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Five Strength and Conditioning Exercises for BJJ

Five Strength and Conditioning Exercises for BJJ


Adding a strength and conditioning program to your BJJ training schedule is not just for high level competitors anymore.  Strength and conditioning programs can help increase endurance and power, while also helping to minimize the likelihood of injury.  Whether you are a casual competitor or even a non-competitor, working some strength and conditioning into your week, will help you improve your BJJ.  Since BJJ is a unique activity that has elements of power, explosiveness and endurance, being weak in any one or all of those areas can make your success on the mats more difficult.

In the video below, 5 time World Champion Bernardo Faria meets with strength and conditioning export Malcolm Gwilliam who shares a number of exercises that can be easily implemented into your training schedule and improve a variety of aspects of your BJJ.  Take a look below and we'll break it down.

Grip Exercises

Malcolm demonstrates with Bernardo several different gripping exercises using weights to tax both the pinching and the larger more open-ended grip style.  Using specialized exercise tools, he demonstrates several techniques.  What is great in this video is that he also shows alternatives to the specialized instruments.  By doing weighted plate pinches, we can achieve the same results and improve our pinching grip.  Using the circle shape of the dumbell head, we can also improve the strength of a wider grip (think in terms of grabbing someone's arm instead of just their thin gi).

Improving the strength of one's grips can be crucial in a BJJ match.  Having the strength and endurance of a solid grip can lead to better control, for a longer period.

Chin Up Exercise With Towels

The next exercise that Malcolm recommends is chin ups using towels for grips.  This combines the intense pulling of the chin up which is crucial for BJJ since much of what we do is attempting to pull our opponents closer and to keep them close, with an equally intense gripping exercise.  This type of chin up builds a great deal of endurance for our grip, while building the strength we need for pulling.

Neck Exercise

The neck, for Malcolm, can be an overlooked piece of the puzzle when it comes to competitive grappling and combat.  For him, he recommends working the back of the neck and it's extensor muscles first and foremost to ensure that posture is maintain and ability to extend away from things.  If someone is able to collar tie and pull you down due to weak muscles, this is something that must be addressed.


The squat for Gwilliam is the most important exercise out of all of these due simple to its versatility.  As he states in the video, the squat is a way to increase conditioning and strength.  It is a tool that can be used to gain size and it is a tool that can be used to get lean.

In the type of squat he had Bernardo demonstrate in the video, the goal was to increase the flexibility and mobility within the hips, legs and ankles.  By having Bernardo keep a very erect posture and raising his heels on a board, he is able to go extremely deep opening up his hips and lower body more, despite not being the most flexible athlete, in his own estimation.

Bicep Exercises

 The final exercise that Malcolm prescribes for the grappler is a supinated bicep curl.  This is for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, an important part of the bicep we don't think about, mostly because we're only worried about the beach bicep, connects to our shoulder infrastructure, so by working it, we are helping to ensure that our shoulder is stronger and less likely to be injured.  In Malcolm's explanation, shoulder injuries are very common in grappling.  The second aspect of the bicep curl that is important is the fact that it is strengthening our ability to pull the opponent towards us.

More and more athletes, from the casual practitioner to the full time BJJ athlete are seeking out the help of strength and conditioning coaches to give them an edge and help them be more effective on the mats.  By adding a program of strength and conditioning to your schedule you are helping prevent injury and increasing your overall effectiveness in your BJJ training and extending your career.

By adding just these 5 exercises or focus areas onto your radar, you will do a lot to improve your overall performance on the mats.  Our grips, ability to pull, mobiility in our hips, strength in our neck and our shoulders are all crucial elements of a well-rounded, conditioned grappler.

 In addition to a good strength and conditioning program and approach, having a solid grasp on the fundamentals of BJJ is very important.  Bernardo Faria has you covered with his latest release "Foundations of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu".  This six volume series is over 5 hours of Bernardo's favorite techniques that he feels are the most crucial for every practitioner at all belt levels to have a strong background in.  Don't waste another minute with techniques that may or may not work.  Get the techniques that are guaranteed to be high percentage all the time.











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