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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Strength Training

author image Patrick Dale
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Strength Training
Jiu Jitsu martial artists practicing grappling. Photo Credit: Stephen Morris/iStock/Getty Images

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a combat sport and self-defense system that focuses on ground fighting. Unlike karate and boxing, it does not use many punches or kicks but instead uses chokes and joint locks to disable opponents. Brazilian jiu jitsu is considered a vital skill for mixed martial artists. The early years of competitive mixed martial arts, specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship, were dominated by members of the Gracie family -- experts in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

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The Need for Strength

While skill is vital for success in Brazilian jiu jitsu, strength is equally important. Taking another fighter to the ground so that you can use the locks and chokes of the sport often requires strength -- especially if your opponent is bigger than you. It also takes strength to resist his efforts to get you on the deck and defend yourself. In sports, strength can be a vital factor, and when two equally skilled fighters meet, the stronger one is often the one to prevail.

Types of Strength

There are three main types of strength that are vital in Brazilian jiu jitsu: maximal strength, strength endurance and explosive strength -- also known as power. Maximal strength is your ability to generate large amounts of force irrespective of speed. Maximal strength is important when applying a joint lock or choke, especially if your opponent is much bigger than you. Strength endurance describes your ability to repeat submaximal efforts without fatigue. This is essential if a fight lasts longer than a couple of minutes. Power describes the application of strength at high speeds. Possessing power means that you are better equipped to throw your opponent to the mat or sweep his legs from under him. This type of offensive maneuver must be performed powerfully if it is to be successful.

Training for Strength

Combining strength training with Brazilian jiu jitsu skills training and conditioning training requires careful time management. While both strength and conditioning are important, they should not detract from technique training. This means that strength training should be done on the days when you do not do any Brazilian jiu jitsu work. To maximize the benefits of strength training while minimizing actual workout volume, focus on the exercises that have the greatest carryover into your sport and organize your workouts so that you cover the maximum number of muscles using the minimum of exercises. Perform light weight, high-repetition work to develop muscular endurance and heavy weight, low-repetition work to develop strength. Power is developed by using moderate weights lifted at maximal speed.

Exercise Selection

Because Brazilian jiu jitsu is a full-body sport, you should base the majority of your strength training on full body exercises. While leg curls and calf raises are effective exercises for bodybuilding, they have little crossover to the complex movements of Brazilian jiu jitsu. Mixed martial arts strength and conditioning expert Martin Rooney, author of "Training for Warriors" suggests focusing on compound, multi-joint exercises such as deadlifts, power cleans, high pulls, plyometric pushups and similar exercises that target multiple muscle groups at the same time. Core strength is also essential for successful Brazilian jiu jitsu, so you should devote time to developing the muscles of your abs, lower back and waist to ensure that your midsection is as strong as possible. Core exercises of choice include planks, V-situps, hanging leg raises, 45-degree back extensions and rotational throws using a medicine ball.

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