5 WAYS TO KEEP TRAINING IN THE OFF-SEASON: PART 2- Lifting Weights for Judo and BJJ – How to do it and Why

train in off season

Summer’s almost here and this is when people start going on vacation, and clubs either shut down or start cutting down on the number of sessions per week.  What a bummer!

So what can you do to keep progressing your skills through the summer?

There’s a lot of things you can do and we’ve got a Five Part Series for you.

  1. Sign Up For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  2. Lift Weights
  3. DIY Dojo with your friends
  4. Rubber band uchikomi
  5. Sign Up for San Shou/Sanda

So let’s get started with Part 2:

offseason2-weights

#2- Start lifting weights

Strength and power are important parts of competitive judo and BJJ and will help you in the long run if you use them correctly.

Yes – I understand that judo and bjj is about using a person’s strength and momentum against them.  But let me explain.

Lifting weights helps your grappling in a few ways

  • Injury prevention: twisted knees, separated shoulders are some of the most common injuries in judo.  BJJ – generally a bunch of niggly annoying joint injuries.  How can you prevent these from happening?  You can train lighter, OR you can protect your joints with some natural grown armour – that is muscle.
  • Improving your technique: how is this possible? Shouldn’t you use as little strength as possible?  Yes, but let me explain how this works.  The stronger and more explosive you are, the better you will do in competitions.  The better you do in competition, the more higher level players and coaches will want you to train with them.  The better your training partners and coaches are, are the better you will become at judo.

But what are some good programs to improve strength?

The type of strength need for grappling is similar to most other sports in many ways.  

You need sheer, full body strength that can be utilized in a functional and explosive manner.  Not a bunch of isolated muscles that look big.

So how do you get this?

There are four main phases or types of training you need to do

  • Phase 1) Train your central nervous system (CNS) to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible.
  • Phase 2) Increase the size of the muscles recruited.
  • Phase 3) Train your muscles and your body to be explosive as one coordinated unit.
  • Phase 4) Train your muscle endurance

 

Phase 1) Train your central nervous system (CNS) to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible.  

First of all: what is your Central Nervous System (CNS).  Basically it’s your Brain and your Spinal Cord.  Your brain sends a signal to your peripheral nerves which tell your muscles to fire.

Right now whatever size your muscles are, your body probably only knows how to fire about half of them at any given time.  This is in stark comparison to an Olympic lifter who can activate about 80-90% of their muscle fibres.  This is why you see mind boggling amounts of weight being thrown around by lifters much smaller than your average bodybuilder.

1382608114401_1382608114401_r

What you need in grappling is a strength advantage RELATIVE to your weight class.  How do you do this?  Recruit more of the muscle fibers you already have.  1-5 Rep Maxes with COMPOUND exercises such as those below will train your body to do this.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Olympic lifts (snatch, clean and jerk)

 

muscle_anatomy1323638589598

This is a cross section of a muscle belly. Let’s say your bicep. Right now it is quite likely that your brain is only trained to activate about half of all those muscle fibers you see in this cross section. Training your CNS will activate much more of the same muscles you already have allowing you to output more force with the same muscle. So if this is your bicep, you’ll be able to lift much more with the same size muscle.

 

Phase 2) Increase the size of the muscles recruited.

Once your brain/ Central Nervous System knows how to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible you will max out the amount of force your muscles can output.  The next thing you need to do to output more force is to increase the cross sectional size of your muscles .  The more cross sectional area of a muscle that can be recruited, the more strength output you have.

3 sets of around 10 Reps with what are known as ACCESSORY lifts.  These lifts are used to address weaknesses or imbalances you have and are ultimately to improve your lifts in Phase 1

  • Dips
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Rows
  • Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Lunges
  • Chinups
  • tricep extensions, bicep curls etc.

So combine Phase 1 -increasing the number of fibers recruited and Phase 2 – larger muscle fibers means you will have a greatly increased cross sectional area applying force.

2-types-of-muscle-growth500

It’s typically said that Phase I Training (heavy weights-low reps) causes Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, or an increase in the density and number of muscle fibers. Phase 2 Training (lower weight, higher reps) cause sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

 

It’s typically said that Phase I Training (heavy weights-low reps) causes Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, or an increase in the density and number of muscle fibers.  Phase 2 Training (lower weight, higher reps) cause sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

In reality, most trainers believe you need BOTH to get the best results.  Elliot explains this quite eloquently in the video below.

