To combine BJJ and weight training effectively you need to find a balance between intensity and volume of both your BJJ and weight training. You need to come up with a schedule that fits your lifestyle. You need to select weight training exercises which are enjoyable, safe and will benefit your BJJ.
If you don’t manage the intensity and volume of your BJJ and weight training you will either be under trained or over trained. In both situations your BJJ and weight training will remain stagnant or atrophy. The chance of over training is much higher when you are adding weight training to your workout program for the first time. Due to this I recommend you start off slow by adding two 45-60min weight training workouts a week on top of your BJJ training while keeping your BJJ training constant. First see how your body reacts to this increased training volume and then you can modify your BJJ and weight training to ensure your training is producing the desired effect.
To effectively combine BJJ and weight training you need to create a schedule that suits your lifestyle. There is no point in creating the worlds best training program if you don’t have the time to follow it. Your training schedule should not detract from other key areas of your life such as family, friends and work. Before creating your new schedule you should check it syncs with your partner’s and children’s to avoid unwanted tension within your life.
You should keep your training schedule simple and easy to follow. Your new training schedule should be flexible so that if unforeseen events occur you easily rearrange your training to ensure your BJJ and weight training is still progressing and you don’t lose your hard fought for results.
The secret to combining to BJJ and weight training is choosing the correct exercises. You must choose weight training exercises which you can perform safely. There is no point going to the gym and throwing around weights only to injure yourself and be not able to train BJJ. The risk of injury in BJJ is high enough, you do not need your weight training program compounding this risk. To ensure your weight training is safe choose well known exercises, lift with correct form and start with moderate weight.
You need to choose weight training exercises which you enjoy performing. There is no point in coming up with a list of supposedly the best exercises if you hate them so much that you never perform them. Instead choose exercises you enjoy and know you will be able to commit to doing on a regular basis.
When combining BJJ and weight training the exercises you choose must be effective and help you achieve your goal. Fortunately if you are starting weight training for the first time essentially anything you do will result in you getting stronger and putting on muscle. There are different philosophies on what is the most effective style of weight training for BJJ. I recommend starting with a basic powerlifting program such as 5/3/1 and seeing how your body reacts to it. You will get results, it is easy and fun to do and can be performed safely.
Can You Lift Weights And Do BJJ?
Yes, you can lift weights and do BJJ. Lifting weights will improve your BJJ. BJJ is a physical contact sport where physical strength is needed to maintain proper position and execute techniques on resisting training partners. You need to find a balance between lifting weights and BJJ to ensure they complement each other. Otherwise lifting weights can cause fatigue affecting your BJJ training and vice versa.
Should I Lift Before Or After BJJ?
The decision on whether you should lift before or after BJJ depends on personal preference and your schedule. Lifting before BJJ allows you to push your weight training harder and use better technique as you are less fatigued. However your BJJ training is likely to suffer due to being tired from your weight lifting session. If you lift after BJJ you won’t be able to lift as much in the gym and your technique may be sloppy but you will be able train harder and more effectively during your BJJ session.
Lifting before BJJ can be used as an effective warm for BJJ. If you use moderate weights keep your session to 30-45mins, lifting can invigorate your body making you feel fired up and ready to attack your BJJ training. However by training this way you probably will not be making many strength gains in the gym.
If you lift before BJJ you will be able to dedicate 100% of your fresh energy to performing weight lifting. This will result in you making strength and muscle gains. You will be able to give your all and use correct technique on exercises such as squat, deadlift and bench which are known as effective muscle and strength builders. The problem is though your heavy duty lifting session may leave you too exhausted to train BJJ. You may just manage to show up to BJJ and go through the motions. Also by training BJJ exhausted you increase your risk of injury as your technique may be sloppy putting your body in a compromised position.
If you lift after BJJ you will be able to dedicate all of your energy to focusing on your BJJ. This will lead to you using your BJJ training time to its fullest potential resulting in you improving your BJJ. However once you get to the gym you will be exhausted and it will be difficult to perform your lifting routine safely and using the weights that you are capable of. This will slow down your strength and muscle gains.
