Category Archives: BJJ Strength Training

On Keeping the Goal the Goal – Cardio edition

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I’m delighted that people are finally getting the message that cardio is not only not bad for them but it is actually essential.

For long time the fitness industry rebelled against the cardio craze of the 70’s and 80’s, taking a massive knee jerk over reaction and doing it’s best to tell everyone that cardio was bad, bad for you and all you ever need to do is lift heavy weights and sprint or do high intensity interval training.

Thankfully, and I’ll give a nod to the works of Joel Jamieson (8 Weeks out & BioForce) and James Fitzgerald of Opex.
These two lads have done great work getting the word out that of the three energy systems, the aerobic system is the foundation that underpins the others.

Stolen from semanticscholar.org

Combat athletes have known this anecdotally and instinctively since day dot.
Kettlebell Sports athletes know this implicitly.

However, when I talk to my athletes and clients about cardio, the conversation often takes a predictable path, which is why I think we need to lay out a few points on how to think about the whole topic.

And we star with a quote from the Grand Visier of strength and conditioning, Dan John.

Dan has a (one of his many) quote which goes:

“Keep the goal the goal”

So, you decide that you need better cardio because you gassed out in BJJ last night.
That’s fair.

So you go running.
Also fair.

After a few runs, you start using Strava or similar and you’re now comparing this run against the last run and looking to make progress.
Which is fair, but this is where we need to start checking ourselves.

Is the goal to be a better runner?

Probably not eh.

You’re running to achieve better cardio-vascular fitness.
You’re running for the aerobic benefits.

And by aerobic benefits we mean the ability of the heart to push large volumes of blood around and the ability of the lungs to efficiently exchange gasses (Oxygen ad CO2)
There are other considerations, but we’ll not confuse ourselves with them just yet.

In order to best train the aerobic system Phil Mafetone, an absolute authority on the subject, suggests we work at a heart rate of 180 – your age.
Now this is a guideline, there is play in this.

But go too much higher and you will be working above the aerobic threshold, which isn’t your goal.

Roadwork has been a staple of boxing training since day dot, and for good reason.

Now relate this to your Strava times.
So you ran 10k, great.
Do you NEED to run it faster?
If you run it faster are you still benefiting from what Mafetone calls “Maximal Aerobic Fitness) or MAF.

(I’m always jealous of these people that can make cool acronyms from their names!)

Am I suggesting that you put away your Strava?
Not necessarily, what I’m suggesting is you only use it after your run to get a breakdown of the session.
A Heart Rate monitor would be more useful (many HR apps will sync to Strava….) as you can see how hard you’re working.

But I still don’t like this as it can be a distraction while running.

You can use the talk test.
Essentially, if you can hold a conversation then you are in the aerobic zone. If you can only snatch at short sentences, you’re working too hard.

I also love to nasal breathe as it has a stack of secondary benefits to it as well as slowing you down to a pace that is very likely to keep you in that aerobic zone.

But first and foremost we must keep the goal the goal and not get tied up by the act of running.

If you’re simply looking for aerobic development, may I strongly suggest you also use:

Circuit training, long intervals with short breaks (45:15 works well) keeping an eye on the heart rate as you go.
Select a variety of exercises, these can include relatively light strength exercises, kettlebell work and bodyweight drills work a charm. You can also have in stationary bikes, rower, jump jacks, skipping and sport specific drills such as shadow boxing, bagwork or floor drills.

These circuits should go on for a while, I’ve done them for over an hour in the past, but 20 minutes is a good start point.

These circuits are a great time to work on skill drills, such as a guard pass, or mobility drills such as cossack switches.

After all, the goal is aerobic fitness, so the exercises are of secondary relevance, we might as well pick ones that will give us maximal benefits across as many attribute categories as possible.

Other circuit formats would be to simply do one exercise for 5 minute then move to another, and carry on for 20 minutes though to an hour and a half.
With this format, you don’t have to run from exercise to exercise, but don’t hang about either…

Or simply set a timer for X amount of time (20-90 mins) and cycle through a few exercises, for example:
Kettlebell Clean & Jerk, Crawl, Sledgehammer Slams.
Say 10 reps of each, keeping an eye on that heart rate!

A few weeks of this and you should feel like you are able to recover faster from the more intense training, that your gas tank is bigger, that you don’t hit that pain place as quickly.

And then, a few weeks out from an event, THAT is when you switch to the high intensity intervals, the heart in your mouth suck sessions.

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Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com
www.patreon.com/davehedges

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5 Exercises Strength Exercises Essential to BJJ

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved in a new project.

It’s a project that revolves around my favourite things, Strength Training and Combat Sports.
I loooove training combat sports athletes, here a wee story on what I’m talking about, then we’ll get the meat of the post, those 5 exercises….

….Several years ago I started training a very keen BJJ practitioner called Peter.
Since that time, Peter has gone on to open his own very successful BJJ school and he and his wife (who I also train) have participated in BJJ competitions across Europe, often bringing home medals, now their clients are doing the same.

Peter is a great statesman for BJJ and is doing great work for that community not only through his school, but he has a few other projects on the go.

