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Other/Mixed General conditioning program for grappling

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
Hi all, I'm currently in the midst of some forced time off from my chosen sport of BJJ which has given me some time to think about my programming. I've come to the conclusion that I'm severely missing any kind of basic endurance work, which is impacting my overall work capacity and ability to recover effectively. I'm looking for advice on a) whether this is accurate and b) how I can address this without stressing my body too much. My current week looks as follows:

Mon - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Tue - 5/3/1 Front Squat & Military Press with sled push for conditioning
Wed - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Thur - BJJ - technique and lighter sparring
Fri - 5/3/1 Trap Bar Deadlift with sled push for conditioning

Is there anything I could tweak or add in to condition my body a little more for the wear and tear BJJ subjects the body to? I've never been 100% confident in my conditioning, particularly when it comes to competition and I'm keen to get some ideas on how I can improve things. Should I introduce a couple of steady state cardio sessions into my week? Would I benefit more from 2-3 days of S&S?

I'm at a bit of a loss where to go from here so would rather reach out to this community for some educated advice :)

Dean
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
Walking or hiking. S&s. And or Pavels new product which I can't remember the name of, but can be found at bjj fanatics I believe
Thanks Hunter. So would you recommend S&S 2 or 3 teams a week alongside my current program, alongside a daily evening walk/hike? Would that be sustainable long term whilst improving my overall endurance (I'm not challenging, genuinely curious to get your thoughts)?

Its worth mentioning for context that I program every 4th week as a 'deload' week, extending the 531 model to my other training. That means less sparring and less weight pushed on the sled. I'm not sure that makes a huge difference but by factoring in lighter weeks I feel it helps prevent over training and allows me to take on a little more volume.
 

Conrad

Level 1 Valued Member
I’ve found huge benefit to reaching Simple for BJJ. I’m only new to the sport so try to use technique rather than muscle my way out of positions but having that strength has helped give me time to problem solve my way out of submissions. I ran a lot before starting BJJ too which has meant that I can recover very rapidly between rounds and rarely gas out. Having said that I really struggle to recover from consistent running and rolling regularly so now focus on KB’s more. Maybe look at tactical barbell ii and run a base building block then ease it back. Another massive help is deep nasal breathing as soon as a round is finished.
 

Tony Gracia

Level 6 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Hi all, I'm currently in the midst of some forced time off from my chosen sport of BJJ which has given me some time to think about my programming. I've come to the conclusion that I'm severely missing any kind of basic endurance work, which is impacting my overall work capacity and ability to recover effectively. I'm looking for advice on a) whether this is accurate and b) how I can address this without stressing my body too much. My current week looks as follows:

Mon - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Tue - 5/3/1 Front Squat & Military Press with sled push for conditioning
Wed - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Thur - BJJ - technique and lighter sparring
Fri - 5/3/1 Trap Bar Deadlift with sled push for conditioning

Is there anything I could tweak or add in to condition my body a little more for the wear and tear BJJ subjects the body to? I've never been 100% confident in my conditioning, particularly when it comes to competition and I'm keen to get some ideas on how I can improve things. Should I introduce a couple of steady state cardio sessions into my week? Would I benefit more from 2-3 days of S&S?

I'm at a bit of a loss where to go from here so would rather reach out to this community for some educated advice :)

Dean
Dean, what is your age, belt rank / experience level, and weight class? Do you compete, or is this question just based on training in the academy?
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
I’ve found huge benefit to reaching Simple for BJJ. I’m only new to the sport so try to use technique rather than muscle my way out of positions but having that strength has helped give me time to problem solve my way out of submissions. I ran a lot before starting BJJ too which has meant that I can recover very rapidly between rounds and rarely gas out. Having said that I really struggle to recover from consistent running and rolling regularly so now focus on KB’s more. Maybe look at tactical barbell ii and run a base building block then ease it back. Another massive help is deep nasal breathing as soon as a round is finished.
Hi Conrad, welcome to the sport! I really feel I should run more but whenever I add running in it seems to fatigue me a little too much. Maybe I should add in a bit of S&S alongside 1 run a week and see how I handle it?
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
Dean, what is your age, belt rank / experience level, and weight class? Do you compete, or is this question just based on training in the academy?
Hi Tony, I'm a 35 year old purple belt. I'm an active competitor at lightweight (so competition weight is around 74kg). Hope that helps.
 

