Is strength training right for you? Marcelo Garcia says he doesn’t need it, and I think we can all agree MG is the man. But, I have one question for you… Are you MG? No? Ok then.
Proper strength training increases physical potential for sports and everyday activity. Notice there I said potential?
Strength training won’t make you a better grappler, but it will increase your potential to be a better grappler – becoming one is entirely up to you.
What Do I Mean By Strength Training?
Before we move on, I want to clarify what I consider to be strength training. Actually, I'll state what I think it isn’t.
Strength training is not:
- Random groupings of exercises without purpose, or
- Dangerous activity – yeah, no matter how cool heavy barbell squats on one foot balancing on a bosu ball looks for your Instagram, the risks far far far outweigh the reward
This leaves us with what I think strength training is:
- Goal orientated
- A remedy for muscular imbalances
- Improving general movement in all planes i.e. frontal, sagittal and transverse
- Improving mobility
- Improving muscular elasticity and the stretch shortening cycle
- Injury prevention
Ok, maybe I should have just started with what I think it is.
The main point I want to stress here is for the most part, strength training in a gym should primarily focus on improving your capacity for GENERAL movement. There is a time for training specific movement patterns and, with the exception of a few exercises closer to competition time, this time usually takes place in BJJ class.
Your strength training should involved basic movements to improve general physical preparedness. Please, don't go crazy with your exercises, it is highly unnecessary.
Strength Goals to Improve Your Grappling Game
General Physical Preparation (GPP) is essential for both the athlete and hobbyists, as baseline strength is necessary for improving sports specific performance and also injury prevention.
To increase your potential for performance, you need to first increase the foundation of your strength.
Skipping GPP and diving straight into sport specific workouts – you know, crazy balancing balls and the jumping battle rope malarkey you see on Instagram - implements a ceiling on your potential which you cannot surpass.
Increasing GPP raises that ceiling, so that when it comes time to work on performance (closer to competition) the increase in speed and specific movement could potentially improve to a higher level.
In injury prevention, strength training allows you to absorb and resist higher levels of eccentric force applied on you by your opponent, protecting the muscle tissues, skeletal frame, joints and ligaments from injury.
Velocity Trumps Force
According to strength and conditioning coach Cal Dietz:
Improving velocity should take priority over absolute strength. Although training to increase maximal strength WILL create a strength surplus for sport specific movements, working out like a power lifter isn’t ideal for grappling, as the focus shifts from velocity, GPP and performance to the numbers being lifted, i.e. “How much ya bench/squat/deadlift?”
Remember, BJJ is a different sport to powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting and even though you will gain some benefit from the development of power and inter and intramusclular coordination, the goals for each respective sport vary too much to consider adopting them absolutely in your training.
Working up to a Weight Just Above the Competition Force
Don’t get me wrong; lifting heavy weight is awesome. Improving absolute strength will help increase force, power, speed, and of course relative strength. However, you need to remember the reason why you started lifting – to improve your BJJ.
My old strength and conditioning coach, and mentor, William Wayland used to set the goal of squatting double my body weight before moving on to more elite exercises.
I also see this as a great idea in another respect, as you should also consider how much force you need to apply in relation to your body to increase speed and power, while also considering how much force will be applied by your opponent against you.
Generally, you will compete against people your own size and developing strength to handle their bodyweight plus their force should be a good indicator for your max load goal.
For more great information on Strength and Condition for BJJ and MMA check out William’s site, as there are a number of blogs dedicated to the development of combat athletes with out the bull shit most other ‘experts’ are known for.