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BJJ and Lifting to Add Muscle?


I compete in BJJ and train regularly (4 times per week usually). Lifting wise I usually train 2x per week. I would like to focus mainly on hypertrophy, but am finding it difficult to get the necessary volume in without burning out.
The options I usually think of are just do 2 lifting sessions a week training full body both sessions and doing as much volume as possible increasing it and deloading as possible/necessary. OR I’ve tried lifting 3x per week and pretty much just spreading that same volume out over the 3 sessions because trying to do so much just across 2 sessions is EXHAUSTING and I feel totally wiped out the rest of the day and most of the next day. However when I do this over 3 days it means I usually get one less rest day off completely, which my body seems to like(having full rest days).

Does anyone have any ideas regarding optimising hypertrophy whilst I’m only able to train 2-3 days per week? Bearing in mind I need to recover from all of the training lol. I’m not opposed to training lifting in the morning then BJJ in the evenings sometimes either.

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Competitive BJJ and bodybuilding are not very compatible. I’m not surprised you are burning out trying to do both at once, especially if you are natural.
If you look at what most other fighters do, they train for strength, with weights at relatively low volume, low reps and low sets. They do this because they want to maximise strength performance without adding bodyweight, because its not normally an advantage for a fighter. The more muscle you put on its going to make cutting to make weight for your division harder, it might even bump you up to the next weight division.

If BJJ is your focus then only do exercises and volume that assists you to perform better. Anything else is detrimental.


Have a look at Phil Daru, he puts out some great content however it’s not so much ‘bodybuilding’ as it is assistance to combat sports. He trains people like Dustin porier and is similar in approach to Joe DeFranco

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Just to clarify, I only compete in BJJ, not in bodybuilding. Sorry I should have cleared that up in case it was misunderstood. The reason for me wanting to train for hypertrophy at the moment is to move up to the top of my weight class steadily as I have done that previously but using fat gain rather than muscle, and it wasn’t very nice! Lol
I naturally sit at the lower end of a reasonably broad weight category and have previously dieted for the competitions to make weight in the category below, just to feel very skinny and weak after the competition and have to eat my way back up to a more comfortable weight.
Just wondering if you (or anyone else) has any ideas for programming for steadily increasing muscle mass whilst only lifting 2-3 times per week, without too much burnout?

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I have actually got his ground control program and use it to prepare for competitions for the performance aspect, hes great! Just trying to increase muscle mass for a while at the moment to try to get to the upper end of my weight category :slight_smile:


Well increasing calories slowly will be the way to fill out. Look for exercises that are not very neurogically taxing, eg stay away from barbell squats, deadlifts etc.

I might do something like this for a 2 day split


  1. Goblet squats 3-4x10-15
  2. Lying hamstring curls 3-4x10-15
    3a. Dips 3-4x10-15
    3b. Chins 3-4x10-15
    3c. Face pulls 3-4x15-20


  1. 45 degree back ext
  2. Leg extensions
    3a. Db incline press
    3b. Db row (chest on incline bench)
    3c. Db rear delt fly

I’d be trying to get the most pump out of the least total volume
Like a 3 second eccentric, a rapid concentric with a big squeeze on every rep.

But again, if you’re really looking to put on quality mass you’ll have to sacrifice somewhere else…eg BJJ training

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3 sets of 15 will net 45 total reps
4 sets of 10 will be close with 40 total reps
Twice a week is 80 total reps (making sure they’re all quality)

You can increase weight for all of them over time or with chins, dips etc just increase the eccentric.

You’d have quite a bit of recover between each session, although you could also work it to book end your bjj training sessions etc.

Westside for skinny bastards 3 day workout is a tried and true template, and if done at the conservative end (eg not to failure or true MAX) an effective template for athletes to get bigger if they eat enough to support the work

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It’s long but maybe the best thing I have seen on the subject


As Wendler would say, you can’t ride two horses with one ass. If you want to gain muscle, don’t train BJJ as often (or as intensely) so you can increase your lifting volume and calorie surplus. Basically put BJJ on “maintenance.” 2 days a week with 8-10x5-6 min rounds of sparring should be fine to maintain, maybe even improve a tiny, tiny bit.

The real trick will be maintaining that mass when you do go back to more frequent, harder BJJ training.


I like Dr. Mike’s approach for those who insist on training BJJ AND weight training 3-4x/week.

You have to periodize your sparring most importantly. There have to be light/no sparring days in order to avoid burning out.

It probably wouldn’t hurt to do the same with weight training if you use Israetel’s format, focusing on one area (chest, back, legs) to hit a little harder and the rest a little lighter. I’ve been doing something like that with CT’s 4x/week Superhero/Hollywood Muscle program this year.

That plus a caloric surplus should get you done. BTW are you checking out the Worlds this weekend?


I watched Dr Mike’s video and really like his strategies for it, very logical and practical. Ill try and use some of the principles from it and see how I get on!

I’ll watch bits online but I’m really busy this weekend as well as going to grapplefest on Saturday night, some great matches on the cards there! Will you be watching worlds?

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Thanks for the suggestions!
It’s interesting that you say to stay away from the neurologically taxing exercises, I always thought it would be best to do them as they will give the best ‘bang for your buck’ so with limited gym time would be best. However I would love to hear your reasoning? Is it because you can stimulate the muscles efficiently using other variations without the same level of neurological stress? Thanks

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Definitely checking out the Worlds. Watching some of yesterday’s blue belt action today on replay - as well as a little live action from the purples this afternoon. Looking forward to seeing the black belts on Sunday, but blue and purple often make for the best watching!


Absolutely. Recovery is going to be super important for you, as you have simultaneous goals. Getting bigger doesn’t need to mean having a 600lb deadlift. All you need to do is stimulate your muscles so that the calories surplus you eat goes towards building size. If you want to do big compound lifts by all means do it, but I would be dialing back on the BJJ or at least making sure the next 1 to 2 sessions are light drills only

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