Coach Moore's Top 5 BJJ Exercises
During an average week in our gym you will see no less than three black belts, two brown belts, five purple belts and so on down the rainbow of jiu jitsu players. Not a single one of these athletes has ever worn an altitude mask, stood on a bosu ball (we don’t own a single one) or pushed a car for exercise in our gym.
(Funny, now that I think about how they haven’t done all the gimmicky b.s. listed above, they all have done the Sandbag Program, which is hands-down the closest gym experience to rolling.)
They come to us for one reason and one reason only: to be beasts on the mats. That’s what we do. We make them physical and mental beasts.
It’s not our job to improve their technique or physically crush them. It’s our job to make them stronger, faster, and harder to kill, and we don’t use any special smoke and mirrors to do this.
We use good old fashioned strength exercises to get them stronger and more confident. We condition them with exercises that are mentally and physically challenging, but not overly technical. We make sure that every exercise has a purpose and a progression so both the coach and the athlete know exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it, and that it is going to get more intense as time passes.
We keep things simple and we keep things hard. In this vein, I have compiled the following list of exercises that I think have the most carryover for jiu jitsu and MMA fighters.
Squat deep, squat often, squat from every position. If you really want to get an edge in the grappling world you need to start regularly incorporating squats into your programming.
When you start, don’t get super geeky about bar position, or whether you should back squat or front squat or goblet squat. It doesn’t matter. Just squat deep and squat often.
As you get stronger, more flexible and more comfortable with this lift , then start to analyze it, but when starting out just make sure you are getting full range of motion.
The first time someone shoots on you and it’s like they ran into a brick wall or you shoot on someone and plow through them like a box of girl scout cookies you can send me a thank you email. And a box a girl scout cookies. Thin Mints are my favorite.
#2- Clean and Press
This is actually a little more of a technical lift, but you don’t have to possess an Olympian’s technical mastery to train one of the best total body exercises known to man. Plus, it doesn’t matter if you use a barbell, kettlebell, sandbag, or your kid sister – you’re going to get stronger. As long as you are exploding with your hips to catch the weight, and then exploding with your hips again to put it overhead.
This is about as sport specific as it gets. You have to keep your back set – same as when you posture up. You have to explode with your hips – just like when you shoot. You have to receive the load – just like when an opponent shoots on you and you have to put him overhead (just because you’re a bad m*ther f**ker and sometimes you have to throw a dude across the room).
Don’t be intimidated by this lift. If you can learn to grapple you can learn anything – and you never have to worry about the barbell trying to choke you.
#3- Pull Ups
Don’t be scared of the guy with a chest like two helium filled balloons, be scared of the guy with a back like a turtle shell. The chest is our show muscles and the back is our go muscles. When you try to choke someone with their own arm, you want to use your go muscles.
It matters not how you face your hands or if you do these for weight or reps. Just grab a bar and pull your chin over the bar again and again and again. Grip, strength, strength endurance, shoulder durability – it really doesn’t get much better for the upper body.
(Aside: If a BJJ player came into the gym tomorrow wanting a full gym training program, I’d have them do Strength First, using these three exercises, and then heavily pepper in what follows.)
Pick up something heavy and carry it. Carry it by your side, carry it overhead, hug it to your chest and carry it. Carries give you armor. They toughen your hands, your shoulders, your back, and your soul.
Carry something until you can’t carry it anymore, then carry it another 30 seconds, put it down for 30 seconds, pick it back up and carry it farther. If you don’t hate what you are carrying, then either it’s too light or you need to carry it farther.
#5- Get Ups
1) Fill sandbag or rucksack to 80lbs.
2) Put on shoulder.
3) Lie down.
4) Get up.
5) repeat for 10 minutes or until you start crying for your mommy.
If you want to improve your strength, conditioning, and exponentially increase your overall badassness, then this is the one exercise you need.
While we use the get up for conditioning, if you aren’t a very strong athlete you will see drastic improvements in strength. If you aren’t flexible, you will become more flexible. If you are a pansy, well, guess what: if you can do 60 sandbag get ups in under 10 minutes no one on the face of this earth that has ever done this exercise will ever call you a pansy again. Cause you’re not, you’re a badass.
No smoke and mirrors, no one legged balancing, no oxygen deprivation and nothing that looks like a flying armbar from side control. Gym training isn’t making our guys better jiu jitsu players, gym training makes them as strong and as fast as they can be, while keeping them injury free. In turn, they can train harder and longer on the mats and stay healthy. Final result: better jiu jitsu players.
You might hate my list of exercises and that’s fine. This isn’t some kind of master list, rather it’s just the five that sit at the top of that master list. But I can assure you that if you really want to take your jiu jitsu game to the next level, stay healthy and stay competitive then you need to start to incorporate some form of dedicated strength work into your training regime. Don’t overthink it, don’t save up for some special piece of gear, just go to work. Start today, hell start right now. Squat, press, pull, hinge, explode, and get up weekly and in a few months of dedicated training you’ll become that guy in the academy that you are currently scared of…