Strength Training: Part 1

Is there such a thing as too much strength in BJJ? Some say you can become stiff, inflexible, start “muscling” too much. We say bullshit. Get your swole on. But you can do it in a way to increase flexibility, strength, and general badassery at the same time. For some options to improve your game, your confidence, and overall jacked-ness, read on…

1) Good old-fashioned picking iron up and putting it down

Back in the day, if you wanted to get strong, you’d lift some weights, eat some food, sleep, repeat. You didn’t need the latest tips for bulging biceps or the sickest wheels; all you needed was fire in your belly and hunger in your heart. So if you want to keep it simple while getting strong, focus on a handful of movements: the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.

Don't worry, his face looks like this all the time.
We’re going to assume at this point you either know, or can learn, how to perform those lifts on your own (plus I don’t feel like typing up a massive explanation, it’ll take months). Great, so you know the lifts - but what’s the plan? One of the best, most well respected plans out there is a program designed by Bill Starr and modified by some random guy on the internet. You know it’s great because randomly modified things you find on the internet are never bad at all. Seriously though, it’s simple - if you can handle basic math - and the results are outstanding. For getting big or getting lean, check it out: Bill Starr's (Madcow) 5x5.

Plus, Bill Starr could strictly press 350 pounds over his head... that’s a puny middleweight competitor in each hand.

2) Powerlifting minus the gut and man-boobs

What do you think of when you think powerlifting? That’s right - massively built yet still obese men with handlebar mustaches covered in chalk bench pressing a bar with 1000 pounds about 2”. But what if I told you that you can powerlift without frightening children and risking coronary heart disease? Well you can!

His colon may or may not have remained intact following this lift.
There are plenty of good beginner programs out there that focus on big strength gains but couldn’t give a shit less about size. Sound like a good idea for a BJJ dude? Of course it is. But where do you begin? We can begin with something simple like Jim Wendler's 5/3/1. It’s a progression program in the same vein as the 5x5 but with a little more hardcore grittiness. You lift heavier and harder but reduce your volume a bit. It’s also great because of the freedom on assistance lifts - you can pick and choose your favorite lifts (or, if you’re a real animal, your least favorite). So sack up, crack some ammonia amps, and get lifting.

3) Crossfit – not as lame as initially thought

This shouldn’t be new to anyone who trains BJJ and has even a cursory interest in fitness (especially with a new crossfit gym popping up on every corner). It’s all the rage with everyone these days, from strength training gurus to middle-aged middle managers to slightly hungover college freshmen. But what is it?

For someone with no real knowledge of what actually goes on in a crossfit gym, it’s best described as Tony Horton’s P90X having an incestual relationship with competitive olympic lifting. You’ll work on your snatch, clean and jerk, and all that jazz but with a focus on minimal rest times and extra dynamic movements. There’s so much more to it than all this though, so click here for some more info by people who actually know what they're talking about.
Get your girlfriend into crossfit and you won't have to lug your own beer kegs around anymore.
So basically, if you like dynamic movements with an extra focus on muscular endurance and conditioning (and you should), crossfit might be the way to go.

4) I don’t want to look big and gross, I just want to tone.

Kill yourself.

These are just a few options to get you started if you’re tired of being thrown around like a prepubescent pocket-protecting Poindexter on the first day of middle school. Your strength will go up, your confidence will go up, and your points on the mat will follow (unless your technique sucks, in which case stop reading and go train). Now go get your hands on some iron and start pumping. And if you need something breathable and sexy to wear while doing it, you know where to go.


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