BJJ fighters love being on the mat and rightly so! Mat time is crucial in your development as a well rounded BJJ player. Most BJJ players also hold down jobs and have a enough of hard time fitting in strength and conditioning. 2 days a week is enough time to make a difference, while you won’t be a champion weightlifter or accelerate your fitness qualities as fast as on a 3-4 day program, but you can certainly move and feel better while augmenting your on mat abilities.
Me trying my darnedest to rip @LukeBarnatt ‘s leg off
Back in October last year, I laid out my template for 2 day strength and conditioning workouts for BJJ/fighters. As soon as It went up I was kind of unhappy, as soon as something like this goes out people start to assume. They assume all your programming looks like that, they assume you use the sample workout listed and only that. You’ve written it down and it becomes static, a snap shot of what you were doing at that time. Much of what I do is nothing new or different, I just try and organise what I know needs to be done in a fashion that makes sense. Honestly most of time everyone is doing the same thing (lifting heavy is a commonality, fancy that!), it is the strength coaches job to organise this stuff to best serve his or her athletes.
Where I am now, I have shifted from upper/lower splits to full body routines, found this was more useful for making strength gains overall. I have increased use of simple Olympic lifting variations, these are usually hang and power variations, the aim here is usually looking for movements with highest bar speeds. Something else I have been doing more recently is finishing workout with conditioning work or isometric holds (specifically for grapplers).
The Program Philosophy
When planning I use this basic template, employed by Donnell Boucher, Jim Wendler to name a few.
Excellent Video from Donell Boucher of Citadel S&C where you can this structure in action.
You can see in this video where the workout is broken down into different qualities. Why this organisation? Well putting speed and explosive work first allows the athlete to attack the qualities that need “neural freshness” first. Fatigue significantly reduces muscular force and is detrimental to development of speed and power. Speed and power work should not become conditioning work either. After this comes multijoint strength exercises. Assistance work comes after strength work, working from large to small muscle groups, the idea here is to fix weaknesses and pack on functional mass. I also use active rest between main exercises this can vary from pull-ups, to mobilisations to foam roller work.
Movements I use for speed and explosiveness, Clean grip snatch, power snatch, jumps, bounds, plyo push-up, med ball slam variations. Occasionally I will super set these with the max effort work to make use of post activation potentiation.
Generally the movements I max my athletes on are Power Clean, Front Squat, Over Head Press and Deadlift, sometimes Chin-Up or Pull Up. Because the template is 2 days I will choose two movements for each day, if pushed for time I will often super-set them. I generally use a weekly undulating pattern with loading for beginners around 70-80% of their max or 3-4 sets of 3-1 cluster reps, from beginner to advanced, beginners can consume more volume and generally need more time practising movements, higher reps are useful for this. I save clusters for my most advanced clients).
I deload them every 6 or 9 weeks. (for more on relative intensity see here) I will occasionally unload an athlete completely and drop back to a simpler progression, e.g. from front squats to heavy goblet squats, body variations instead of weighted ones and so on.
BKK fighters Tim Stokes with sickening 70kg goblet squats
After this comes assistance work usually single-leg, hamstring, vertical and horizontal pulling, core work usually 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps in most cases. All assistance work is done with the athlete and sport in mind, so for grapplers I like combining heavy rows and pulls with thick grip work for example. A smart coach goes a long way to helping you choose the right assistance work (mobilisations too).
Workouts generally end with conditioning finisher or what I like for grapplers grip and isometric work. Roughly 10 minutes at the end of a workout to master a gymnastic skills (L-sits, planches), perform holds or do grip/core work. The work to rest ratio for BJJ is 10 to 1, I find high tension exercises are great for preparation both physically and mentally for the BJJ player. I saw first hand the power of these kinds of movements and the benefits to proprioception, balance and core strength, working first hand with members of the freerun and parkour communities.
@RGI_team Steve Coll doing hanging L-sit’s
Grip work is another facet important to BJJ or Grappling, you can make grip work part of your regular training, by using thick bars, gi grips or working on double over hand deadlifts etc. Or you can attack directly at the end of workout.
As for general conditioning I am big into sprints, either prowler, cycling, running, hill or particular rowers for grapplers. I usually employ extremely hard sprints with extend rest periods in a 1:4/5/6 effort to rest, ratio to elicit as much fatigue as possible and then allow recovery, so that the athlete can really attack each attempt. Usually 3-6 I employ intervals to finish a workout. This is athlete dependant, some of athletes I work with are so fast twitch dominant very short rest periods decimate them, the quality of subsequent efforts goes through the floor. As you get better you can chop down rest and work periods. To get the most out of conditioning I do suggest planning it as a separate
Explosive Upper or Lower (Max 30-40 contacts, more advanced athletes can do more)
Power clean (5 x 3 @70-80% or 5 x 3-1 clusters level dependant, 15 secs rest between reps)
Front squat (3 x 5 @70-80% of 1RM, 5/3/1 or 3-1 clusters level dependant)
2-3 Assistance exercises (3-4 sets 6-8 reps)
Seated row, Band pull aparts, Romanian Deadlifts
Conditioning or Isometric work
A1 L-sit hold A2 Tuck planche for time or Sprints Rows
There you have it, a rough guide to a two day plan. No of this is set in stone, often an athlete will come feeling beat up we will hit the main lifts and go home. The commonality between this and other programs lift heavy, left consistently and challenge yourself! Again tweak the template as you see fit, for the most part you are not a unique snow flake, but a human body with predictable responses to stimulus, your training age/background/structure and anthropometry however has a bearing on what you should do before and after your heavy lifting. Strive for simplicity in your programming first.