“Success leaves clues” – Jim Rohn
There comes a time in everyone’s life where they must ask the big questions:
“What is the meaning of life?”
“Where did we come from and where are we going?”
“What makes Teflon stick to the pan?”
For some questions, there are no easy answers.
But when it comes to strength and conditioning work for martial arts, well, that’s a whole new level of confusing.
Just Google “strength and conditioning for BJJ” and you get a whopping 831,000 results.
There can be no question about it: if you want to get ahead in any sport, a proper and complementary strength and conditioning protocol is essential. On the mat, you not only need better technique and skill than your opponents, but the right kind of strength to better and more powerfully execute it all.
For many, this is where the confusion kicks into high gear.
“How can there be a ‘right kind’ of strength for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?” you might ask.
Tudor Bompa, one of the world’s most decorated and well-respected sports scientists, once pointed out the fallacy of the obsession with the Olympic Lifts being applied to grappling sports like Judo, stressing that
“strength training programs for sports must recognize that almost each sport involves different and specific muscle groups”
and that for Judo in particular,
“[it] involves primarily the flexor muscles of the hips, abdominals, and trunk, not the extensors normally targeted by Olympic lifting moves”.
In other words, cookie cutter programs for your S&C – no matter how great the exercises they contain – just won’t do.
On second thought, if this is your signature move, the Olympic lifts might come in handy after all.
So what SHOULD you do for your general strength and conditioning work to complement and enhance your BJJ?
Opinions abound, of course, but you want to keep the following factors in mind:
- It should NOT tire you out. Your strength training defeats its own purpose if it leaves you without enough energy for your BJJ practice.
- It SHOULD complement and sharpen your grappling skills. If your workouts aren’t helping you get better at your ground work, why bother doing them?
- If you compete or are planning to, it should NOT bump you up into a higher weight class. External resistance training such as kettlebell, barbell, and dumbbell work can pack extra weight on you, which may not be helpful if you’re trying to avoid competing against bigger guys or gals.
- It SHOULD be gentle on the body but ruthless on your weaknesses. The last thing you want is a workout that leaves your joints and muscles feeling like you were rolling with a black belt with a vendetta against you.
- It SHOULD work around your tweaks, strains, and injuries – not against them, as a great many cookie-cutter workouts invariably end up doing.
And while you don’t want to mindlessly copy the training of elite athletes, keep in mind that “success leaves clues” – so there’s often quite a bit you can learn from those who have found themselves in similar situations to yours, sought a solution, and triumphed over the many road blocks that stood in their way.
A great example of this would be none other than Australia’s own Sophia McDermott.
And who is she?
Oh, just the first Australian woman to achieve a black belt in BJJ, a 4x State, National, Pan-Pacific, and Pan-American champion, and a 2x No Gi World Champion as well as World Champion. No biggie!
Even at 40 years old she could still clean your clock.
Having suffered debilitating shoulder injuries both early in her career as a gymnast and again later in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, she was in need of a strength regimen that would help her crush her opponents rather than crush her body – all while keeping her bodyweight within her weight class, enhancing and complementing her technique, and not robbing her of the energy she needed for her 12 hours of grappling practice each week.
Her trainer, Andrew Read of Read PT in Melbourne, worked her toward an extremely abbreviated and highly potent regimen of 3 calisthenics strength moves: Chinups, one-legged squats (aka “pistols”), and one-arm pushups.
Look closely and you’ll see that despite the seemingly odd selection of exercises, they all honor the type of ‘specific strength’ Professor Tudor Bompa pointed out as being necessary for grapplers – namely the flexors of the hips, abdominals, and trunk.
Done with laser-sharp technique, intense focus, and mental and physical tenacity, these advanced calisthenics strength moves helped her to translate her internal strength and power onto her opponents.
Her weekly program looked like this:
- Workout 1: one-arm pushups + chin-ups – sets of 3-5 reps
- Workout 2: chin-ups + pistols – sets of 3-5 reps
- Workout 3: one-arm pushups + pistols – sets of 3-5 reps
Sophia went on to win the World Championship – the first woman in history to do so.
Her BJJ success backed by bodyweight strength is no fluke, either.
As world-renowned strength expert and the man credited with kickstarting the kettlebell revolution in the West, Pavel Tsatsouline, has noted:
“You will learn more about the discipline of building strength from bodyweight training than any other type of training.”
Joe Rogan (left) and Pavel talk strength on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast
The ability to generate full body tension from nothing and apply it out of nowhere at a moment’s notice is a hallmark of true strength mastery and gives you an indisputable advantage in any sport against any opponent.
See the similarities?
And Sophia is not the only one to have used bodyweight strength training to with great success in her BJJ.
Master kettlebell instructor and strength and conditioning coach for Carlson Gracie Team Hungary, Peter Lakatos, has noted that while he trains his players with both iron and bodyweight, he drops out nearly all kettlebell and barbell work as his guys approach a tournament, sticking to calisthenics work only.
Is Sophia’s and other Jiu Jitsu players’ success solely the result of their calisthenics training?
Of course not. But it plays a crucial role in filling their gaps and physically preparing them to dominate this most grueling of sports –even at the highest levels. And if you’ve practiced BJJ long enough you already know: the details, nuances, and little advantages you get over your opponents are what lead to your success.
Don’t leave your success to chance.
Learn the Big 6 essential calisthenics strength moves – 1-arm pushups, pistol squats, hanging leg raises, L-sit pullups, handstand pushups, and full back bridges – and get started molding the physical might you need to tap out your toughest opponents with a bodyweight strength program that won’t make YOU tap out and beg for mercy.
One way to do it is to hire a competent local coach to show you the ropes.
The other is to sign up for one of my upcoming Bodyweight Mastery workshops.
Click the links below for details on:
February 15th in Brisbane => https://alekssalkin2020.paperform.co/
February 22nd in Newcastle => https://alekssalkinnewcastle.paperform.co/
Have fun and happy training!
Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer Salkin”
“With Aleks’s help I reached my goals – one-arm pushups and pistol squats – faster than expected and can do several solid sets now. This amazed me big time.
I am a tall guy (1.94 meters/6’3”) and physics really plays against me especially with those unilateral moves…I could not figure out how to get around it.
However, thanks to Aleks’s know-how I was able to master those challenging moves!” – Marc Braun, Germany
Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer” Salkin is a Level II StrongFirst Certified kettlebell instructor (SFG II) and an Original Strength Instructor.
He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy until he was exposed in his early 20s to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel Tsatsouline.
Currently based out of Omaha, Nebraska, USA, he routinely travels the US and the world teaching workshops on Original Strength, kettlebells, and his unique and potent system of calisthenics for brute strength in your iron practice, sports training, and day-to-day life using old-school, time-honored principles and practices that produce results.
His next international Bodyweight Mastery workshops will be held on February 15th in Brisbane, Queensland (click here for more info => https://alekssalkin2020.paperform.co/ ) and February 22nd in Newcastle, New South Wales (click here for more info => https://alekssalkinnewcastle.paperform.co/)