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BJJ Newb


I washed out as a bjj white belt last year. I was putting in 3 hours a day 3-5 nights a week and really enjoyed it but I had a major problem, which was a total lack of strength.

Everyone says that its all bout technique, but if everyone can just pin you down and keep you there, even if you are bridging right, shrimping right etc, it gets frustrating. I had private lessons, I ran 10Km runs so I was in great shape conditioning wise, but I could never do anything and I think a big aspect of it was my complete lack of athleticism.

The main point is my upper back. It is pretty much none existent. I have zero muscle in the upper back that is noticeable. My rear shoulder is tiny and I can barely throw a ball half a soccer pitch because I lack any kind of explosive movement in either pulling or pushing movements.

I have not been back to jiujitsu in almost a year and I really want to go back but it feels like I will never learn and progress as long as people can just out strength me.

I am about 2 stone overweight at the moment and have not done any exercise in months, so I am looking at using the next 2 months to get into shape and I am determined to get back to training.

I was wondering if there are any specific training things I can do off the matts to help me on them.


You were not training at a good school. Find a different school with a teacher whose focus is on your improvement and not using you as shark bait.


Starting Strength?


I have thought this too but its really the only gym in my area and the guy is a very well respected and long time coach. for example randy coture had trained there for one of his UFC fights, a number of guys from the gym are pro fighters and champs of small orgs, we have ultimate fighter contestants there and i think the gym has produced a few UFC fighters.

I don't know if i just suck at bjj. I mean people suck at football or golf, i just never thought it was me. I thought anyone could get good at it but i just never seem to soak anything up.


You will suck if you're a white belt. I'm not sure why you're surprised by this...


So you walked in and didn't own the gym. And you're shocked.

I don't understand.


First, while it may actually be true that your lack of success was due to a lack of strength (though, my guess is that your technique was also quite poor and that it was this, not your lack of strength that was primarily to blame), your focus/attitude towards training seems to be the most limiting factor you have currently working against you. This may be at least partly your instructor's fault was well though.

I tend to agree with Zecarlo that this does not sound like a good training facility, or at least not a good fit for yourself. Realize that not all coaches, even good/successful ones, are good at appropriating what they teach to accommodate different types of students. For instance if someone is a very strong, hard nosed wrestler, they may be very good at training other people who fit that same mold and both coach and athlete might wind up being quite successful. But that same coach might have absolutely no idea how to train a weak, finesse oriented Jiu-Jitsu fighter or striker. And no matter how hard he/she tries to jam that square peg into a round hole (ok, I fully expect some sort of drunken motel sex comment from Robert from that one LOL), he will never make that small, weak finesse fighter into the hard nosed big strong bull that he is accustomed to and good at coaching.

What you need to find is a coach or training facility that can appropriate the skills to all types of people, or at least one who shares your basic archetype (unathletic, relatively weak, finesse based strategy vs physical based strategy). That training facility will also most likely have a different "feel" to the classes which will be more in line with your personality (focus on learning rather than "winning", working with your partner to both get better rather than against them to "beat them", focus on technique, timing, and precision rather than brute force, etc...).

Now, it's also possible that the problem is entirely you and by simply changing your attitude towards training and perhaps approaching the instructor about the problems you are having, speaking up in class and asking for help or clarification if something isn't working/you aren't getting it will solve the problem. But seeing as you said you already did several privates, I tend to think otherwise.

Finally, as far as strength and conditioning work goes...

First, nothing beats specificity. If you are having trouble with bridging, then either have a training partner lay on you or get a sandbag/heavy bag/grappling dummy and practice bridging both straight forwards as well as to both sides. Once you can do 10 reps in all 3 directions (without resting) try doing an actual bridge and roll, then practice passing their guard, mount them and have them repeat the process.

You can change the mount escape/guard pass each time (or cycle through a few that you both like, they don't have to be the same ones as your partner either) if you want or just really drill the heck out of one escape and one pass. Then you can increase resistance (you/your partner can actually somewhat defend the escape/pass enough that you have to improve your timing, set-up, or technique to make it work) once you can both perform your techniques with ease against no resistance. You want to add resistance slowly though (since you technically still want your partner to be successful most of the time) lest you degrade back into full on live rolling and start trying to rely solely on brute force and throw technique out the window.

This is a very "simple" drill/concept that has nearly unlimited potential for variation and application. And since you are actually practicing skills that will directly translate to grappling, the carry over to actual grappling will be higher than pretty much anything else that you can do.

The second option would be to perform basic resistance training or strongman/conditioning types of workouts with a mix of non traditional (rocks/stones, water jugs, kegs, anvils, water bags, tree trunks/logs, battling ropes, sledgehammers, partners, etc...) and traditional (barbells, Dumbbells [preferrably thick handled], kettle bells, club bells, etc...) equipment. This won't carry over to your grappling as much as sport specific drilling like what I described above, but as far as strength and even more so conditioning go, this type of workout will do a great job of improving your LAT (Lactic Acid Threshold), build a lot of grip strength (which is very helpful for grappling), and more closely resemble the type of strength that you will need when grappling than traditional resistance training programs.

If none of those are an option you can pick a traditional resistance training program that is geared towards performance (WS4SB and 5/3/1 are both popular programs that have good track records).

Hope this helps.


This sounds like an MMA gym more than a bjj academy.


this would be right.


Wow thanks dude! very helpful!


Ive been strength training for at least 18 months now along with BJJ as a white belt. Im often the smallest in the class at around 155lb.

My professor told me as a smaller guy its going to be tuff, which is fine because im a stubborn fuck!

