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BJJ and Leg Training, Why and What You Should Be Doing

We train a lot of BJJ guys in WG-Fit.

In fact, Coach Seb is a BJJ black belt and champion himself, so he knows a thing or two about being trained for BJJ using the WG-Fit methodology.

One thing that comes up again and again and again and again is the need for the BJJ player to train their legs.

Now, at the highest levels, this is well known.

But on the ground level I see lads in BJJ falling into the same trap that the aesthetic based bodybuilder falls into.

All upper body, mostly chest and biceps, very little attention placed on the lower body.

This may be the reason so many BJJ guys have come to me AFTER serious knee injury. Rather than before.

I'm not saying we can prevent leg injuries with gym training, but I am saying we can reduce the risk, the severity and the recovery time.

So what do we do?

If you look at our signature BJJ Comp Prep, Kettlebell & Bodyweight program, you'll find yourself doing an awful lot of Single leg "Pistol" Squats and a lot of Kettlebell Swings.


And why these two movements in particular?

Kettlebell Swing:


  • Both requires and teaches a hip hinge.

  • Eccentric emphasis teaches the hamstrings to be strong at long lengths

  • Ballistic loading for the entire posterior chain, the hamstrings, the hips, the back.

  • Teaches a dynamic, enduring grip

  • We can load this a dozen different ways to emphasise a dozen different attributes


There was 1 guy. One single guy that I couldn't use swings with to help him prepare for his MMA fight, and that's because of a medical condition known as spondylolisthesis. And that's it. Since 2009, one lad couldn't use swings in his fight prep.

Pistol Squat:


  • It's a Squat!

  • Little to no load on the spine, at least while we start

  • Requires the hip, knee and ankle to all work adequately

  • Will highlight very quickly any weak links in the lower body

  • Allows us to balance left and right sides

  • Sneaky core training

  • Also trains balance and proprioception


  • Big guys, if you're a bit too "cuddly" this probably isn't for you. We will probably use step ups and lunges instead.

And, no we don't expect you to be able to just do them. Being able to do a full, unassisted pistol squat is something we aim for and is a goal of the training, a marker if you like.

Of course we do a lot more than these two movements, but these are the bread and butter.

To continue a sandwich analogy, because, well, sandwiches.....

After the swing and Pistols form the bread and butter, we fill the sandwich with various fillings through the program. Some of the options are:

Cossacks Bridges, in all different flavours

Good Mornings

Jumping in different ways.

Yes you do upper body too, but the leg work is without a doubt key to the success of our BJJ players both in terms of their competitiveness for those who take that route, but more importantly the health and longevity in the game.

In terms of competitiveness, strength work for the legs not only has a huge fitness carry over, the energy system usage, the blood pumping and the nervous system activation all transfer instantly into better energy, strength and movement on the mat. Kettlebell Swings in particular and the whole back lights up, the core engages, the lungs get a wake up call and the grip gets to say hello. Just doing these alone, with no other exercise is probably better than most other exercises.

In terms of longevity, you are going to be twisted and bent into all sorts of positions. Tendons and ligaments are going to be tested as much as, if not more than the muscles of the body. It is the ligaments that keep the joints safe as they are loaded, as they twist. And it its the muscles that keep you out of the danger zones where damage can occur. This is why training in a full range is so important.

It's why a resting squat is something all BJJ guys should be doing, deep full range squats and of course single leg squats are all vital. You'll not only step faster and more confidently on your feet, but you'll defend better on your back, and when you twist, the twist comes from the strong and mobile hips, not from the vulnerable knee joint.

Get training those legs guys!

If you don't know where to start, book into one of our classes, or if you're further afield, try that Train Heroic program linked above


Dave Hedges

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