Strength Training for BJJ: Getting Started

Why Should You Lift Weights for BJJ?

Lifting weights increases your performance on the mats. You can build a lot of endurance with just training BJJ, but to build strength and muscle there is no replacements for lifting weights.

Another main benefit is injury prevention. Stronger bodies are harder to injury. Lifting weight does not just strengthen the muscles, but also the tendonds and ligaments, reducing the risk of injuries. A good program can also help to create a balanced physique, avoiding imbalances and weaknesses that could arise from only doing BJJ.

How Often Should You Lift Weights?

The goal is not to become as big or as strong as possible, but to get the best possible outcome for the least amount of effort and risk. As a BJJ athlete you can’t just train like a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you need to preserve energy for your BJJ training. If you are very tired from your lifting session during BJJ, your risk of injury is going to be higher.

The sweet spot here is just doing two full body workouts per week, spaced evenly during the week. For example you have workout A on Monday and workout B on Thursday. If your weekly schedule is better suited towards more but shorter workouts, you can also split the workouts into upper and lower body and do 4 workouts instead.

More is not always better. If you are mainly a BJJ athlete, then you have to treat lifting weights as a supplement and not the main thing. Of course if lifting weights is your main thing and you just do BJJ on the side, then the opposite applies.

Keep the Program Simple

Stick to a few key compound lifts to maximize your gains efficiently. When you start, keep everything as simple as possible. 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions for each movement.

Focus on the following movements to make sure you get the most out of your program:

  • Upper Body Front (Flat, Incline/Overhead)
  • Upper Body Back (Row, Pullup)
  • Lower Body Front (Squat, Knee Extension)
  • Lower Body Back (Hinge, Leg Curl)

This is of course simplified a bit, but by making sure that you cover all these categories you should have a decent program. If you are not sure what these are exactly, have a look at the following example program.

You don’t have to do all variations in every workout, but make sure you hit each category in each week.

Example Workouts

Here is an example workout following the outline from above.

Workout A:

Workout B:

Feel free to swap out exercises within the same group:

  • Use dumbbells instead of barbells.
  • Substitute overhead press for incline bench press.
  • Replace chinups with pullups.
  • Opt for leg curls instead of Nordics.
  • Use the leg extension machine instead of sissy squats.

3×5+ Explained

For the last set, go for as many reps as possible (AMRAP) but avoid failure. Stop 1-2 reps before you reach failure—this is when the rep gets slow or your technique starts to break down.

Use this last set as a guide to how much you can increase weight for the next training session. If you get a lot of reps, add more weight. If it’s 5 or close to 5, increase by a small amount or stay at the same weight.

Incorporating weight training into your BJJ routine can significantly improve your performance and reduce injury risks. Start with a simple, effective program, and remember: consistency is key to reaping the benefits.

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