Conditioning for BJJ
If you train in any Sport you will have to think about Conditioning. There are lots of BJJ training camps where people say “Weightlifting is not necessary for Jiu Jitsu – the only thing you need is a technique!” And on the other hand, you have people who say the opposite “If you do not go running or do weightlifting then you do not train right!”
If you look at the big names in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you will find different approaches to conditioning. Marcelo Garcia or Caio Terra for example swear on technique only – “Technique concerns all!” or “If you have to time to go weightlifting, go training BJJ instead”! But if you look on the body from Andre Galvao you see that this guy is big into conditioning. So what is right or wrong?
- There are different views on the sport. Different training camps where athletes get prepared in different ways. First, we need to see the athlete. Everybody is different. There are small and skinny guys, there are more muscular guys or little and strong guys. If we would know how to train each individual exactly there would be a lot of world champions in BJJ. But that’s not the case. It’s not on the universal way to plan a training camp. Every individual needs a different conditioning and the coach or yourself has to find out the right way for your body type. You cannot copy any high-level competitor and think – if he does it like this, it needs to be good for me too.
- If you plan your training camp and prepare for competition you need to think about how you get most out of the time you have to train. So how to minimize injuries is a big aspect you have to incorporate in your planning. I am for an example a skinny guy with long legs. I never felt weak or not strong enough for BJJ. But my body is not covered by a lot of muscle mass and I felt so much more stable when I started to incorporate two times a week of weight training in my training camps. It is not to get stronger, the main goal is prevention. Muscle makes you stronger – yes – but they also cover your joints and protect them to not get hurt. If you plan a training camp you need to think about this. Some people have body types where they do need a lot of weight training. Even drilling could be enough for them to feel stable and strong. Some people do not have this gift and they need to incorporate weightlifting in their conditioning programs – not to get stronger is the main goal but to be able to train more, to spar harder and not get injured from these activities in your training camps.
- If drilling, sparring, training BJJ, in general, is not where you spent most of your time in your training camps then there is something wrong. Technique always comes first!!! And if you spent more time training weightlifting, endurance or stretching then you probably train for the wrong event or you are in the wrong sport. Anything else is additional for your BJJ Game. In the end, you want to be able to submit your opponent with techniques and not with power. If you fight with muscle – you fight, but you are not fighting the smart way of BJJ. The goal of BJJ always was that the small guy can beat a heavier guy – and this cannot be accomplished because you focus on weightlifting but because you start drilling techniques and understand the anatomy and the leverage of your body.
- Weightlifting is not similar to weightlifting. There are so many ways to get a stronger body. Weight endurance, Hypertrophic Weight training, and weight lifting with heavy weights… If you decide to start weightlifting in your training camps then you have to know the effects of each weightlifting method and what it will do with your body. A very good for of weight training is Olympic Lifting. If you have the right technique for this you can move a lot of weights in an explosive manner. But take your time to learn the right form of squats, how to lift the bar over your head and how the angles of your body have to be to make it right. Otherwise, you start hurting yourself more than you improve.
- If you decided to start some conditioning. Start with functional movements which are similar to your BJJ moves. There is some good movement method where you can start conditioning yourself and train BJJ moves. The main focus for in your training camp should always be your core. Think of a tree – first, you need a strong trunk before your start training the branches. If you have a strong core and start with your extremities then train your roots first because they will carry you. A plan like this: 1) core 2) legs 3) arms. But never forget weight training is only one aspect of your conditioning and perhaps stretching is more important for you than weightlifting!!!
- If you want to loose weight or you start to compete in an absolute weight class conditioning can be very helpful. To start losing fat only training techniques could sometimes not be enough. Then conditioning could help – but then also your main goal is not only to improve in BJJ but also to get a better body feeling. If you want to compete in a higher weight class or in an absolute weight class your training preparations have to change. Now you will fight a more heavy guy than you are and up to some point, his weight should not be a problem. But if he gets too heavy this will be a problem also for the most technical guy and then weight training could help him. Again the first goal is to not get injured by heavier guys.
- When to use power in a BJJ fight? We all know that the goal is to win because we are more technical than our opponents. That means we have to fight in a more technical way than the other guy. We cannot muscle our way to the submission even in the beginning of our BJJ career we all tried it at some point… hopefully not too long and our Professor changed the way of our attitude and we started to fight without using power. The way how to move right, the timing with the right technique is the main focus but if you have the submission you can use power to get the tap. If you get to the point where you can finish you sometimes need to force the submission. But this should be the only time where you should use power instead of technique.
- Last important point on conditioning for BJJ is the level you compete in. In the beginning, all you should concentrate on is how to improve in a technical manner. If you train for a long time this should still be the main focus but then weight training could help a little bit. If two athletes are on the same technical level the guy with the better condition is going to win. Do not get confused by this. This still means you always have to focus on technique but for high-level athletes, conditioning could be a little extra help.
Create your training camps for your own BJJ needs. Your body is different than any other body and you need individual programs to improve. If you do not focus on your technical improvements you do something wrong. But somebody types need more than just training technique – first, you have to have a body where you can train longer, where you do not get injured and feel stable – for this weight training can be helpful. At the end of the day, the technique will always win – but training camps need to be individual for any personal need.