Where Does Strength And Conditioning Fit Into The Grappler’s Training Plan?
This is my first article for Grappler’s Planet and I just want to say how excited I am to be on board! I’ve been a martial artist for over 20 years, a fitness professional for 13 years and a Brazilian Jiujitsu practitioner for 7 years. I’ve competed in many tournaments, both gi and nogi and I’ve trained with some amazing instructors.
I also want to let you know that I wasn’t “naturally talented” when it came to learning grappling. In fact, I got my butt whooped when I first started. I got into BJJ in my mid-twenties with a background in Shotokan karate and Muay Thai neither of which helped out with grappling at all.
However, I hung in there and used my knowledge of strength and conditioning (as well as all my amazing instructors and training partners) to do well enough to be awarded a brown belt with 2 stripes and a bunch of medals from the grappling tournament circuit.
I have a lot of great content that I’ll be sharing with you guys that is going to take your Jiujitsu to the next level! I’m making a promise to you guys that you’ll find no fluff here; only things that work.
So let’s get back to our question of where Strength and Conditioning fits into your grappling practice. I hate to say it but there are no easy answers on this one. I’d love to say, “Just do X program and you’ll be a grappling monster!” but that’s not the truth. It’s going to take thought and effort if you want to get the best results. Let’s start with 5 big picture concepts:
1. Technique Comes First
First of all, your grappling technique is number one. Many a grappler has thought they needed to be in better condition when in reality, their technique was seriously lacking. I’ll talk about steps you can take to improve your technique in later posts but some quick suggestions are: take private lessons, spend more time drilling techniques instead of sparring, and watching instructional videos.
2. Identify Your Weakness
If you want to get better quickly then find your weakness and fix it. Do you “gas out” quickly in sparring? Are you overpowered by grapplers who are stronger than you but of equal skill? Or maybe you can hang in there a few sparring matches but you lose your ability to be explosive? It is important to recognize what’s limiting you from becoming better. Once you figure this out then prioritize your training and you will see fast improvement.
3. Use The Right Methods
This is where I’m going to really help you guys. Many people make big mistakes when it comes to the methods they use to improve the grappling fitness simply because they don’t understand energy systems and the way they work. Training for grappling performance is ALL about energy systems. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made when I first started competing. I was explosive and pretty strong but I had huge problems with gassing out until I started learning better training methods.
Without going into too much boring scientific detail, just understand that you have three systems: Alactic (ATP-CP), Lactic (glycolytic) and Aerobic (oxidative phosphorylation) and each one play a part in grappling. Knowing which of your systems is underdeveloped then having the right method to train it will be the key to improving. Doing bodybuilding style workouts or random Crossfit workouts may help beginners but you will plateau quickly. I’ll be coming out with basic training plans and videos on how to improve each of these systems as well as how to structure your overall training program.
4. Integrate Your Training
What do I mean by integrate your training? This what many guys do: “I’ll train BJJ Monday through Friday and twice on Saturday then I’ll workout with weights 3 times a week and do cardio another 2.” While this is definitely working hard, it isn’t working smart. You’re going to have to be smart about how you integrate your other training around it if you want to make consistent improvement. I recommend doing strength and conditioning no more than 3 times a week if you’re already training grappling 3-4 times a week.
5. Adjust According To Your Progress
At the end of the day, we want RESULTS. If your grappling performance isn’t improving because of your conditioning routine then it wasn’t the right program for you. Maybe you worked out too much or used the wrong type of workout. It may take you a little time and experimentation to get the right volume and intensity but hang in there and, with the help of Grappler’s Planet, you’ll get there. One big piece of advice I can give you is to use a training journal to track your workouts. Writing down what exercises, weights, sets, reps, rest, intervals and total time in the gym will help take the guess work out of training.