Cause for Confusion Strength and Conditioning for Brazilian Jiujitsu

Article by: William Wayland

Never has a subject had more confused forum posts than this topic, followed by the usual suggestions of; Bodyweight for BJJ, crossfit for BJJ, no strength and conditioning it’s bad for you bro and the Gracie’s never strength trained so you don’t need to. As a strength coach the lack of clarity around the issue is disheartening. Given we live in an age where with a few keywords you will have endless amount of information on the subject. Then again it is probably a good thing as im pretty much paid to disseminate this stuff and make a “whats best” decision for the athletes I work with.

Not to get too philosophical but Strength and conditioning is this “expansion of your physical literacy providing you a broader base upon which to expand motor qualities (Your sport skills)”

That is it! That all strength and conditioning stands for. Physical literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills that allow you to react to your environment and make decisions based on your capability. The greater physical literacy the more you will be able to turn your hand to most sports challenges. Gymnasts for instance have tremendous physical literacy as most of them engage in challenging body skills during their adolescent growth spurt. This competence is somewhat innate but also trainable. The Trainability is why the strength coach exists. By stressing the body in the right way we can force favourable adaptations that assist us in our sport (motor qualities).

This is where things get murky, strength and conditioning is part best guess, part science follows a process of absorption. Shedding the ineffective and sticking to what works.

What constitute physical literacy is qualities, like strength, speed, power, coordination, proprioception, flexibility, agility and so on. Problem is strength sports and bodybuilding muddy the waters of proper strength training for skill sports. People often see strength and conditioning as “STRENGTH and conditioning” specific targeting of 2 qualities where in fact you need to be literate in a multitude. Because athletes are exposed to strength training (via powerlifting and Olympic lifting) and bodybuilding they borrow the methods, which are means unto themselves. As opposed to taking the useful bits and building a program around those in a purposeful fashion a means to an end. I’m of the opinion that bodybuilding has done much to undermine much in athletic preparation, using methods, tempos and approaches that suck for athletes. The phrase “all show and no go springs to mind”.

As we age we lose physical literacy also, we get tied into sedentary lifestyles. The body is in for a shock the first time it does BJJ especially for the sedentary person. I remember being sore as hell after my first session and I was a well trained athlete. This is my next point, by engaging in strength and conditioning you place your BJJ skill set on top of bigger base of physical ability especially for a recreational BJJer, which in turn hugely decreases your injury risk. I talk to BJJer’s about the idea of increasing robustness, you do not have to be over turning gym records left and right but improve your physical qualities to the point where you can handle and feel confident doing BJJ. Folding under that new strong over eager 18-24 year old white belt just won’t cut it.

Finally pick your methods wisely, your time is best spent on the mat, but your training off the mat needs to be done in a fashion that maximises what you do on the mat. Too much time in the gym and might find your BJJ performance decrease. You should also not be so sore BJJ practice is unachievable; your strength and conditioning approach does not have to make you sore in order to be productive. Alternative pay someone who knows better or at least take a little time to educate yourself. BJJers love to engage in less than productive fitness activities, mainly because they cannot tear themselves away from the mats they adore so much. Trust me squatting heavy, opening up your hips and strengthening your grip and back will go much further than rolling about on a swiss ball because you saw some guy on youtube talk about how “functional” it was. Other sports have their collective physical preparation heads together, realtive BJJ’s newness as a professional sport is no excuse of old school martial wackiness or holistic rubbish that sometimes accompanies it.

Strength and conditioning should not be as arcane

  • Expand your Physical Literacy, do what sucks
  • At a minimum do what it takes to stay injury free and healthy
  • Be wise in your approach don’t be fooled despite what some pro’s might do

Article by: William Wayland

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