Andi-in-BKK

Level 4 Valued Member
Hi Tony, I'm a 35 year old purple belt. I'm an active competitor at lightweight (so competition weight is around 74kg). Hope that helps.
I’m in the same place BJJ career-wise as you are. In April I was the same size as well.

I had to take a forced hiatus for about 5 months due to Covid lockdown and kids being online school only. So I used the time to add strength and hypertrophy through progressively heavier Clean and press workouts(ended up running KB Strong Short Course with a pair of 28kg bells at the end). I also ate in a progressive surplus and added 15kg between muscle and body fat.

Now that I’ve been back training for about 3 weeks, I notice the additional strength (and size) when rolling in a good way(posting and frames are much stronger and hip hinge movements like building posture or doing a wrestler’s style sitout are much more explosive, I can also break someone down in my closed guard much easier as well). But it did take a bit to get rid of the rust mentally and get my muscles used to rolling(they would get tired at the beginning but I don’t notice that anymore). I didn’t do anything specific to add Strength endurance, just training hard when at BJJ and continuing to lift heavy, adding barbell lifts, specifically deadlifts and OHP.

I’m intending to cut back gradually on my weight and try to be around 84kg for training with the possibility to cut too 80kg for competition (weight brackets in SE Asia are like 85kg, 80kg, and 74kg) depending on bracket size (not a lot of Masters 1 Purple belts in Thailand). And try to hang on to as much muscle mass as possible through an extremely small calorie deficit or maintenance. Thankfully, I’ve got time on account of wanting to get back into the groove before competing again.
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
I’m in the same place BJJ career-wise as you are. In April I was the same size as well.

I had to take a forced hiatus for about 5 months due to Covid lockdown and kids being online school only. So I used the time to add strength and hypertrophy through progressively heavier Clean and press workouts(ended up running KB Strong Short Course with a pair of 28kg bells at the end). I also ate in a progressive surplus and added 15kg between muscle and body fat.

Now that I’ve been back training for about 3 weeks, I notice the additional strength (and size) when rolling in a good way(posting and frames are much stronger and hip hinge movements like building posture or doing a wrestler’s style sitout are much more explosive, I can also break someone down in my closed guard much easier as well). But it did take a bit to get rid of the rust mentally and get my muscles used to rolling(they would get tired at the beginning but I don’t notice that anymore). I didn’t do anything specific to add Strength endurance, just training hard when at BJJ and continuing to lift heavy, adding barbell lifts, specifically deadlifts and OHP.

I’m intending to cut back gradually on my weight and try to be around 84kg for training with the possibility to cut too 80kg for competition (weight brackets in SE Asia are like 85kg, 80kg, and 74kg) depending on bracket size (not a lot of Masters 1 Purple belts in Thailand). And try to hang on to as much muscle mass as possible through an extremely small calorie deficit or maintenance. Thankfully, I’ve got time on account of wanting to get back into the groove before competing again.
Hi Andi, dreaded Master 2 for me next year......Im getting old! So do you typically do any cardio based endurance work to help improve stamina, or do you feel that hard sparring rounds covers that base for you? Weight gain is not really an option for me at the moment so trying to solve the technique/strength/cardio puzzle is giving me a headache!
 

Andi-in-BKK

Level 4 Valued Member
Hi Andi, dreaded Master 2 for me next year......Im getting old! So do you typically do any cardio based endurance work to help improve stamina, or do you feel that hard sparring rounds covers that base for you? Weight gain is not really an option for me at the moment so trying to solve the technique/strength/cardio puzzle is giving me a headache!
I’ve played around with riding/training on a bike for a few months (long sessions with a relatively high intensity-FTP type program) and I did notice a bit faster recovery (in a winded sense). But currently I don’t feel particularly winded after hard rolling and I haven’t done specific cardio work since March. So a little of both I guess.

Personally, I looked at strength as being my weak point so that was what I focused on. When I would roll with really large/strong seasoned blue belts they would give me fits (like in a way that the difference in technique couldn’t make up for). The weight gain in my case was an acceptable loss, as I am now stronger than the guys the weight class above where I used to be and about the same as the strong guys in my current weight class who once gave me trouble. Only now I’m at a technical advantage so I don’t have the trouble that I did before.

