Weight Training Routines for Jiu Jitsu

Published by Jason Narog on

Jiu Jitsu Weight Training

If you’re looking for weight training routines for jiu jitsu, you’ve come to the right coach. I’ll be completely honest here, my weight training did take me away from jiu jitsu (after I went on the Grappler’s Escape cruise and attended multiple seminars with Rigan Michado), but I’ve spent time working with black belt instructors on what gear and routines you should follow (as well as testing things out on myself while I was still practicing) to get the strength and muscular endurance in the correct areas.

Kettlebell Training for Jiu Jitsu

This was actually my detour away from BJJ, as I went chasing after a StrongFirst certification. Many of the individuals at the certification were / are BJJ practitioners. Pavel (the chairman and founder of StrongFirst) has worked with UFC coaches and fighters at the UFC Performance Institute to make better and stronger fighters. Several instructors at Industrial Strength BJJ in Portland are StrongFirst team leaders.

Why kettlebells, and particularly the methodology taught by Pavel Tsatsouline? Pavel teaches the “hard style” approach to kettlebell training. It’s quite different from the American swing type stuff seen in crossfit gyms. The entire methodology is around tension and relaxation. You know when to tense up and you know when to relax. The same methodology applies to jiu jitsu, there’s times when you relax and there’s times when you attack. Flopping around like a dead fish does nothing but burn needless energy, so the weight training methodology needs to be the same as the marital art methodology.

Hard style kettlebell training also improves grip strength quite quickly. Ballistic moves like the kettlebell swing, clean, or snatch all force you to hold onto something that weighs a lot while it’s moving rapidly. Throw in some farmer’s carry’s and bottom’s up holds and you’ve got yourself challenging grip exercies.

Then you have the grind movements – the Turkish get up, front squat, and strict press (these 6 moves [excluding carry and bottom’s up] are all the moves taught during the SFG1 Instructor certification.) The get up, above all other movements, is going to help make it more difficult for you to be swept and maintain a better base of gravity. There are points within the get up where you are literally balancing your entire body on one arm and one leg while holding weight above your head.

Think about being swept. If you can balance on one arm and one leg while keeping a 20kg (or more) bell up over head without dropping it on yourself, how hard is it going to be for someone to tip you over? I know the sweep is all about momentum and leverage, but someone who knows how not to tip while under weight and tension is going to be that much harder to get into a position where they’re off balance.

Furthermore, the hard style approach forces you to maintain proper tension throughout your core the entire time, which helps you maintain a proper base, again making it that much harder for someone to toss you off your base.

Kettlebell Protocols for Jiu Jitsu

As much of a copout as this is going to sound, pick up a copy of Simple and Sinister by Pavel. The program is designed to be done without taking up your entire day, doesn’t require a ton of weight training knowledge (which is good because learning olympic lifts can be frustrating), and will build up a good amount of strength in a short-ish amount of time.

Bulgarian Bag Training for Jiu Jitsu

In February ’20 I took both a workshop and certification on the Bulgarian Bag at The Base in Vancouver, WA. They’re another BJJ academy in the Portland metro area where their lead black belt instructor is utilizing tools originally developed for Olympic wrestlers by Ivan Ivanov. I will advise if you want to get into Bulgarian Bag training to buy your bags through Ivanov’s company Suples Ltd. I’m not only saying that because I’m certified through the Suples System, I’m suggesting this because I purchased knock off bags before getting certified and can totally tell the difference between the two.

As with kettlebells, the Bulgarian Bag is designed to truly test (and improve) your grip strength. Even a simple warm up swinging the bag from side to side immediately starts testing your grip (you gotta hold the thing to prevent it from flying across the room as you pendulum swing.)

The protocols I’ve personally experienced with the bag vary from that of the School of Strength with Pavel. I know there’s a Suples Strength Lvl 2 certification, but my experience with the bag has been around taxing grip strength and strength endurance.

Protocols would include things like do 100 of a particular manuever (the signature Suples Spin for example [which is like a kettlebell halo only done at a million miles per hour]) then without dropping the bag go do another manuever for 100 reps. The variation I’ve run across is do 100 reps of exercise 1, then move on to exercise 2, and so on and so forth for 10 exercises.

Being that I came from a kettlebell background first, I would suggest (if you’re new to cleaning and snatching) learning those two moves with the bag first, as your wrists will thank you. One 26lb leather bag hitting both wrists is a lot softer than banging your wrist with a 35lb cast iron bell.

I personally use my Bulgarian bag for the following workout –

  • Ballistic maneuver (spin, lamb swing, swing squat, arm throw)
  • Main handle curl followed by strap handle curls
  • Strap handle tricep extension followed by side handle tricep extension
  • Ballistic maneuver
  • Main handle row followed by strap handle upright row
  • Squat to side handle raise followed by squat to shoulder press (side handles)
  • Ballistic maneuver
  • Alternating lunges with bag on shoulders
  • Alternating lunges to side handle shoulder press
  • Ballistic maneuver
  • Strap handle behind the head shoulder press
  • side handle shoulder press

The ballistics are 10-20 per side, the grinds are 12 reps each.

I personally hate snatching with the Bulgarian Bag, but to be fair I have a 12kg (26lb) bag and I had prepped myself for pretty much the entire 2018 calendar year to do 100 single arm kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg bell (and my hands are permanently calloused from it) so my existing bag is probably just too light for that activity.

If it’s in your budget, I’d personally recommend buying both the bag and the bells. If you have to choose then I’d make a decision between how your brain likes to train – hardcore strength or strength / endurance. A heavier bell would be good for strength and the bag falls more into the strength endurance category. I love both for different reasons and see a lot of overlap between the two, but I don’t train with a kettlebell the same way I train with a bag or vice versa.

If you want to try before you buy and you’re in the Portland area schedule an appointment with me, I’d love to show you these amazing tools.


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