T Nation

Grappler's Ab Exercises


I've started taking up Judo (bored with Brazilian and Karate), and am looking for some reccomendations on abdominal workouts to assist in my twisting power for better throws.
Currently, my typical ab workouts consist of 3 sets of 3-5 reps for weighted decline situps using 75-100lb DBs( they don't have anything bigger at my gym), followed by 1-2 sets of 25 reps on the decline situp at bodyweight for speed. At times I'll switch it up and hit the leg raise stand for 4-5 sets of 20-25. That's about it.
From time to time, I toss in Full Contact Twists, jackknives, supine leg raises, "circles", and Frogs/Russian sailors.
Also, I've noticed that in the last year my waist size has gone up to roughly 29" from its previous 26.5/27". So, I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions on a new ab program to tighten my waist and increase my power in twisting throws to better slam my opponents.
To toss it out there, I'm thinking some kind of combination between Russian Twists, Full Contact Twists, Circles, and both High and Low cable chops...maybe with some decline situps for general strength? Any suggestions or tips?


If you got bored with BJJ then I'll be impressed if you stick with Judo for any amount of time.

You sound like you'd be better off just weight training, from your post that sounds like where your heart is at.


General core strength routines like you're doing are fine. Do your sport to get stronger at your sport, your time will be better spent on the mat than in the gym. I'm not saying this to be a dick, just speaking from some modest experience.

BTW-Why not do MMA? Worrying about getting hit will add a whole new dimension to the BJJ. Position becomes much more important and you might find that guys who smoked you on the mat before now can't pull off the same moves they could before.


How about some medicine ball throws to help with your judo throws?


Full contact twists sound good. Rock Piles would be even a better choice.



What are rock piles?


Sledgehammer swings work well.


Hey bud,
I hear ya on the mat time. I definitely plan on spending tons of time there to work on the techniques and such since that's where the real power is, but I do enjoy supplementing with weights. It's so great to get that perfect takedown, throw, strike, wehatever and feel the effortlessness was it works, then the added power of muscle built by time at the weightpile...maybe it's just me... I dunno.

I also want to build my core more to avoid injury from getting slammed to the mat all the time. Getting your spine jarred like that ain't no kind of fun...well maybe...

As for the MMA aspect of your question, I did that for a while but honestly, it's just not my thing anymore. I'm more interested in the throwing and unbalancing, now than the punching and grappling. However, I will say that the Brazilian playing definitely helped me plow through some less ground experienced Judo players this morning...that was fun :wink:

P.S. I do remember how tight and cut up my abs were when I was doing traditional Japanese JuJutsu...great for the obliques BTW.


What's a Rock Pile? Also, any suggestions on a set/rep scheme for Twists?


Great idea...so simple I feel like an idiot not thinking about before hand! But, are you thinking straight throws like of a swiss ball/decline board, some twisting stuff like passes, or a combination? Whatcha have in mind?


Hi Blondeguy,

As I'm sure you're already aware, most throws are more reliant on unbalancing your opponent than they are on rotational trunk strength. That being said, if you are considerably stronger than your opponent, then you can overpower them using muscular strenght. But, once again I bet you probably already knew that.

As for exercises to help with rotational power. One of the best that I can think of is actually chopping wood (cutting down tree with an ax is the most beneficial for rotational strength, but even chopping wood on the ground will help). This is also a great cardio workout if you do it for an extended period of time.

Of course, you might not have any trees available to chop. So simulating the movement using a pulley machine, or medicine balls also works well.

As for exercises to strengthen the core in general, I'd have to say that the best would be:

Dragon Flags
Front Levers
Extended body push-ups
Ab Wheels or Lever push-ups performed on rings
Hanging Leg Raises (done correctly)

All of these with the exception of the hanging leg raises (which I threw in just to add a dynamic ab movement) are exellent for strengthening the Transverse Abdominus, the muscle that contracts to stabilize the spine and is also the muscle that contracts then you exhale to protect yourself when breakfalling.

Good training,



Sweet, thanks bud! Also, what's a Front Lever?


Agreed. Find a partner or use a ball with bounce against a brick or similar walk. Lay flat, ball over head. Come up and throw the ball as hard as you can.

Makes thoses babies burn!!

Good luck!!


I like to do my ab work with weights(when I bother to do any). Abs are no diff than any other muscle group and should be trained as such.

I like swiss ball crunches with two 45 lb plates across my chest. Hi reps and hit em hard.


Hi Blondeguy,

A Front Lever is a position where the body is in one straight line from head to toes, parallel to the ground, while hanging with completely straight arms (and I mean locked out straight) from a pull-up bar, rings, door frame, tree branch, etc...

If you do a google image search you should be able to find some pictures for a more visual reference.

From my experience this is the most challenging ab exercise in existence (well actually a Victorian would be more intense, but seeing as how maybe 2 people in the world can do those, I wouldn't say they're too practical). The need to hold the body in a straight line while being in the most disadvantagous leverage position possible requires huge amounts of core strength (you will especially feel these in the lower abs), not to mention that they are also great for working the lats, rear delts, and long head of your triceps.

Good training,



Rock piles: Find a big pile of rocks (various sizes). Pick them up and throw them on to another pile. Time your self. Now pick them up and throw them back on to the first pile., beat your first time. Now do it again. Some of you guys are thinking that this is TOO simple. Try it.