The latest one is the one he has asked me to help with.

It’s called www.LiftBJJ.com, and in case you haven’t already guessed, it’s a service dedicated to helping the BJJ player to get the very best strength and conditioning advice possible.

It’s early days in the project, but we have some content already on the site if you head over.

As it is an S&C service for BJJ, I figured I’d get the ball rolling a bit here and offer up a selection of gym exercises that I feel carry the most value to the BJJ player.

1: Turkish Get Ups

Ah, the good old Turkish Get Up.

Few lifts offer quite as much as this movement does.
From core strength to shoulder stability, from hip mobility to proprioceptive feedback, this exercise holds a lot of value.

Learn it slowly, practice it with patience.

There’s a trend on the internet of people advocating Turkish Get Ups be done with very light weights, even with just a shoe balanced on your closed fist.
I’m not one of those people.
I do highly recommend you work it using a bottoms up (kettlebell held by the handle upside down, ie the bottom is facing up) grip for the first few reps of the workout.

Here’s how:

I advocate that you build up the weight you can shift, build it over a long timeline, but aim to go heavy, anything over half your bodyweight is excellent.

How many do we do?
If we’re doing the half movement, swap hands after every third rep, full movement after each rep.
You can then either go for reps or time, both work. I like time as it shifts the focus onto quality movement rather than hitting a rep goal.
A minimum time is 5 minutes, but I’ve gone as long as 45 minutes in the past. 5-10 minutes works well.
We translate that into reps and you’ll average out 1 rep every minute, so 10 minutes is 10 reps, or 5 each side. More or less…

2- The Deadlift

There are simply no better strength building tools for the grappler than the deadlift.
Not only that, it’s as simple as picking something up off the floor, and then putting it down again.
Or at least, that’s what it should be.

The key is to lock the core, including the lats down tight. Nope, tighter than that!!

Take a solid grip, in this clip I’m showing the Snatch Grip Deadlift, a great option for the BJJ player. But a standard grip (just outside the legs) is good.
Next take a deep breath in and tighten the midsection hard around it.

As you tension, lower the hips a touch, lift the chest a touch and feel the bar tighten as you put some tension into it.

Now push your heels through the floor, the bar should lift slowly off the floor.
Endeavour to keep it as close to the shins as you can and accelerate it upwards until you stand tall.
The push the hips back again and allow the bar descend along the same path it came up.
Lower it in a “controlled fall” as in you don’t just drop it, but you follow it down, guiding it as you go.

Don’t be tempted to go all out on this until you have plenty of experience.
And never take a set to failure, leave one or two reps in the bank.
I recommend sets of 3-5 reps for the majority of the training.

3- Ab Wheel

This innocent looking little device will be one of the best purchases you ever make. They’re cheap and take up no space, but they’re highly highly effective.

Why so effective?
They take the abdominals into a lengthened state under load.

Here’s how it’s done:

Pay attention to the details in this video, it’s the difference between screaming abs or crippling low back pain.

4 – Lateral Lunges

I’ve thought for many years that this movement is grossly underrated.
With more information coming about about the importance of the adductors in terms of knee injury prevention, I think the lateral lunge is about to have it’s day. You heard it here first folks!

We use the goblet squat position for this so the load is held to the front, loading the abdominals.
The foot on the straight leg (straight means NOT BENT!), the leg you step away from, must remain flat to the floor, don’t let the outside edge lift at all!
That will limit your depth, but will load up peroneals (outside of calf/shin) and the adductors (inner thigh) as you fall away.
The stepping leg lands, loads and then immediately pushes you back to the standing position.

It looks like this:

5 – Inverted Rows

I ummed and ahhed here about whether to put in pull ups, scap ups or inverted rows.
The truth is, done well, they form a continuum of progression.
We start athletes on inverted rows, move them to scap ups and eventually pull ups.
Reverse that list and you have regressions.

Why are regressions so important?
Because they are inevitable.
You will be tired, you will pick up injuries etc, so you will move down the chain of exercises.

The inverted row is also a better exercise for teaching scapula movement.

Here’s how I like to be done:

So how would we put these together?

Try this:

1A: Deadlift x 5 reps
1B: Turkish Get Up x 1 L/R (half Get Up x 3 L/R)
3-5 rounds, not including warm up / ramp up sets

2A: Lateral Lunge x 6-8 L/R
2B: Inverted Row x 8-12
2C: Ab Wheel x 8-12
3-5 rounds

Finish with your choice of exercises now.
Select a few that will get the heart rate up and help you with your game.
Set a timer, 30secs work, 10 secs break for 9-15 sets.
Select maybe 3-5 exercises and do them as a circuit.

For example:
Shinbox extension – Hindu Push Up – Sit through
Or
Kettlebell Swing – Plate Slide Plank – Bridge escape
Or
Sprawl style Burpee – Double Kettlebell High Pull – Deck Squat

The list of choices is endless, so have fun with it…

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

Also, my new personal blog/podcast thing: www.patreon.com/davehedges
And of course, check out the new LiftBJJ.com site, there’s a lot to come over the next few months there!

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