That said, I can completely understand wanting to stick to a weight class. You can always do the heavy doubles(grinds and/or ballistics), barbell work, and body stuff while monitoring weight gain and calories to build some strength at the same size, but progress would be slower than otherwise.
 

Tony Gracia

Level 6 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Hi Tony, I'm a 35 year old purple belt. I'm an active competitor at lightweight (so competition weight is around 74kg). Hope that helps.
Hi Dean,

Thanks for the info. FWIW I think I am fairly qualified to help answer here - I'm a Master 2 black belt and actively compete in Medium-Heavy both gi and no gi, and own a gym where we have a strength & conditioning program as well as BJJ program so I help coach people on both sides.

IMO the weight classes of LW (yours), MW, and Medium-Heavy (mine) all have incredibly hard fitness demands ... you need a great balance of strength, power, endurance, etc. and are well served to train all those qualities, so it can be so tough to fit it all in!

A few brief suggestions:

  • I find that two "primary movements" in one day are too much at this age. I used to be able to do that in my 20's, but now as Master 2 it's just too much and either can't lift well and/or I can't recover from lifting. One primary movement + accessories seems much more sustainable, and I actually feel stronger on the mats too (probably because I'm more recovered). For accessories I encourage emphasizing unilateral type movements such as lunges, one arm rows, and TGU
  • Target at least two different energy systems for your endurance training. I'm not sure how exactly you're doing your sled sprints, but I'll assume it's a HIRT style (high intensity repeat). I'd encourage only 1x weekly of that instead of 2x, and do the second day as something different such as a cardiac output method, a lactic threshold method, etc.
  • Mind your eating ... I think our bodies often find a "set point" and you may actually be able to increase calories WITHOUT weight gain because your body just likes being at a certain weight. I had this recently where I realized I was under-eating (especially carbs) and was "crashing" towards the end of the week. Once I made a point to add in a couple bigger meals throughout the week it made a huge difference in my energy and did not impact my weight at a..
I hope that is helpful!
 
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Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
Hi all, I'm currently in the midst of some forced time off from my chosen sport of BJJ which has given me some time to think about my programming. I've come to the conclusion that I'm severely missing any kind of basic endurance work, which is impacting my overall work capacity and ability to recover effectively. I'm looking for advice on a) whether this is accurate and b) how I can address this without stressing my body too much. My current week looks as follows:

Mon - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Tue - 5/3/1 Front Squat & Military Press with sled push for conditioning
Wed - BJJ - technique and hard sparring
Thur - BJJ - technique and lighter sparring
Fri - 5/3/1 Trap Bar Deadlift with sled push for conditioning

Is there anything I could tweak or add in to condition my body a little more for the wear and tear BJJ subjects the body to? I've never been 100% confident in my conditioning, particularly when it comes to competition and I'm keen to get some ideas on how I can improve things. Should I introduce a couple of steady state cardio sessions into my week? Would I benefit more from 2-3 days of S&S?

I'm at a bit of a loss where to go from here so would rather reach out to this community for some educated advice :)

Dean
When you say you are lacking conditioning, what do you mean exactly?

Is it your recovery between bouts and overall general recovery after work?

Is it lactic acid building up in certain body parts making them burn?

Is it just a low VO2 max and as soon as you start doing anything physical e.g. sparring you are blowing out your arse?

My general recommendation is easy runs, cycles and rows 3 times a week. To build your aerobic capacity. That is your base that you build your conditioning on.
 

Conrad

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi Conrad, welcome to the sport! I really feel I should run more but whenever I add running in it seems to fatigue me a little too much. Maybe I should add in a bit of S&S alongside 1 run a week and see how I handle it?
I find the same, I really enjoy running so thought I’d add a bit more in the past few weeks but it has totally wrecked me. If you’re needed to take some time off BJJ though I’d definitely consider running 2-3x a week while you have the extra time and then bring it way back to once a fortnight when you’re back to rolling.
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
Hi Dean,

Thanks for the info. FWIW I think I am fairly qualified to help answer here - I'm a Master 2 black belt and actively compete in Medium-Heavy both gi and no gi, and own a gym where we have a strength & conditioning program as well as BJJ program so I help coach people on both sides.