 

Phase 3) Train your muscles and your body to be explosive as one coordinated unit.

Now that your muscles are bigger, your brain knows how to activate more of the fibers – you need to coordinate it all together.   This can be done by using explosive and athletic movements. 

  • Jumping
  • Sprinting
  • Pushing and pulling sleds
  • Olympic lifting

 

That sounds great and kind of complicated… How the hell can I do all this?

Well luckily there are lot’s of smart, educated and experienced people out there who do this for a living.

Steps 1 to 3 can be had in a simple program designed for athletes of all kinds who want to get stronger and more explosive.  It’s called West Side For Skinny Bastards.

It combines:

  • Maximum Lift from Phase I with low reps and maximal weight
  • Accessory Work from Phase II to address weaknesses with higher reps, lower weight
  • Explosive and dynamic work to mesh it all toghether

Download it for free here.

West Side For Skinny Bastards 3

The best version is the latest version (WS4SB 3).

Go through the interwebs, talk to people who train, browse Reddit.  You will find that a wide array of people have had great success using WS4SB (including myself).  I started training WS4SB 4 years ago and gained about 35 lbs in 4 months (I was eating like a mad man, and yes my body fat did go up, but maybe by about 5%).

WS4SB was designed by Joe DeFranco who runs DeFranco’s gym.  He has trained many athletes from high school hoppefuls to NFL, NHL, MLB players.  His program works!

Just a note: there are 2 main versions of the program.  IN SEASON and a 4-DAY TEMPLATE.

  • If you are NOT training any grappling at all.  Do the 4-DAY TEMPLATE version.  This is a 4 day split.  It’s hard and requires a lot of recovery.
  • If you ARE training a few times a week still.  Use the IN SEASON TEMPLATE.

 

Ok, so you’ve done WS4SB for months and now you are one coordinated, powerful ah-tha-lete waiting to take on all comers.  You get back on the mats in September and you are GASSED!  Why is this?  Because you need to train muscle endurance for your specific sport.

Phase 4)  The Final Step: Train your muscle endurance

Judo and BJJ are also different than ball and stick sports in that you need a lot of muscle endurance.  

What is muscle endurance?  Well, it’s needing to have as close to maximal muscle output during the entirety of a randori /roll or competition round.

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training is the absolute best type of weight training you can do to get you ready for grappling competitions.  Not only will it help you keep your muscle while cutting weight in anticipation of a competition, your endurance will be WAY up from your baseline.

How do you do HIIT? Basically timed interval training typically with either weights, kettlebells, calisthenics, sprinting or jumping.

Many people have found kettlebells to be one of the best ways to train muscle endurance for grappling.  This is for a number of reasons:

  • Increased grip strength
  • Increased endurance of weighted and timed exercise
  • Better transfer of strength from kettlebells to grappling than from powerlifting

See this discussion on Sherdog.

And see my review of Matt D’Aquino’s Kettlebells For Grapplers program.

kb4grapplersReview

OR

Order Kettlebells For Grapplers here for $47!

bundle

 

SUMMARY -TL;DR

There are four main phases or types of training you need to do

  • Phase 1) Train your central nervous system (CNS) to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible.
  • Phase 2) Increase the size of the muscles recruited.
  • Phase 3) Train your muscles and your body to be explosive as one coordinated unit.

For Phases 1-3 Use this program called West Side For Skinny Bastards that has been used by anyone good or who wanted results.

If you are not rolling at all use the 4-Day-Strength-Program.

If you are still rolling a few times a week use the In-Season-template.

  • Phase 4) Train your muscle endurance

Phase 4 can be trained with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  The best kind for grapplers is with Kettlebells.  Read the review here.  Order Kettlebells for Grappler here.

 

 

What kind of weight training do you currently do?  What sort of programs have you tried? Post in the comments below!

 

 

There you have it!  Get going to your local gym, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our 5 Part Series on How to Train in the Off Season this coming  week!

 

  1. Sign Up For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu offseason1-bjj
  2. Lift Weights (coming soon)
  3. DIY Dojo with your friends (coming soon)
  4. Rubber band uchikomi (coming soon)
  5. Sign Up for San Shou/Sanda (coming soon)

 

 

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