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BJJ Guy Here, Advice on Getting Stronger & Bigger?

I train Brazilian jiu Jitsu 3 times per week (Wednesday/Thursday or Friday/Sunday) and am beginning to lift 2 times per week. In the past I’ve done a 5x5 program and was really happy with my strength gains. Specifically, I did the Ice Cream fitness program and followed it to the letter (lifting three times per week, alternating ABA/BAB workouts from week to week).

With all of my commitments and responsibilities now, lifting twice per week is the most I can realistically do. I am planning on lifting on Tuesday and Saturday so my weekly schedule would look like:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Lift
Wednesday: BJJ
Thursday or Friday: Rest or BJJ (depends on schedule)
Saturday: Lift:
Sunday: BJJ

I’m 38 / 5ft 7.5 in. / 145 lbs / aprox 12-13% bodyfat

My goals are to put on some muscle and get stronger. I’m currently aiming to eat 2,500 Calories/day. I know some BJJ guys like to do 5/3/1 programs, but I kind of like the simplicity of something like Pavel Tsatsouline’s 2 day powerlifting program.

The “2 Times a Week for Twice the Gains” article by Dan John seems to make sense for my situation, especially Pavel Tsatsouline’s 2 day powerlifting program:

Day One
Bench press

Day Two
Bench press

The “accessories” I plan on throwing into the mix on at least one of the days, if not both, are: overhead press 5x5; rows 5x5; shrugs 3x8; curls 3x8; tricep extensions 3x8.

I have a few questions and figured I would just cram it all into a single post.

  • I’m assuming that accessories like bent over rows, curls should also be done on days 1 and 2, but focus on the 2 main lifts if time is of the essence?
  • Should I use the 'ol, add 5 lbs on upper body, and 5-10 lbs on lower body every week or two rule? I plan on doing 5x5s of the compound lifts and 3x8s for accessories.
  • If I am only lifting 2x per week, is 2500 Calories per day going to pack on fat? I’m monitoring my weight starting today.
  • What do you think of this approach? I noticed that I’m not giving myself two consecutive days of rest, is that a problem?

Thanks in advance for the advice all.

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How long have you been training BJJ, are you accustomed to and recovery from that training at this stage?

Don’t be surprised If this isn’t enough calories. I’m not sure what your day job is but BJJ takes a lot of energy and so does building muscle. You can start here and reassess in 2-4 weeks though. Do not try to be too close maintenance when you 1st start your lifting + BJJ as you may not be fuelling yourself enough which can lead to accumulated fatigue, under recovering and possible injury.

Only you can answer that once you have started. Start your lifting light and gradually build up, take deloads as necessary.

I would also swap a Bench Press main lift for Overhead Press. Not quite sure why you have shrugs but not chin-ups or dips.

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There are a bunch of variables which could change the answers to your questions pertaining to number of calories and rest days. So, I’ll address those later.

First, regarding your resistance training program:

-I’d agree with Irishman that Overhead Presses should be substituted for Bench Press (on at least one of your lifting days). I’d actually prefer that you replaced Bench Presses with strict Push-Ups as they build far superior core strength and maintain better shoulder health than Bench.

-“Accessory work” is kind of a buzz word these days. Such exercises are supposed to target/strengthen specific links on the kinetic chain which may be weak or under utilized/activated during your main lifts and are designed to balance out your body’s musculature. They aren’t really “optional”, though, from a Powerlifting standpoint (which is where the term came from) the main lifts are going to be the first (and usually heaviest) exercises in the rotation/workout so that the lifter still has as much energy to put into them as possible.

-I will again echo Irishman’s Criticism of including Shrugs (unless maybe they are Overhead Shrugs or Handstand Shrugs) but neglecting to include Pull-Ups-Chin-Ups or Dips. Your traps should be getting a fair amount of work if you are doing Deadlifts and Overhead Presses so you likely won’t be well served from cost to benefit standpoint in doing isolated Trap work. I would also suggest adding in some type of Shoulder Extension strengthening work (like AG Walls, Crab Walks, etc…) as you have none and will likely develop shoulder imbalances without some, and some lateral knee/ankle mobility/strengthening work (like Inside Squats, Twisting Squats, etc…) to help prevent knee injuries.

Regarding the calories, that is going to depend on your natural metabolic tendencies, how “physical” your style of Jiu-Jitsu is, how accustomed to the physical demands of BJJ your body is, and how physical you are outside of the Dojo/weight room. The only way to really know is to just try that number of calories for a couple weeks and monitor how your body responds. It’s unlikely that it will put on much fat on that many calories though unless you tend heavily towards Endomorphism (which I am doubtful of by the measurements you listed, but could be a possibility if you used to be heavy and are now “skinny fat”).

Hope this helps. Good luck

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If you want to put on muscle and lift twice a week I would suggest thinking about squatting in both workouts. I don’t know what Pavel’s program entails but you wrote that it is a powerlifting program so I don’t know if that is ideal if you want to get bigger. The squat is superior to the deadlift for gaining muscle.

Rest is not a problem if you train BJJ smart. If you treat BJJ training like its sole purpose is fitness then you will not get better at BJJ, or fit.

I would also doing higher reps with the rows.

Can you elaborate on this? I’m not sure what your trying to get across… I could just be thick though.

People like to say they train BJJ but that isn’t exactly what you are doing, or at least should be doing, you learn BJJ. It’s not about simply getting fit but learning and developing technical skills. If you are a white belt with limited skill and knowledge and you try to win every roll, you will end up relying on physical attributes, which you may or may not even have. You end up “losing” and start thinking that it’s because you are not fit enough or not strong enough. You think, “I suck at BJJ because I keep getting tired,” when the reality is you get tired because you suck at BJJ (or are simply at the level you should be).

Look at it this way: if you haven’t gone running in a while, or maybe never, and you decide to start out by running for a mile, are you going to run as fast as you can? No, not even elite milers run at full speed. Are you going to run at the pace you have set as your goal? No, because if you could do that it wouldn’t be your goal in the first place. You start out a pace you think you can manage and build from there. With BJJ it isn’t just about the fitness aspect however. You have timing, technique, BJJ IQ, etc. So my advice is to not train so hard that those things start to suffer. It’s like a self-regulating way to keep from being “that guy.”

Pretty much everything Irish man 92 and Sentoguy said. I think you will have to adjust your diet a bit. Also, on Day 2 I would do bent over bb rows and overhead press. These will help with your ancillaries as well. I’d also throw in a 30-45minute bi/tri/calves and abs in there somewhere too, once a week.