IMO the weight classes of LW (yours), MW, and Medium-Heavy (mine) all have incredibly hard fitness demands ... you need a great balance of strength, power, endurance, etc. and are well served to train all those qualities, so it can be so tough to fit it all in!

A few brief suggestions:

  • I find that two "primary movements" in one day are too much at this age. I used to be able to do that in my 20's, but now as Master 2 it's just too much and either can't lift well and/or I can't recover from lifting. One primary movement + accessories seems much more sustainable, and I actually feel stronger on the mats too (probably because I'm more recovered). For accessories I encourage emphasizing unilateral type movements such as lunges, one arm rows, and TGU
  • Target at least two different energy systems for your endurance training. I'm not sure how exactly you're doing your sled sprints, but I'll assume it's a HIRT style (high intensity repeat). I'd encourage only 1x weekly of that instead of 2x, and do the second day as something different such as a cardiac output method, a lactic threshold method, etc.
  • Mind your eating ... I think our bodies often find a "set point" and you may actually be able to increase calories WITHOUT weight gain because your body just likes being at a certain weight. I had this recently where I realized I was under-eating (especially carbs) and was "crashing" towards the end of the week. Once I made a point to add in a couple bigger meals throughout the week it made a huge difference in my energy and did not impact my weight at a..
I hope that is helpful!
You've touched on some really great points here and I really appreciate the thorough explanation. Your point on eating hits a little too close to home, I'm a big fan of fasting but found out the hard way during a tournament how that can wreck your gas tank!

At the moment I'm considering running S&S on BJJ days with roughly 12 hours between sessions, hopefully that's what you mean regarding accessory training. Ive actually done this before and felt fantastic so I'm confident this won't lead to fatigue.

Your assumption for the sled work is accurate so I'm happy to drop the 2nd session. When you say Cardiac Output method do you mean LISS/low heart rate training? If so do you think 2 sessions a week would suffice?

Thanks again for your advice, really appreciate it.

Dean
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
When you say you are lacking conditioning, what do you mean exactly?

Is it your recovery between bouts and overall general recovery after work?

Is it lactic acid building up in certain body parts making them burn?

Is it just a low VO2 max and as soon as you start doing anything physical e.g. sparring you are blowing out your arse?

My general recommendation is easy runs, cycles and rows 3 times a week. To build your aerobic capacity. That is your base that you build your conditioning on.
Recovery between bouts and after training are my main problems which is what led me to believe its a foundational aerobic problem. The rounds themselves are never much of an issue, but sustaining my intensity over multiple matches is a problem. I've a feeling ill be taking your advice and adding in some steady state training!
 

dsh1986

Level 2 Valued Member
I find the same, I really enjoy running so thought I’d add a bit more in the past few weeks but it has totally wrecked me. If you’re needed to take some time off BJJ though I’d definitely consider running 2-3x a week while you have the extra time and then bring it way back to once a fortnight when you’re back to rolling.
Covid related unfortunately so using the opportunity to enjoy some much needed downtime. I'm not sure there's any getting around a couple runs a week going forward though!
 

Andi-in-BKK

Level 4 Valued Member
Hi Dean,

Thanks for the info. FWIW I think I am fairly qualified to help answer here - I'm a Master 2 black belt and actively compete in Medium-Heavy both gi and no gi, and own a gym where we have a strength & conditioning program as well as BJJ program so I help coach people on both sides.

IMO the weight classes of LW (yours), MW, and Medium-Heavy (mine) all have incredibly hard fitness demands ... you need a great balance of strength, power, endurance, etc. and are well served to train all those qualities, so it can be so tough to fit it all in!

