Strength Training For BJJ : How to Find Balance

“Train Smarter Not Harder”

I’m sure at some point you’ve heard any variation of that quote. Buy why wouldn’t we work on training harder AND smarter.

I’m frequently ask in one way or another from athletes in our gym, how they should split up their strength training with their Jiu Jitsu.

First, don’t over do it! Don’t think you HAVE to do BJJ and strength training in the same day.

Like most cases limiting factors outside of time is sleep, nutrition, and age. All playing a major role in your capacity to train and recover.

Those being our limiting factors, I NEVER recommend doing BJJ and Strength training back to back.

There is some gray area here in which you use one for technique one for a hard session. But in general when this question is ask,

I’m assuming you’re looking at putting eighty to ninety percent effort into both your Jiu Jitsu and strength training.

In which case one will suffer. Split it up based on your priorities. Not everything has to be done EVERY DAY!

Be mindful of your training, your body, listen to it! You have to find what works for you, don’t force it!


Belt Squat: The Back Squat Substitute

There is no movement in the weight room more natural to humans than squatting.

For some setting weight onto the back of the shoulders can cause anxiety, failing the lift before its even started.

For others, there could be some lower back or shoulder issues not allowing you to squat.

Belt squats are a little different, its going to be a different feel, but it will work. Not every gym has a belt squat machine, so like any good lifter we adapt with variations.

The belt squat provides us with a variation to increase leg and hip strength without loading or damaging your back.

The weight pulling at the hip can also provide traction for the spine.

I get a hip pinch form time to time, and when I do I switch from barbell squats to belt squats, which help clear up the issue.

The greatest benefit for the belt squat is it will allow you to load the lower body without loading the spine.

I will also use these as a primer before squats on some days, just to get everything tight before the barbell.


Foam Rolling : Stop Wasting Your Time

I joke a lot with Chewy, on how he could stand on his head for a warm up, before he teaches Jiu Jitsu and the next day everyone would be doing the same.

I don’t feel that its a far fetched statement since he’s built such trust among his athletes, and leading by example, they believe what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Which made me think of some of the recovery we do at not just our gym, but any of the many I’ve traveled to.

It’s inevitable be it in my gym or one I visit, someone is face down on foam roller rolling out their top of their legs for minutes on end.

Chances are they witness someone else in their gym or a video doing the same thing, we all seek knowledge and sometimes forget to ask, so we try to mimic.

Personally, I don’t use a foam roller for my legs. I prefer the pressure and logistics a barbell offers for smashing out legs.

So while most will just foam roll their legs back and forth, I use a barbell in smaller increments to workout a lot of the damage tissue.

I do this 2-3 times a week on recovery days, some times its 5-10 minutes others it can be a lot longer session depending on how tore up my legs are.

Give it a try, but be ready for the added pressure!


How to Make the Deadball & Sandbag Cleans So Much Easier!

It’s hard to do any type of weightlifting, powerlifting, or any version of strength and conditioning in general that we don’t naturally migrate toward the use barbell.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very partial to a barbell myself.   But at times its nice to have a change of pace with some odd object training.

If you think about it, nothing is more traditional than Sandbags, Wreck Bags, Dead Balls, and Atlas Stones.

The barbell wasn’t even invented until 1910.  While dumbbells can date back to Greco Roman days, moving stones as a measurement of strength can be traced back even further.

Traditional lifting, Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, whatever your choice of poison can at times make you complacent.

To spice things up, during my de-load and reload weeks is add in a little odd object training.  Just for a change of pace.

I gravitate toward the use of sandbag and dead ball movements during this part of my programing.

Nothing to crazy just enough to change up some movement pattern and mechanics.

My two preferred methods I like to use depending on the weight and volume are the Lap Method and the Scoop Method.

Each having their own special benefit, with limiting factors of each.

Power Jerk: Perfecting The Dip & Drive

It wouldn’t be over indulging to say I enjoy lifting.

In fact, outside of spending time with my wife and beautiful daughter, I cant think of a simpler activity that brings me more joy.

A few months back I attended a weightlifting seminar in Columbus, OH.

When it was over, the instructor approached m giving me merit on my mechanics and movements. After a brief conversational bout lifting he ask me who coaches me.

It was an eye opening moment in my career.

I’ve always just lifted with friends, attended seminars, but never had someone work on individual development for my Olympic lifting.

