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Ragdoll Your Opponents – How To Lift Properly For BJJ

Written by: Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Kosta Telegadas

Over the years of training combat sports athletes, I have noticed that many athletes use improper lifting techniques and methods that give them little to no benefit. Most athlete's programming will revolve around bodybuilding, which will increase their size/small levels of strength. However, these types of programs cannot account for the speed, power, endurance, higher strength/conditioning levels needed for a BJJ competition.

Two jiujitsu wrestlers sparring in combat.

As I have specialized in working with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have researched a lot from Louie Simmons (powerlifting coach legend) and Phil Daru (MMA strength and conditioning coach). Thanks to these coaches’ amazing work, I have been able to put together a solid strength and conditioning program template based on the conjugate method. For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the conjugate program can have some tremendous benefits. This system combines various training modalities to enhance different aspects crucial to BJJ performance. In this article, I will review the following to enhance your BJJ performance on the mat:

  1. A breakdown of the components of the conjugate system

  2. Why Lifting Benefits Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competitors 

  3. A Week Sample of Programming (inspired by Louie Simmons and Phil Daru)

  4. Special Considerations for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Athletes


A man doing lifting at gym.

Breakdown of the components that make up the conjugate system


Strength Training: Includes compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, etc.) to build foundational strength. Exercises are rotated frequently to prevent plateaus and stimulate continuous adaptation. Rotate max effort and dynamic effort compound movements every 1-4 weeks to ensure stagnation will not occur. 


Power and Speed Work: Incorporates explosive movements such as plyometrics, Olympic lifts, and speed-focused exercises to enhance quickness, agility, and power. 


Conditioning: Involves high-intensity interval training (HIIT), sprints, circuits, or sport-specific endurance drills to simulate the demands of BJJ Matches. 


Sport-Specific Skill Training: Integrates MMA-specific drills for striking, grappling, takedowns, and defense techniques. These are primarily taught in BJJ classes but can be added into your training if need be for extra conditioning drills. 


Dynamic Effort Days: Focus on speed and explosiveness. This involves performing exercises (like box jumps, medicine ball throws, speed squats, etc.) at lower percentages of maximum effort for multiple sets with maximum speed. See different volume requirements for different methods below: 

  • Rep ranges from a 1 rep max to 5 reps with compound lifts

  • Rep ranges from a 3 reps max to 8 reps with medicine balls

  • Rep ranges from a 2 reps max to 5 reps with plyometrics 

Maximal Effort Days: Concentrate on building maximal strength. This includes lifting near-maximum loads for lower reps, rotating exercises frequently to avoid accommodation (getting used to the same stimulus), and developing overall strength. Rotations can be performed weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on the tenure/goals of the athlete.  

  • Rep ranges from a 1 rep max to a 5 rep max with compound lifts

  • De-load every 3-4 weeks by dropping the intensity on the barbell or reducing days per week that the athlete is lifting/training

Repetition Effort Days: Aim to build muscular endurance, hypertrophy, or assisted strength work. These sessions involve higher rep ranges and target specific muscle groups or movements that either support the training program lifts for the dynamic effort/maximal effort days or assist in offsetting stresses from BJJ classes/competitions.

  • Rep ranges from 6 reps to 25 reps (depending on goals and exercise selection)


Photo of 3 boys at the gym.

Why lifting benefits brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors 


That’s great info above coach, but why should I care? Weightlifting offers numerous advantages to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners. It bolsters strength, fortifying muscles, and connective tissues, which reduces the risk of common BJJ-related injuries while providing better control during techniques and submissions. Additionally, resistance training enhances muscular endurance, is crucial for sustaining performance through long training sessions or competitions, and cultivates explosiveness, aiding in swift transitions between positions or executing takedowns while dominating superior positions. The mental resilience developed through consistent weightlifting can prove invaluable in the demanding realm of BJJ. 

Two jiujitsu wrestlers.

Week Layout of a Sample Training Program for 3 days a week. Note this program is based on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday split:

Monday: 

Maximal Effort Upper Body (Heavy bench press, weighted pull-ups, etc.) 

  • Work up To A heavy 5 rep max bench press (Do Not Compensate)

Dynamic Effort Lower Body (Speed squats, box jumps, lower intensity barbell lifts for speed, etc.)