To allow you to lift and train BJJ to your full potential I recommend you lift weights on days when you are not training BJJ. This allows you to push hard when lifting weights and training BJJ. If this is not possible I recommend you lift weights whenever your schedule allows but ideally a period in which you can rest for at least 4 hours before you start your BJJ training whether that is before or after BJJ is up to you.
How Do You Do Strength Training In BJJ?
There are many ways to do strength training in BJJ. You should choose a method which you enjoy, is safe and enjoyable. The 3 most popular strength training methods in BJJ are bodybuilding style workouts, powerlifting and kettlebells. Each of these methods will help you increase your strength and gain muscle.
Bodybuilding style workouts involve dividing your training days based on the muscle group you want to train. For example on Monday you may train Back/Arms and then on Wednesday you may train Chest/Legs. Bodybuilding workouts typically focus on the 8-12 rep range where 2 working sets are performed on between 6-10 exercises. The goal of bodybuilding workouts is to maxmise muscle growth. If your goal is to grow muscle then bodybuilding training is for you.
Powerlifting workouts revolve around the 3 lifts performed in powerlifting competitions, squat, deadlift and bench press. Powerlifters will usually perform one of the 3 main lifts each workout combined with some accessory exercises which help them improve their performance in the 3 lifts. A typical powerlifting workout may look like 5X5 bench press, 5X5 shoulder press, 2X10 tricep kick backs, 2X10 chest flies. Powerlifters typically use lower rep ranges than bodybuilders, focusing on the 3-6 range. The goal of powerlifting is to maximise strength specifically on squat, deadlift and bench press. If your goal is to build up your strength then powerlifting is for you.
Kettlebells workouts involve performing a variety of different exercises using just kettlebells. Kettlebell workouts are anaerobic and are typically full body. Many BJJ athletes use kettlbells as they can be used to combine cardio and strength training. Many kettlebells movements also have cross over to BJJ such as turkish get ups. If you want to combine your cardio and strength training and are looking for movements which are specific then kettlebell training is for you.
Does BJJ Build Muscle?
Yes, BJJ does build muscle but it is not as effective at building muscle as weight training. By training BJJ you will notice an increase in muscularity particularly in the arms, shoulders, back and abs. These are the key muscles which BJJ places the most stress on. To ensure BJJ builds you muscle you should combine your training with proper nutrition and adequate rest.
BJJ also has a toning effect on the body. Many people have noticed that BJJ helps them lean out and gives their muscles a pop. BJJ has a similar effect to calisthenics where the muscles appear more ripped but not as big when compared to someone following a weight lifting program.
Does Size Matter In BJJ?
Yes, size does matter in BJJ. There are weight classes in BJJ for a reason. There is a famous mantra in BJJ which says size does not matter. BJJ purists point to the small and sickly nature of Helio Gracie (one of the founders of BJJ) and the success he had against bigger and stronger athletes as evidence of the fact that size does not matter in BJJ. However Helio was competing against athletes who did not know BJJ.
If there is a big skill gap between athletes then size does not matter as much in BJJ. For example a 60kg Black Belt would be a favourite over a 120kg white belt. However I think a 120kg Purple Belt would be a favourite over a 60kg Black Belt. The skill level of a BJJ athlete moderates the effect of size in BJJ.
If we look at the winners of the last 4 Absolute titles (open weight class) at ADCC we can see that size does matter in BJJ, Cyborg (102kg), Claudio Calasans (88kg), Felipe Pena (92kg) and Gordon Ryan (99kg). The average winner weighed 95kg significantly higher than the average male.
If we look at the IBJJF World Championships we see the same pattern. The two most dominant champions in the absolute division are Roger Gracie (6ft4, 100kg) and Buchecha (6ft3, 100kg), both very large and imposing men.
Combining BJJ and weight training can be tricky. However if you focus on managing your volume/intensity, creating an easy to follow schedule and choosing effective, safe and enjoyable exercises you will be able to combine BJJ and weight training effectively resulting in you increasing your strength, gaining muscle and improving your BJJ.