Now this instructor was 6ft 6inch easy, and I’m 5ft 7inch on a good day.

Making it easy to remember him towering over me, head tilted to the side and a blank stare saying “But why? Everyone who wants to get better at any sport needs a coach.”

I knew I wanted to start competing, but knew I’d need to reach out to those with vastly more experience than I have.

After asking around to other coaches in the area, I kept hearing the same recommendations Joe Hamblen.

We’ve been working now for around 6-7 weeks, and while the weight we’re using is light.

My lifts have improved more in that time than when I started!


Bench Press – Your Do’s And Don’ts Checklist

Here we go International Chest Day!

Like any lifter, we all want a big bench press, I still remember the first time I got over 200lbs, I thought I had made it, that I was in the big time.

Looking back, I had no idea what I was doing, I wish someone had shared some bench tips with me. Its not as simple as getting under the bar and pressing it, there are mechanical processes that will DRASTICLY improve your bench press.

Let’s talk about my set up, more of a checklist I use when bench pressing. This is the same bench I’ve used to hit PR’s as high as 385lbs at 205lbs bodyweight.

Here’s what you’ll find necessary for the checklist.

First I want to ensure your bar is lined up evenly. Making sure your weight is not shifting more to one side than the other. Now I’ll get under the bar.

Once I’m under there is a few things that take place. My eyes are in line directly under the bar My hands are in the same position as my overhead press.

My Hips are in contact with bench.  My Thumb is gripped around the bar (no suicide grip) I’ll now use the bar as leverage to pull myself up, set my shoulders into place, I’ll press into the bar pushing my shoulder firmly against the bench.

Bracing my core I’ll arch enough so someone could run their hand under my lower back all the way through.

I will now walk my feet back being on my toes pushing into my body driving my traps further into my bench. In this position you’ll notice my knees are lower than my hips.

Now we’ll drive the bar up, lowering it down across my nipple line.

It’s important to point out that as I’m lowering and pushing the bar my elbows stay in front of or under the barbell.

PLEASE remember to breath!

You may find you’re already doing a few of these. This process has drasticly driven my bench press numbers up. Good luck!

Killer Grip Strength Exercises For Jiu Jitsu

I’ve worked so closely with Nick “Chewy” Albin  these past 8 years, I’ve listen to countless of his podcast, videos, lectures, and his ever so elegant rambles.
Almost all of his seminars, social media, and in person I’ve witness a trend of questions.
One that sticks out the most is “How Do I Improve My Grip Strength”?
The obvious answer is the most clear, which is just do Jiu Jitsu.
You could say I do a lot of training, doing so indirectly trains my grip.  I would never recommend to someone to directly train your grip.
The overall benefits of directly training your grip is small compared that of indirect training it will receive from compound exercises to focus on overall strength, power, and conditioning.
Now, if you feel individually you NEED to work on directly training your grip to improve strength there are a few recommendations I may have.
I would like to add I would not do these until the end of my workout, and maybe 1-2 days a week.  You’ll be working with smaller muscle groups and can easily be stress to the point of overtraining.

Doing these three exercises will compliment your grip when doing Jiu Jitsu, but ultimately you will need to develop that grip strength through Jiu Jitsu.

Are You Overtraining – When To Back Off

Regardless of your reason for training, its easy for someone to over train.

Sleep, Diet, Age all limiting factors in our ability to recover.

When we train we add stress to our body, too much stress and you’ll lack the ability to recover.

Each of us have a minimum and maximum  threshold limit with our training.

The better your diet and sleep the greater our range between our maximum and minimum range will be.

If you’re always under your maximum line, you won’t stimulate much growth, so you’ll always feel “Okay” or “good” when going to the gym but you won’t be making much progress.

Your maximum line is the sweet spot we try to reach, balancing stress from life and training.  The goal is to reach the line as often as possible but never crossing.

When we cross this line is when we begging to notice diminishing returns on our training, getting weaker, and in most cases being over our maximum threshold is where we get injured.  We have slowly build our training volume in order to increase our maximum limit.

So what are some of the Warning Signs You’re Overtraining

Falling apart

Getting Sick Often

Trouble Sleeping

Workouts are just harder

If you’re experiencing any of these it may be time for a de-load week. 

Then before going back into training maybe have a ramp up week,

Most important Listen to your body!