  • Trap Bar Deadlift Speed Pulls 10 sets x 2 reps @ 55% of 1 rep max

Repetition Effort (total body focus)

  • 4x8 DB Incline Bench 

  • 4x8 Each Single Leg Machine Leg Curl

  • 4x 30 sec Plank

  • 3xMax reps Chin Ups

  • 3xMax reps Calf Raises

  • 3x20 Chest supported T’s

Cooldown

  • Static Stretching 30 seconds on all muscles used

  • Hang From Bar for 30 seconds for low back decompression

Wednesday: 

Dynamic Effort Lower Body (Speed squats, box jumps, lower intensity barbell lifts for speed, etc.) 

  • Front Squat 12 sets x 2 reps @ 50% of 1 rep max

Dynamic Effort Upper Body (Speed bench press, explosive push-ups, etc.)

  • Bent Over Row 12 sets x 3 reps @ 50% of 1 rep max

Repetition Effort (total body focus)

  • 4x8 Chest Supported Row to W

  • 4x6 Each Lateral Lunges

  • 3x10 Barbell Shrugs

  • 3xDown and Back Crossover Sled March

  • 3x10 DB Curl to Press

  • 2xMax Kneeling Tricep Pushdowns

Cooldown

  • Static Stretching 30 seconds on all muscles used

  • Hang From Bar for 30 seconds for low back decompression


Friday: 


Maximal Effort Lower Body (Heavy squats, deadlift variations, etc.) 

  • Work up to a heavy 3 rep max Sumo Deadlift (Do Not Compensate)

Dynamic Effort Upper Body (Speed bench press, explosive push-ups, etc.)

  • Incline Bench Press 10 sets x 3 reps @ 55% of 1 rep max

Repetition Effort (total body focus)

  • 4x10 Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

  • 4x8 Barbell Glute Bridges

  • 3xDown and Back Sled Backwards Drag

  • 3xDown and Back 1 Arm Farmer Carry

  • 3xMax Cable Curls

Cooldown

  • Static Stretching for 30 seconds on all muscles used

  • Hang From Bar for 30 seconds for low back decompression

Two boys doing exercise.

Considerations


Periodization: Adjustments in volume, intensity, and exercise selection over time to prevent overtraining and continually improve performance. Most athletes I have seen before I coach them train over 4 days per week on top of training BJJ 4 times per week. This is going to negatively impact the athlete's health by increasing levels of fatigue, overtraining, and risk of injury. 2-3 days a week of lifting is enough to ensure proper gains and BJJ technique/sparing development. As a side note: make sure to de-load from training once every 4 weeks. Drop off volume in weight training and take 1-2 days off training on the mats as well. 


Conditioning: Depending on the school you attend, conditioning might already be considered by the head professor. If not focus on both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning methods. I love intervals or time trials to assist with these. This could be as simple as having an athlete row on a row machine for a hard, but sustainable pace for 2-8 minutes; or sprint on an assault bike for 30 seconds on/15 seconds off. This can be done at the end of your weight room training sessions. However, if you spar at a more intense pace with your training partner, listen to your body. Sometimes the best conditioning is what our grapplers do in practice. 


Recovery: Adequate rest, nutrition, and recovery methods (massage, saunas, ice baths, stretching) are crucial for optimizing gains and preventing injuries. Sleep and proper nutrition should be prioritized above all else. If you can’t recover, then you will eventually become stagnate and regress in your training and health. 


Individualization: The template I have given above is a decent general template to reference as an example. However, tailoring the program to the individual athlete's strengths, weaknesses, and competition schedule will still always be the best for their long-term development on the mats and in the weight room. 


Conclusion


Without the amazing work of other coaches before me (primarily Phil and Louie) building out these kinds of programs would not be possible. With the growth and popularity of Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the rise, the information on these considerations will help you avoid injury, never gas out, & dominate superior positions.  


If you are looking for BJJ-specific training programs, then reach out by giving my Instagram (@Coach_Telegadas) a follow and messaging me the word. “DOMINATE”. You can also download the link to the BJJ Domination training program here.


Now go out there and dominate your opponents on the mats!


Two jiujitsu wrestlers.

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Kosta Telegadas Brainz Magazine
 

Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kosta Telegadas is a leader in the strength and conditioning for tactical athletes and martial artists all over the world. He found physical training as a necessity to grow up playing sports, help prevent injury & give back to the country that gave his family so much over the generations. Coach Telegadas has a Master's Degree from the University of Miami (FL) and over 7 years of coaching experience with both professional, college, high school & tactical athletes. He is currently the Head Coach/CEO of Telegadas Performance Training and dedicates his time to make physical training programs & remote coaching accessible to all. His mission: If you stay ready, you never have to get ready!

 

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