The strength side of things has only helped me against people of the same size as me. A 230lb guy was trying to flatten me out last night i held him off with strength for only a matter of seconds. It was the ezekiel that tapped him not my found strength gains.


I tell you the instructor can make all the difference. Not saying that your instructor is bad but along the lines that Sento pointed out. I find that I learn from certain people better than others. Also some instructors just go over the material in a basic fashion and then let you practice. If you have a "bad partner" things tend to get worse.

Some people just flop through the exercise and let you roll them or whatever you might be doing that day and others give max resistance or use a known defense preemptively and in both cases you don't get the full effect of building that muscle memory etc. Make sure your partner is giving you the right resistance so you both can learn and if you have a question grab the instructor and say hey, when I do this; I feel this, type of information. Then he can address your issues and you can get better.

also if you are rolling with a bunch of higher belts and skill levels you are going to get frustrated. Hopefully you are not in a room full of guys who just beat the shit out of you and think all is well. If I roll with someone and I dominate the crap out of them I will stop and point out something that could help or teach a defense or something like that, unless the other guy is a know it all , my cup is full, kind of guy then I just woop that ass and let them wonder why.

I am about 195 pounds right now and I can name more than one guy at 140-150 lbs who can beat me on the ground. Now they have to work for it but muscle only gets you so far. Keep working on your technique and it will come. Lift some weights and get stronger too.


Good points. The part about your training partners is paramount to getting better. There is an art to being a good training partner/Uke, and it can take some people much longer to get it than others. Higher level belts should in theory also be better training partners, but sadly this is not always the case.

Also, in regards to training with more skilled opponents...IMO the better someone is the less they need to prove it on a regular basis. Sure, they might actually "turn it on" from time to time to prevent you from getting too big of a head, or forgetting that they are working "with you" to make you better. But if they are just completely steamrolling you or shutting down everything that you try to do it's going to frustrate, and demoralize you eventually. In reality this is not really helping you at all (since you never get to try anything and just essentially get used as a grappling dummy) and in the long run it's not really helping them out any either (since they were already better than you and aren't really helping you to get any better, which would in turn make you a better training partner for them).

Yes, sometimes as Ranzo said some people have to be knocked down a peg to get them to listen and ultimately improve. But the majority of time spent working with new students should be focused on making the students better, not showing off what the senior student or instructor can do.


Hey guys. I have decided to do a progrsm called starting strength and eat alot of food for the time being. It is a strength based program by a guy called Mark Rippetoe.

first month is



Then after a month or so when the Deadlift starts getting heavy, you sub one of the Deadlifts for a power clean, 5x3 as opposed to 3x5 for the squat bench and press and the 1x5 for deadlifts.

Then about a month after that you start doing chinups and dips.

I however can not do a pullup or dip due to my recent weight gain, so I will be doing the second phase with the power clean and will be doing negatives for pull-ups at the beginning of my workouts as it is my back that needs the most work.

I am not a complete novice, I can deadlift 265lbs so I don't wanna drain myself by deadlifting 3 times a weka when all my other lifts are so much weaker.



I would read and re-read everything Sentoguy and Ranzo wrote.


Robert A


Buy it a drink and tell it that it's pretty.


have you considered a different style of martial art? i have blackbelts in hapkido and taekwondo. If you are familiar with my styles,you will notice there is a bit more emphasis on striking. Rather than look at a style that seems to be the best for most,why not think about one that would utilize your strengths. myself as an example,I am a tall guy,for me,striking with hands,palms,knee strikes,etc. are good for my body type.

i prefer to do this,if i get taken down,i will grapple til i can get on my feet again. Have you learned a thumb lock? I,ve used this and many other simple submission techniques to tap black belt bjj guys. we,ve always started on the ground for these sumbission tournaments,taking away my striking.

Anyway,if you look on the internet,you,re probably gonna get the idea that tkd and hapkido is weak. dont fall into that trap. find what works best for you and try to trully master your techniques. good luck and keep us posted. Confusion


Starting Strength is a good option for someone just starting out. I really recommend getting the book and videos because one of the big strengths, pun made knowingly, of the program is that you get a lot of reps in the big lifts with "good enough" form. This way when it finally does stop working and you move on to a different program (Sento's suggestions of WS4SB or 5/3/1 are gold) you don't court injury.

I don't think you would be hurting anything by working on some pullup progressions now. It won't "un make" the program. Negatives, assisted pullups, fat boy pullups/rows are all good choices.

I would also respectfully add that you sound like you are in fact a "complete novice" in weight training. That isn't an insult. It just means you are very, very raw compared to where you will be in a few years. The deadlift is easily the most "functional"/real world ish of the lifts and someone who has never lifted weights pulling 265 is far from unbelievable. Plenty of blue collar/manual labor guys walk into gyms and have big pulls that they trained by picking up other shit. Embrace the "novice" state.

Then re-read what Sento and Ranzo wrote about technique vs. strength. For the record, they both feel very similar on the receiving end. I have been ragdolled by technique. I have been ragdolled by brute strength. In the beginning they both felt the same. Focus on the things you know when rolling and learn. It is ok to be in survival mode when you are rolling with more advanced guys. Just make them work for it. Be hard to finish. Ask the ones who aren't dicks what you could have done better. Be willing to play tackle dummy for the other guys to work their stuff in extra drills, ask if you can work yours. Saulo Ribeiro's BJJ book has some great info on defensive positions and escapes that might help. It is worth the cheap price.


Robert A


I have the second edition on kindle, is the third one worth getting?


Very funny. It should be posted on Bullshido.