What Are The Best Back Exercises For BJJ?

BJJ is an intense full contact grappling based martial art. To enforce your game on your opponent whether that’s shooting a takedown, passing the guard or holding guard you need to have a strong back to ensure you can display ideal body mechanics and help you generate maximum power. We will breakdown the best back exercises which will help elevate your BJJ game.

Why Do You Need A Strong Back For BJJ?

BJJ players need a strong back to help with injury prevention. Suffering from a rounded back during BJJ can result in nasty neck and back injuries. BJJ athletes with strong backs are able to maintain a firm, straight back. A strong also increases the amount of power a BJJ player is able to exhibit during a match which can help when exploding out of positions or attacking takedowns.

What are the best back exercises for BJJ?

The best back exercises for BJJ which will your muscle mass and power output are:

  • Conventional Deadlift 
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Pull Ups 
  • Incline Dumbbell Rows 

Conventional Deadlift

The deadlift is the mother of all back strengthening movements. The deadlift will help you stack on back muscle and build strength in the quickest amount of time. The great thing about the deadlift is that it is an all over body movement, allowing athletes to fill the bar with plates. The more weight you can use on an exercise typically the bigger gains you will see.

Being able to lift heavy on the deadlift does have its downsides. It will result in fast muscle development but there is also a chance of suffering some nasty injuries. The injury risk can be mitigated by choosing sensible training loads and using textbook form.

Deadlifts will help BJJ athletes turn their backs into stone. When shooting takedowns, playing/passing guard it is important to keep your back and neck straight. Back rounding during contact in BJJ can result in athletes suffering spinal, neck and back injuries. Back rounding also reduces the power output of BJJ athletes making it more difficult to finish a particular technique.

If your goal is to turn yourself into the best BJJ athlete you can be and increase the effectiveness of your takedowns, guard playing and passing then start loading the, grab some chalk and start deadlifting.

Here is a video demonstrating how to perform a deadlift


Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are super effective at putting muscle on the backs of BJJ athletes. The bent over row is a great exercise as it allows athletes to isolate the back while still using significant weight. Bent over rows also tend to be significantly safer than deadlifts.

If you incorporate bent over rows into your training routine you will notice an increased thickness all over your back. You then can take your newly developed back muscles and start using them to throw your training partners around the BJJ mats.

To perform a bent over row deadlift the bar to your knee height, then bend over the bar until your chest is in line with it, pull the bar towards your groin by pulling your shoulders back and driving your elbows backwards.

Here is a video demonstrating how to perform a bent over row


Pull Ups

Pull ups are a go to exercise for many different martial artists and combat athletes. Pull ups are regularly performed by wrestlers, boxers, Judokas, MMA fighters and Karate athletes. If all these martial artists are smashing out pull ups you know they are a worthwhile exercise. 

Pull ups are great for building a BJJ athlete’s upper back and lats. Pull ups are one of the best exercises that specifically work the upper back and lats.

If you are a BJJ player who is new to pull ups it is best to start with bodyweight. After you can smash out a couple of sets of 15 during your workout then you can add weight. After adding weight your back will explode and you will be much more powerful on the BJJ Tatami.

During a BJJ match upper back strength can be the difference between finishing a tough single leg or getting squished underneath your opponent’s sprawl. If you want to increase your takedown power and finishing percentage head immediately to your closest pull up bar.

Here is a video demonstrating how to perform a pull up


Incline Dumbbell Rows

BJJ athletes can’t just rely on a strong lower back, they also need to build their upper backs. Upper back rounding is a major cause of neck injuries when going for takedowns or being crushed under bodyweight when playing guard. When a BJJ athlete suffers from upper back rounding their power output also drops reducing their effectiveness on the mats. 

To keep your upper back and neck straight you have a combination of strength and muscular endurance. It is not always easy to build upper back strength as many exercises are lower back dominant such as deadlift. 

Incline dumbbell rows are perfect for developing upper back strength because by lying at an angle on a bench your lower back can’t help you lift the weight. Even though your stronger lower back wants to take over it is prevented. Your upper back is forced to work extra hard and you end experiencing power upper back development.

To perform incline dumbbell rows lie with your stomach on the bench, pick up two dumbbells and focus on pulling your elbows back towards your chest. Keep your arms relaxed and focus on just using your back to pull the weight.

Here is a video demonstrating how to perform a incline dumbbell row

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