A few brief suggestions:

  • I find that two "primary movements" in one day are too much at this age. I used to be able to do that in my 20's, but now as Master 2 it's just too much and either can't lift well and/or I can't recover from lifting. One primary movement + accessories seems much more sustainable, and I actually feel stronger on the mats too (probably because I'm more recovered). For accessories I encourage emphasizing unilateral type movements such as lunges, one arm rows, and TGU
  • Target at least two different energy systems for your endurance training. I'm not sure how exactly you're doing your sled sprints, but I'll assume it's a HIRT style (high intensity repeat). I'd encourage only 1x weekly of that instead of 2x, and do the second day as something different such as a cardiac output method, a lactic threshold method, etc.
  • Mind your eating ... I think our bodies often find a "set point" and you may actually be able to increase calories WITHOUT weight gain because your body just likes being at a certain weight. I had this recently where I realized I was under-eating (especially carbs) and was "crashing" towards the end of the week. Once I made a point to add in a couple bigger meals throughout the week it made a huge difference in my energy and did not impact my weight at a..
I hope that is helpful!
I’m ending up doing similar with volume/number of exercises and BJJ. I find I can recover fine from two lifts + BJJ at most, but when I was trying to run KB-C&P + Barbell (DL) + BJJ I would need to crash on every other day with a 3-4 hour nap and I would still be absolutely fried on the weekends.

Also, you’ve got my goal job. I’m currently working towards SFG1(next summer) and getting a kids program going, I’d like to be able to combine the two (S&C and BJJ) in the future, as I genuinely enjoy teaching about things that I love.
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
First off, to put things in perspective: my background is in Greco and Freestyle wrestling, not in BJJ, although I’ve coached some BJJ players. That being said, here are my two cents.

If I understand correctly, you are looking to design a program for when you get back on the mat. If you say “current”, do you mean that that is what you used to do before you were on your forced break, or is it the plan you’ve come up with so far? And what kind of weights are you using?

Personally, I’d say “It depends”. It depends on your definition of hard sparring/rolling (mine is “blood on the mat and people throwing up”), whether you could possibly increase the number of BJJ sessions per week, and for example how you do your “sled push” conditioning (“sled push” would suggest you’re using it like a prowler? Also, do you just do a forward push/pull, or do you vary the angles? How much time do you spend on that?).

What your rolling looks like will influence what kind of effect it has on your conditioning. I therefore always recommend talking to your grappling coach what he’d recommend.

If you are mainly looking to maximize your performance on the mat, I’d recommend bumping up the number of mat sessions to 5 per week if at all possible. That would be 66% more mat time each week, and I guarantee you’d see an improvement, even if you simply ditched the strength work. Of course, it is possible to still incorporate some, preferably right at the end of the mat session (e.g. squats with a partner, rope climbs and/or pull-ups, push-up-variations, rubber band and plate circuits). It is also customary to do some easy (!) cardio in the morning if possible – running being the most traditional, but riding a bike etc. can work as well – you don’t need much, 20-30 minutes is enough. In the school I trained in, longer runs (up to 50 minutes, up and down the steepest hill we could find) and sprints were reserved for Saturday afternoons, so before the rest day.

If bumping up mat time is not an option, I’d recommend more solo drilling. I am partial to using rubber bands for this, since they simulate resistance of an opponent. Most of my coaches came from the former Eastern Block (Russia, Dagestan, Uzbekistan), and that is what wrestlers there use as the cornerstone of their conditioning. We normally use long bands (up to 5 or 6 meters, resistance per hand typically up to one fourth to one third of the weight class) attached to an anchor to simulate set-ups, shots, throws etc. as well as for prehab exercises, but there are some products specifically for BJJ (for example JitsGrips) which use a shorter band and are specifically designed to allow drilling in the various guards etc.

As for your current exercise selection, I should point out that (unless you do a bunch of different movements with the sled) it is currently very push-centric, even trap bar deadlifts are the closest deadlift variation to squats. You are doing no bent-arm pulling work, and nothing I’d consider shoulder stabilization through the full range of motion (that’s one aspect that most wrestling programs include as prehab, since shoulder injuries are among the most common issues for us). I would highly recommend including something for that, like pull-ups, rows and around-the-worlds. Of course, you can also address these areas through rubber bands. S&S might work for that as well, although I really cannot reliably comment on that since I have never done the program. I would, however, be a bit cautious with mixing and matching programs (especially if also doing sports on the side), that is an advanced approach in my opinion.

Cheers
Period.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
Recovery between bouts and after training are my main problems which is what led me to believe its a foundational aerobic problem. The rounds themselves are never much of an issue, but sustaining my intensity over multiple matches is a problem. I've a feeling ill be taking your advice and adding in some steady state training!
Then throwing in some easy runs and cycles a few times a week will address this over time.

It's simple and unsexy. But it works.
 
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