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Strength & Conditioning Equipment and Exercises for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Athletes

BJJ is a martial art I fell in love with 10 year ago.  I watched Royce Gracie in the first UFC choke and armbar his way to victory against much larger martial artists which made me very curious about BJJ.  I remember walking into Crunch Fitness where I saw a guy (who is now my friend) kicking a heavy bag.  I asked him where he trained and we talked for a bit and he offered to show me some stuff in the ring.  So I jumped in and of course he choked and arm locked me a half dozen times.  This is when my BJJ lifestyle started.  You see before I started training BJJ I was heavy into lifting weights and doing all the traditional workouts to gain strength.  After training BJJ for about 5 years I realized that lifting heavy all the time wasn't the best supplement for my game.  Sure I was strong and hard to do anything against for the first couple rounds.  But after that I gassed and my muscles didn't really matter anymore.  I still remember to this day my instructor told me to stop lifting heavy.  He said, "big muscles require big oxygen".  I was really taken back by that as that was all I knew.  My workouts were all about 10-8-6-4-2 sets and I always worked out opposing muscle groups one day apart.  My instructor put me on body weight circuit training which was aimed at building lean high endurance muscles.  This transition was very hard for me to deal with emotionally since I actually lost weight and size but gained endurance.  

Fast forward two years and my colleagues got me into Crossfit.  Crossfit offers a wide range of workouts geared toward overall athleticism.  Some workouts are all power lifting while others are body weight only.  The majority of workouts are a combination of both.  The point of Crossfit is to build both power and endurance.  During this time of my life I traveled around the country as an engineering consultant and assisted training exercises for the Department of Defense.  The good thing about the travel was that I had a chance to train at a bunch of different Crossfit affiliates.  If you have never done a Crossfit Workout Of Day (WOD) I highly suggest you stop by your local affiliate and try one.  Most will offer you a week of free classes.  The energy at the gyms I visited was really high as everyone encouraged each other to do their best.  When I returned home and jumped back into BJJ class I was shocked at my cardio and strength level even though I was off the mat for a month to two months.  Sure my technique and timing was off, but physically I felt great.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has evolved over the years and the sport aspect has really taken off.  While the number of professional BJJ athletes who train full time has increased, I would still say 97% of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes are "hobbyists" who hold a full time job, have a family, and when time permits they go to the gym to train.  This is my story -- I am a small business owner who has a family.  I don't have time to train BJJ 3-4 times per week AND go to a Crossfit affiliate for cross training.  I have to maximize my time at the gym and cross train at home when my kids go to sleep.  Does this sound like you?  I have compiled a list of equipment below which I think is absolutely important to keep at your BJJ gym and/or at your home gym. 

16 KG Kettlebell
24 KG Kettlebell 
12 pound wall ball
Strength Bands in all sizes
Wall mounted pull up bar
Old GI to do GI pull ups
Blow up exercise ball for balance training
Olympic bar 
Set of bumper plates (if space permits)
Olympic rings (if space permits)

With this fairly basic list of equipment you can perform a wide range of exercises to build strength, endurance, and flexibility to supplement your BJJ training.  What we do at my BJJ school is if there is an odd person out we rotate each round and the odd person does either kettlebell swings, pull ups, inverted pull ups, or does balance training on the large inflatable ball while everyone else spars.  As soon as we get the LYNX Pull Up Bar installed we will add that into the rotation.  I personally keep a set of bumpers and other gear in my home gym.  Often times I will wander down to the basement and create my own WOD which usually involves some type of Olympic lift and some anaerobic exercises.  It's nice having my LYNX ECON bumper plates at home so I don't worry about busting up my concrete floor or making too much noise waking up my kids.  I have enough space and equipment in my home gym to perform about 75% of most Crossfit WODS they post on the boards.

Well I hope my rant here ends up helping a person like myself who has to balance family, work, and training.  Train smarter, not harder.    Understand that your cardio level will not be that of a younger full time BJJ competitor who trains 3x per day 6 days per week and develop your game plan around that fact.  Purchase the right set of equipment and you can do just about any workout to supplement your BJJ game from your home or garage gym. 

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