6 Strength Exercises for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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To achieve the best outcomes, follow the principle of specificity and train in a way that closely mimics the movements and demands of the sport. Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a predominantly ground-based sport that requires a combination of stability, mobility, and strength in unconventional positions (1, 3). To cater to these specific needs, we recommend a program of strength exercises targeting all three components: stability, mobility, and strength in the sport. While practicing BJJ is the best way to improve it, incorporating these specific exercises can help you meet the functional demands of BJJ.

Exercise Selection

Strength and conditioning research has only studied conventional strength and power exercises, such as barbell squats, bench press, power clean, etc., on BJJ performance outcomes (2, 3). The exact exercises in this article have yet to be validated by research, but they are the same foundational movements as most studied exercises. 



Unlike many other sports, BJJ athletes must practice against maximal resistance during each training session. Combined with a high-volume lifting program, this could lead to overtraining, so the prescribed weight training volume must be lower than that for many other sports (3). Most exercises suggested in this article have a lower loading capacity than typical strength exercises, which will reduce the likelihood of overtraining.

Hip Thrust

Bridging the hips is an essential movement in BJJ. The hip thrust is an exercise with the shoulders on a bench or similar elevated surface and the feet driving into the floor to extend the hips. The hip thrust meets multiple criteria for a strength exercise that can contribute specific value to BJJ: it is a ground-based exercise and uses specific movement in BJJ. 

The weighted glute bridge is an alternative that can be done if there is no surface to plant the shoulder blades on for the hip thrust. Both accomplish the same goals. 

Hip 90-90 with Lunge

The hip 90-90 is a hip mobility exercise that takes the hips through seated internal and external rotation. It is an excellent exercise for improving hip mobility and has appealing applications to the sport of BJJ. To make it more functional for BJJ, two more parts of the hip 90-90 will be added:

  1. Hip extension (bringing the hips off the floor into a double kneeling position)

  2. Lunge (lunging the lead foot forward into a single kneeling position)

This exercise can be progressively overloaded by holding a dumbbell or other free weight in the front position. This is an effective strength exercise for BJJ because it works on mobility and strength simultaneously in the hips, and it practices moving on the floor in odd positions with strength and stability, all characteristics that can transfer to BJJ.



Floor Single Arm Overhead Press

This overhead press variation demands more trunk stability than its sitting or standing counterparts since the legs can’t contribute nearly as much to creating tension and stability. Not only is it ground-based, but it is a unilateral exercise, which demands more core involvement. 

  • Sit down on the floor with your legs abducted (spread out) and knees extended

  • Posture up your torso at ninety degrees from the floor

  • Press the weight up with the core and shoulders tight and activated

Supine Cable Reverse Squats

This core exercise is ground-based and emulates the guard position of BJJ. 

  • Add a cable attachment to the feet

  • Lay down supine and squeeze your abs to push your lower back onto the floor



  • Flex and extend your knees while keeping your lower back pushed into the floor

Another valuable addition to this exercise is adding a dumbbell to the arms and extending the arms behind the head at the same time as extending the legs (4). This will demand massive tension on both ends of the abs as both ends are lengthened simultaneously. 

Turkish Get-Ups

This exercise matches the functional demands of BJJ, as it is a ground-based exercise involving progressive odd positions at each step, hip mobility, stability, and extensive postural control (4). 

Tall Kneeling Single Arm Cable Rows

This exercise targets upper body posterior chain muscles like lats and traps while being in a ground-based position on both knees. It’s an anti-rotation exercise that strengthens the kneeling position while being pulled forward, which helps in BJJ.

  • Kneel on both knees with the hips extended

  • Brace your core and shoulders

  • Pull without any rotation through the torso, especially on the eccentric portion



Sources

  1. da Silva BV, Simim MA, Marocolo M, Franchini E, da Mota GR. Optimal load for the peak power and maximal strength of the upper body in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jun;29(6):1616-21. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000799. PMID: 25486298.

  2. James, Lachlan P. MSportCoach, MExercSc. An Evidenced-Based Training Plan for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Strength and Conditioning Journal 36(4):p 14-22, August 2014. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000053 

  3. Jones, Nathaniel Brian PhD, CSCS1; Ledford, Elizabeth MS, CSCS2. Strength and Conditioning for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Strength and Conditioning Journal 34(2):p 60-69, April 2012. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182405476 

  4. Ratamess, Nicholas A PhD, CSCS*D, FNSCA. Strength and Conditioning for Grappling Sports. Strength and Conditioning Journal 33(6):p 18-24, December 2011. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31823732c5

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