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Bullet Proofing the BJJ Player


Sports science has just proven that strength training is key to preventing injuries in contact sports.

The guys at BJJ Eastern Europe published this post the other day which is going round the BJJ circles on Facebook and rightly so.

Click on the screen shot and it’ll open in a new window, be sure to come right back though…..

Click the image to open the article

Click the image to open the article

The thing that most stood out to me was the comparisons to rugby and American Football. Two sports that are known for their levels of contact and also the incredible physical condition of the athletes that play them.

The article then goes on to say how players still pick up injuries even though they strength train, but the injuries are far less sever and take far less time to recover from.

So players from two sports with the biggest impacts become more difficult injure if they undergo a strength and conditioning training program to support their game training.

As a BJJ player, you too are getting slammed around, bent and twisted into potentially dangerous positions as your opponent deliberately targets the bodies weakest parts through the use of leverage.

A rugby player may have his shoulder dislocated by bad luck, he got hit at an odd angle or landed poorly. A BJJ player may have his dislocated because it was deliberately put in a position of mechanical disadvantage by their opponent.

It’s not a leap of faith to think that a stronger shoulder would resist injury more than a weak shoulder. And if the injury did occur, it would potentially recover at a faster rate.

Amongst the BJJ guys I work with, I see a huge discrepancy in their upper/lower body strength. I also see a lot of low back complaints and knee pain. This is nearly always a result of one thing.


Ok, sometimes tightness. But some would argue its the same thing……

Most of the BJJ guys I know have broad shoulders, ripped abs and itty bitty matchsticks dangling out of their shorts. They’d make Johnny Bravo proud.

Train my legs?!?!?

Train my legs?!?!?

This impressive upper body and underdeveloped lower body is partly due to the nature of the game, the hips and legs are often used as a guard rather than for propulsion/power development and most of the fight is won by the torso. And the physiques of the lads reflect this.

Which is why when they come to train with me I have them Deadlift, swing kettles and learn to squat deep.

All upper body work, other than the inverted row, is secondary to the Deadlift and squat. Most of the time I’m not interested in them squatting heavy, but I want it deep.

As a BJJ player spend most of his time in a fully flexed position, hips and knees bent. I want them able to sit and be strong in this position, hence the emphasis on a deep squat over a heavy squat. In that deep position we are stimulating the VMO (knee muscle), the Glutes and also asking a lot from the deeper muscles such as the pelvic floor and diaphragm.

The deadlift is all we need for the extension pattern. It’s pretty much all we need to load the nervous system and develop brute force. But for the fine tuning and range of motion, we squat.

I’m a fan of the Goblet Squat, Barbell Front squat and the Pistol Squat for just about everyone, but especially the grappling community. Goblet squat as it’s accessible and difficult to get wrong. Barbell Front Squat as it’s the Goblets big brother and easy to load up for when the athlete is ready to go heavy. Still hard to get wrong though. Pistol Squat is one I had almost forgotten about until our Physio friend Andy Watson put Seb on a daily routine of Box Pistols. Now these are a common feature of many of my programs, especially if knee pain is an issue.

The pistol squat gets some flack in other circles, and to be fair their arguments are valid. The spine is rounded and it is easier to maintain neutral spine in other single leg variations. The leg outstretched to the front causes a flexibility issue for many.

I fully agree. However, for a grappler flexibility should be good, and the pistol often highlights a weakness to work on. The rounded low back is not much of a problem as the lift is generally performed with an unloaded spine. BJJ is played with a posteriorly tilted pelvis, which the pistol squat works into.

On most other single leg variations the loaded side of the pelvis rotates posteriorly (relative to the spine) while the unloaded leg, being below or behind often rotates anteriorly. This is perfectly relevant to an upright athlete, someone fighting on their feet, but for our “Butt-Scooting” friends, is less relevant. Developing strength in this bottom position is vital for the hip and knee health as a fighter progresses in both training age and real age. There’s a lot more about the knee and how we can apply the pistol squat in THIS POST

Once basic strength and mobility have been established we can add in some power work with Heavy Kettles and Olympic Variants of barbell lifts, we may even do some jump training.

Of course there’s more to it. But this is as much as you need to start in your journey towards insuring your joints against injury.


Dave Hedges

Fighting Back – my eBook on supplementary strength training for BJJ that focusses on the low back and removing low back pain has been very well received since I released it. I got several requests that we take the rope design from the cover and turn it into a Rash Guard.

Well, it’s here……..

Check this out:

Click for more info

Click for more info

Now the good bit. If you buy the eBook, I’ll send you a discount code for the Rashie. Those who already have it, already have an email from me with the code. If you buy the Rashie, I’ll email you the eBook.

Fighting Back sales
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