar, conditioning will be suited to the sport obviously. But starting out everyone basically needs to be stronger, because it is from this seed of strength our other qualities can grow.
But all is not well in physical preparation land, there are those that for some reason engage in needless abstraction. Needless abstraction being a deviation from the norm of S&C that yields little benefit and ends in the training looking either A. Stupid or B. Crazy. Where as for example one of my favourite recent trainers putting out examples of useful abstraction is Ben Bruno who after mastering the basics of an exercise shows us variations that may be of benefit.
Twist on an exercise that is something I may actually use
Provided you are mobile, flexibile and strong there is little reason to do this, want to get better at guard, do guard…
Get it? Good, now its appears to be that at some point BJJ (MMA too lets be honest here) fitness has split into two tribes.
Those that seek novetly, soreness and fatigue over consistent progress, maybe this mentality is a casualty of the modern training obsession of the “hard exercise” crowd”. These people throw around the term functional fitness like it means something. These are the types you will see doing circuits till their insides are outsides, copying cool youtube videos and generally being reckless and stupid with poorly executed lifts. To quote Vern Gambetta;
“The dangerous “stuff” that I see marketed as functional training alarms me. Anyone can make someone tired and keep them entertained, but is it really training with a purpose or goal?”
Then on the other end of the spectrum we have fitness hippies, the “holistic training” crowd, BJJ appeals to these types because BJJ psychologically has an enlightening effect and gives a real sense of focus and self discovery to its practicioners (hey its the reason I do it!). While this is great these types try and apply what they see as holsitic, primal or natural training approach to their physical preparation, they are the sort you will see making a meal of TRX straps, Kettlebells, overuse of physiothrepy methods and bodyweight work. These are the types that contract serious “fuckaboutitis” and then try to tell everyone that their way of doing things is blatantly superior. They also enjoy trying to mirror what they do on the mat in their weight room, which if you recall is a big nono.
This is a message to you grappler please please apply critical thinking when choosing a training approach. The focus should be on getting better not novelty, focus on improving not finding out how big your balls are, training should be optimal not maximal and it should yield an improvement on the matt, handstand push-ups are impressive but do they help your physical game? I’ll close with a quote from Jim Wendler
“Think of programming as a dinner, with a huge T-bone steak being the constant. My steak is heavy barbell training. This never changes. The seasonings I put on the steak, however, and the side dishes change every training cycle.
My side dishes might be mobility, strongman, conditioning, or high-rep assistance work. The seasonings might be Boring But Big assistance work or adding in athletic movements such as jumps.
But at the center of this training is still a steak.”
BJJ is still maturing a sport, as competition establishes itself and professionalism grows the approach to training for the sport will mature and finally converge with physical preparation approaches we see most professional athletes undertake. More and more vids give me hope that top BJJ professionals are seeking top strength and conditioning professionals. This great because it of the trickle down effect to more amateur BJJ. And we can consign “circus training” as Polquin calls it to the trash. Some people may call me a training “crank” for ripping on other people methods if so, then so be it.