Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and an intensely physically challenging combat sport that combines techniques used in judo and Japanese jujutsu. It is a combination of standup and ground fighting and involves chokes, locks, and holds. More importantly, BJJ is a self-defense tactic that allows even a small person to defend themselves even against large opponents through proper positioning and the right techniques.
The practice of BJJ began in the early 1900s, when Mitsuyo Maeda (also called Conde Coma and Esai Maeda in some articles), a Japanese colony chief taught the sport to Carlos Gracie, who opened the first jiu-jitsu school in Brazil in 1925. Later on, it is said that Helio, Carlos’ brother, adjusted the techniques to suit his small physique, creating what we now know as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJ has immensely grown in popularity since it found its way to the United States in the 80s. Today, it is one of the most widely practiced martial arts. People are drawn to it because of its health and self-defense benefits. To make sure that you are taking full advantage of BJJ, you need to condition your body the right way. In this article, we go over some of the best exercises for preparing your body for a superior BJJ performance.
Basic Strength and Conditioning
Before looking up what exercises you need to work on, you need to first understand what BJJ requires of you. In a nutshell, explosiveness, dexterity, flexibility, mobility and general body strength are keys to scoring takedowns and developing a solid top game.
The best way to practice for BJJ is, well, to practice BJJ. However, that is, of course, not always possible. The closest you can get to the ideal scenario is by doing exercises that resemble an actual round of rolling as closely as possible. You cannot do purely aerobic or purely anaerobic exercises, as BJJ is a mix of both. However, having said that, BJJ does have a huge aerobic component, especially on the mat. So, it is important to strengthen those slow-twitch muscle fibers and increase the oxygen capacity as well as stamina of your muscles. We recommend getting on a bike every now and then; spin bikes are always a great option to get in your cardio either as a warm-up or on off-days.
You will be fighting standing up and lying down, pushing, grappling, etc. your exercise should mimic those movements.
You can do a lot of bodyweight training. You can use a training dummy or an exercise ball and practice your moves on it. And then there are some staples that should be just as helpful.
If you watch a BJJ match closely, you will notice that fighters take a deep step first, then drive into their opponents at just the right time to suddenly take them down. For a series of moves like that, you have to be quick, precise, and incredibly strong. Explosive strength should be concentrated in the posterior chain and core, and this is the same for nearly all kinds of martial arts and fighting styles. These exercises are designed to help you coordinate quickly without losing power and force.
Medicine Ball Slam
The good old medicine ball is a great exercise equipment you can use if you are training for BJJ (Or any other sport, for that matter). This particular exercise helps you develop a strong core and get that explosive strength you need for those flawless takedowns and top game. In addition, your legs become stronger because you have to use them as you push the ball up.
As the name suggests, the medicine ball slam really just involves slamming the medicine ball. Stand with your feet apart, aligned more or less with your sides. Push the ball up and immediately slam it onto the floor. Do as many reps as you can within 30 seconds.
Burpees are an all-around exercise because they impact many parts of your body, help improve your endurance and agility, and burn more calories than many other exercises. When training for BJJ, what you will appreciate the most about burpees is that they help you develop that much-needed explosive strength and that equally crucial speed.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Jump up, then get back down by dropping to the floor on your hands and toes (as if you are doing push-ups). From that position, jump up to your initial position and repeat. Repeat as many times as you can for a minute, rest for 30 seconds, then start another set.
Medicine Ball Toss
Like we said earlier, the medicine ball should be a staple in your gym or home. Aside from developing posterior core strength, it helps you spread that strength throughout your upper body, which is very essential in BJJ.
Stand with your legs a little bit apart, then squat while keeping your heels grounded the entire time. Jump as high as you can while tossing the ball up at the same time. When the ball drops, repeat the exercise. Do as many reps as possible in 30 seconds.
Kettlebell Lunge Press
The purpose of doing kettlebell lunge presses is to develop strength and power along your sides. Moreover, it improves core strength and your body’s overall coordination.
With two hands, hold the kettlebell to your chest. Lunge forward until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Then, lift the kettlebell overhead and exhale. Afterward, return to your starting position.
Using the above mentioned exercises can help you develop the requisite musculature, dexterity and mobility required to take your top game to the next level.
Rolling Strong combines scientific exercises and routines specifically geared towards grappling.
Phil Daru is a performance coach for over 200 Elite Level Fighters in all aspects of combat sports.
Learn a comprehensive approach that covers everything from proper warmups to exercises designed to improve your guard!