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Top 5 Strength Exercises For BJJ

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.

Executive Contributor Kosta Telegadas

Before starting training in the martial arts world, I trained to compete in Olympic lifting and powerlifting tournaments. However, after some success in that world, I decided on my new adventure in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Over the years I have trained some of the best in the central VA area and around the globe as my coaching adventures continue. One thing that gets overlooked by some grapplers is this idea of strength.

Two men on a martial arts training

Typically, people say strength does not play a major role in BJJ and technique is the most important. However, I strongly disagree with this narrative and think both technique and strength are equally as important. Strength training is a cornerstone of performance enhancement for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes once technique has been established. Incorporating the right exercises can significantly improve your grappling power, endurance, and overall athleticism. Here are five essential strength exercises tailored to the needs of BJJ grapplers:

Trap bar deadlifts

Trap bar deadlifts

Benefits for BJJ

  1. Develops posterior chain strength, crucial for explosive movements and maintaining strong positions.

  2. Enhances grip strength, which is vital for maintaining holds and submissions.

  3. Improves overall power, strength, and core stability.

  4. Reduces stress on the lower back due to the constant stress the lumbar spine endures in BJJ

How to perform

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, the feet middle of the hexagon.

  2. Bend at the hips and knees to grip the bar just outside the knees.

  3. Keep your back flat, chest up, and shoulders back.

  4. Drive through your heels, extending your hips and knees to lift the bar.

  5. Lower the bar back to the ground with control.

Training tips

  1. Start with lighter weights to master the form or a 6-second down negative to master the form

  2. Incorporate variations like explosive jump shrugs or rack pulls to prevent stagnation


Benefits for BJJ

  1. Strengthens the upper back, lats, and biceps, enhancing pulling power.

  2. Improves grip strength, essential for gi and no-gi grappling.

  3. Builds endurance in the muscles used for maintaining grips and positions.

  4. Improves arm drags & other forms of takedowns that need grip, lat, and the rest of the upper back muscles to generate force.

How to perform

  1. Grip the pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away.

  2. Hang with your arms fully extended.

  3. Pull your chin above the bar by retracting your shoulder blades and bending your elbows.

  4. Lower yourself back to the starting position with control.

Training tips

  1. Use assistance bands or a spotter if you’re new to pull-ups.

  2. Gradually increase reps and sets as your strength improves.

Front squats

Front squats

Benefits for BJJ

  1. Strengthens the quadriceps, glutes, and core, which are crucial for shooting, sprawling, and maintaining base.

  2. Enhances balance and coordination

  3. Improves hip mobility and overall lower body strength without putting stress on the low back

  4. Improves muscles needed to retain a strong guard

How to perform

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, barbell resting on the front deltoids.

  2. Keep elbows high and hands lightly gripping the bar

  3. Squat down by bending at the hips and knees, keeping the torso upright

  4. Drive through your heels to return to the standing position

Training tips

  1. Focus on maintaining an upright torso to engage the core.

  2. Use a lighter weight to perfect form before progressing.


Barbell glute bridges

Barbell glute bridges

Benefits for BJJ

  1. Develops explosive hip power and conditioning, essential for bridging, shrimping, and other dynamic movements.

  2. Enhances grip strength and endurance.

  3. Improves the athlete’s escape when the opponent has a mounted position on them

How to perform

  1. Place feet shoulder-width apart

  2. Lay down on the ground and place the barbell over the top of the hip

  3. Place heels on the ground and drive the barbell up to the sky by squeezing the glute muscles

  4. Do not touch the glutes to the ground, maintain tension, & complete the reps as needed

Training tips

  1. Keep the movement explosive but controlled.

  2. Focus on using the squeeze the hips through the range of motion

Bent over barbell rows

Bent over barbell rows

Benefits for BJJ

  1. Enhances overall body strength and coordination.

  2. Develop core stability and control, crucial for maintaining positions and transitions.

  3. Improves posture, upper back strength, and low back stability.

How to perform

  1. Hinge your hips back with a barbell on the floor

  2. Without breaking a neutral spine, row the barbell to your belly button while contracting your upper back

  3. Let the bar descend without losing the tension in your upper back

  4. Do not let the barbell touch the floor until all the reps have been completed

Training tips

  1. Perform the movement slowly to focus on stability and control.

  2. Start with a lighter load on the barbell and increase the weight slowly as you proceed to perform the rowing exercise

Man lifting barbell


Incorporating these strength exercises into your training routine can yield significant benefits for your BJJ performance. Remember to focus on form, start with manageable weights, and gradually increase intensity to avoid injury and ensure steady progress. These exercises will help you build the strength and power necessary to excel on the mats.

Please feel free to connect by sending me a message on Instagram (@Coach_Telegadas) or by emailing me at my coaching email address: I am always open to connecting with anyone who wants to discuss strength and conditioning programming, coaching, etc. Stay strong, stay motivated, & train hard!

Two men practicing martial arts

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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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