In this article we will talk about a couple of strategies that you can employ in order to maintain your strength while cutting weight for a BJJ tournament.
- Exercise selection. When picking the exercises for your workouts, make sure you pick compound exercises only. Some great examples of compound exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Military Press, Bench Press and Pull Ups. In order to maintain or increase strength, you have to lift as much weight as possible. These are the exercises that allow for the biggest tonnage to be handled and, as such, they provide the biggest stimulus for strength gains.
Figure 1. Compound exercises such as the deadlift are your best bet.
- Repetitions and sets. Since the goal here is strength, make sure you keep repetitions on the low side. 5 repetitions per set is usually a good point, however if you are an athlete who has a few years of strength training under his belt, feel free to go with a bigger weight and fewer reps per set. As for the sets and exercises performed, three per exercise and two exercise per session should be a good starting point. You can adjust afterwards depending on how you recover.
- Training sessions per week and timing. Two sessions per week should be enough for maintenance with the number of sets mentioned above. In order to increase the quality of work, one thing you can do is make sure you train on Monday. Assuming you took Sunday off, Monday will be the day where your physical output is at its best.
- Carbs intake. Although a lot of people avoid carbs when cutting, intelligently using them will increase the quality of your workouts and their effect. One good strategy for carbs when cutting is using carb cycling. What carb cycling means is basically having a number of days with very low carbohydrate consumption and some days with high carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for muscles and you need them for your strength training as well as for your Jiu Jitsu training. You can start with two days of high carbohydrate consumption, both on your strength training days. For an added bonus, do the strength training in the morning and the carbohydrate loading after that. Since your body will be coming after some heavy sets of lifting, the carbohydrates will be stored as glycogen more effectively.
Figure 2. Oatmeal, a great source of carbohydrates.
- Protein intake. Make sure the caloric isn’t very big and your protein intake is high. Protein helps your muscles rebuild themselves after intensive physical effort and it’s crucial for recovery. Split your protein intake between meals to make sure your body has protein available during the whole day. A casein protein shake before bed will also help your body recover and provide protein during sleep.
Figure 3.Milk is an excellent choice for a slow-digesting protein before sleep.
- Branched Chain Amino Acids can be a very big help when doing a cut. They help you keep on your muscle and strength gains. Make sure you supplement with BCAA’s before and during your workout, regardless if it’s cardio or strength training.
- Multi vitamin supplement. Periods of weight cutting can be really stressful for the body. Make sure you supplement with a multi vitamin and mineral in order to avoid any deficiencies from building up and affecting your performance. Lacking Magnesium and Potassium could easily lead to cramps and greatly impact your workouts or competition performance.
- Carefully monitor your weight. Ideally, you want to drop weight from body fat or water (if you are really close to competition). Generally, you can lose about 1-2 pounds of fat per week, so if you lose far more weight than that, you should consider where that weight is coming from. If you have been trying to dehydrate, chances are it’s from the water. If the caloric deficit you are under is very big and your training volume is high, chances are you are also losing muscle mass.
- Keep logs. It’s extremely important to keep a log of your weight, exercises performed, sets, reps and weights. This is the most efficient way to monitor your progress and check if your strength is decreasing or not. From there, you can proceed to make adjustments such as lowering the amount of cardio sessions, increasing caloric intake, etc. Make sure you also take pictures of yourself.
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