A Guide to Increasing Muscular Strength for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

No matter what stage or class of Brazilian BBJ you are in you will, at one point or another, reach a strength plateau.

It can happen when you are starting out, when you are looking to take the next step and compete, or even to seasoned professionals looking to improve their strength to weight ratio.

It’s important to understand that the key priority for any BJJ practitioner is to be strong in relation to his weight.

Simply eating much more, hitting the weights and gaining weight will not do. That approach will probably put you in a higher weight class and, packing those extra pounds will just make you slower, which can affect your BJJ skill.

Therefore, the best option is to increase your muscular strength in the weight class you are in. It’s not an easy task but we’re here to help, with the most important steps you need to take to stay lean and get stronger.


The Importance of Grip-Strength

Grip strength is, perhaps, the most important thing when it comes to BJJ.

No matter how skilled you are, if your grip fails, no amount of technique will help and executing even the simplest holds will be a challenge.

The first step to increasing muscular strength is to strengthen your gripping muscles. Here are the best exercises to make that happen:

Hanging Bar Holds

Hang from a pull-up bar with your palms facing out for 3-5 sets of 60 seconds each. If your bodyweight is too much, start with your feet on the ground at a 45-degree angle and work up to bodyweight.

Hold a dumbbell between your feet when holding your own weight up becomes too easy.

Towel Holds

Similar to the bar holds, however instead of holding the bar, put a towel over your pull-up bar and hold on to the towel edges.

Holding on to the fabric and the angle of your grip will contract your finger flexors further and also involve your thumbs.

Thick Bar Holds

From a standing position hold a thick bar, or a normal bar with a Fat Gripz over it for 3-5 sets of 30-60 seconds. Start with around 60 per cent of your bodyweight and work up to heavier weight.

Remember: Building up grip strength takes time. Three grip-focused exercises a week should be enough, keeping you fresh for training and far from exhaustion.


Lift For Strength: Low reps, Heavy weight & Compound Exercises

The aim here is to aim for more strength at every workout.

Keeps your reps low, at around 5 per set, and make sure to add weight to the bar as often as possible, preferable every workout or second workout.

Keeping reps low will allow you to lift heavier weight, which will translate into more pure strength.

For BJJ practitioners focusing on compound movements is key. Your workout should comprise of:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Bench press
  • Chin-ups
  • Barbell rows
  • Variations of the above.

These movements will make you strong in areas most important to a BJJ practitioner- legs, core, grip, arms and greatly improve your pushing and pulling strength.

It is recommended to do 3-4 compound exercises per workout for 2-3 sets of 5 reps each. Make sure to rest 3-5 minutes between sets, in order to be ready for the next set.

The priority here is to build strength and muscle without gaining too much weight. So keep it simple and don’t do too much.

DO NOT lift more than 3 times a week, to avoid fatigue and exhaustion.

Finally, when creating a strength-lifting routine be sure to research and discuss it with your coach or trainer, in order to create the most optimal routine for you.


Traning on the Mat is The Priority

Do not make the mistake of spending more time lifting weights than on the mat, training.

Weight-lifting may be fun, even addictive, but it should not under any circumstances be prioritized above your BJJ training.

A BJJ training session should always be put above a day at the gym. On the mat is where your strength it tested and pushed to the limits. It’s where you build up your endurance and technique, and where you muscular strength will most certainly increase.

As your muscular strength increases, you will be able to grip tighter and roll harder. Utilize this and test it during training on the mat.

Diet & Nutrition

You need fuel in order to build muscle, that’s how it works.

In order for your body to build new muscle tissue you need a highly nutritional diet.

A packed weekly training routine can drain and exhaust you, if you aren’t providing your body with proper nutrition. A poor diet plan will quickly become apparent, as you won’t have energy or strength to function at optimal levels.

You will need a sufficient amount of protein, fat and carbs to reap the most from your training, so here are a few guidelines.

Lean protein, lot and lots of greens and veggies, fruits and good fats should be the foundation of your diet.

  • Eat protein with every meal, be it fish, chicken, eggs, or lean red meat.
  • Avoid processed foods and sugars, and instead get your carbs from vegetables, potatoes, oatmeal and legumes.
  • Drink lots of water and make sure to have a few fruits daily and also include some healthy fats.
  • Avocados, fish, nuts, chia seeds, coconut oil and olive oil are all excellent sources of fat.

Eating right and keeping an eye on your calorie intake will lead to a stronger, leaner, more muscular body, without unnecessary fat gain.

Patience & Consistency

Getting stronger is not something that happens overnight.

However, if you are consistent and strict with your training, you will see results. Lift, train hard on the mat and eat well.

Over time, the results will start to show and you will find yourself gripping your opponents harder and rolling them around with ease.

Patience is your best friend on the road to a strong, functional body.