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Lifting Program for a BJJ Competitor

As the title says BJJ/grappling and lifting don’t compliment each other very well and designing a program that accommodates both is challenging.

I am halfway through blue belt and am one of the strongest guys at the academy.

I am 39, weigh 210lbs at present and expect to be around 215 at the end of this bulk. Due to Corona I have been doing no BJJ, but have doubled my lifting frequency and eating great clean foods at around 3,500 calories. I am also at the final 5 weeks of my first blast then going back on my 100mg a week TRT dose.

My lifting goal when I return to BJJ is to keep my size and strength, while slowly continuing to gain muscle. That being said my passion is BJJ and I want to compete in the next 12 months so need to get in 5 sessions a week on the mats.

I have watched some videos from the likes of Mike Israetel but no specific programs are provided.

For anyone who prioritises grappling over lifting but still wants to be strong and look good, how do you balance things? Can you share your program?

I am trying to design a program or find one that still allows for 5 grappling sessions a week, so likely lifting 2 to 4 times a week with the volume and intensity decreasing as the training days go up.

My projected lifts at the end of my lean bulk and blast should be in the region of:

Squat:
315lbs for reps (Expecting 6 to 8)

Bench:
315 for a double

Sumo Deadlift:
440lbs for reps

Strict Overhead Press:
176lbs for a triple

Any advice?

Thank you

Why are you doing BJJ?

Why are you lifting weights?

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What is belt belt?

There’s several videos on this on the JTS YouTube channel.

Jim Wendler has a 5/3/1 and MMA article on his website if you like 5/3/1. Ideas will be the same for BJJ

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Recovery is the biggest limiting factor I’ve found in mixing weights and BJJ. If you’re training 5x/week at a competition-prep pace at the age of 39, I’m not sure resistance training more than 2x/week is going to be very constructive over time.

As far as programs, I had this recommended to me and it worked out well. I did it as a 2x/week program rather than 3x. And only did 1.1 and 1.2.

Another option are strength circuits: deadlifts and OHP one day, squats and bench the other day. I’m finishing up my current program and switching to something similar using DB swings and chins on one day and squats and dips on the other day.

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Look up Phil Daru, he’s probably the best strength coach for fighters (mostly MMA, but also BJJ and boxing) in the world

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I think this gets to the real question: are you training like a professional athlete or someone who has a life and commitments outside of the gym and BJJ school?

Speaking of Wendler, I believe he said that lifting weights was a form of GPP for athletes.

And at 39, what does BJJ competitor mean? Especially for a blue belt? (assuming belt belt meant blue belt). If you look at actual BJJ competitors, besides the fact they are usually under 30, they train BJJ twice a day, not 5 times a week. The older competitors, like Xande and Braulio and even Roger, have their own schools where they are teaching and training all day.

Is this your real goal? To be the strongest guy on the mats at your gym? Or to be as good as you can be at BJJ? You might not be able to be both. At 215, you definitely won’t be the strongest guy in competition. You might want to look at the weight classes. 215 puts you at super heavy weight. And you say you want to continue adding weight which could put you at ultra heavy, where there is no max. You could be 225 pounds and face someone who is over 300 pounds.

Sorry @Waittz I meant blue belt

I am doing BJJ because:

  1. I really enjoy it and it is something physical I can do as I get older (50s and 60s)
  2. I intend to compete in it
  3. once a solid purple belt I plan on adding in wrestling and boxing.

@burien_top_team and @zecarlo thank you for the thorough response.

Let me address each point please.

1) are you training like a professional athlete or someone who has a life and commitments outside of the gym and BJJ school?
I have the time available to train like a pro athlete.

2) And at 39, what does BJJ competitor mean? Especially for a blue belt? (assuming belt belt meant blue belt). If you look at actual BJJ competitors, besides the fact they are usually under 30, they train BJJ twice a day, not 5 times a week. The older competitors, like Xande and Braulio and even Roger, have their own schools where they are teaching and training all day.
It means I will compete at blue belt masters 2 division which are guys my age. I would love to train twice a day and I have the time to be able to do it plus the help of TRT. I just don’t know how to manage the fatigue like @burien_top_team mentioned.

  1. Is this your real goal? To be the strongest guy on the mats at your gym? Or to be as good as you can be at BJJ? You might not be able to be both. At 215, you definitely won’t be the strongest guy in competition. You might want to look at the weight classes. 215 puts you at super heavy weight. And you say you want to continue adding weight which could put you at ultra heavy, where there is no max. You could be 225 pounds and face someone who is over 300 pounds.
    My real goals in order of importance:
    A) be a killer on and off the mat
    B) be very strong
    C) look like an athlete… most Bjj guys look like they never trained in their life except for the ears. Dream physique is that of Yoel Romero or a sprinter, but that’s very ambitious.

Please note I am currently on a lean bulk + a first blast so am holding a large amount of water. Two months ago I was 191lbs after a 14 month cut from 240lbs. I am also still over 15%BF and at 6ft, I intend to cut down one to two weight classes. I did one comp at super heavy when I was a white belt and there were some monsters. You are right, for my height and frame dropping weight is a must. I could get down to the low 200s easily.

I wonder if my body could handle two a day Bjj training if I did a mix of intense classes and basics classes + 2 days of strength circuits as @burien_top_team suggested, deadlifts and OHP one day, squats and bench the other day.? Would I be able to maintain my size and strength with this?

I use 5/3/1 5 Pros and FSLS with minimal assistance outside of tons of body weight and weighted ring pulls ups. You can do it 2x a week with the pairing of squat and bench, dead and ohp, or 3-4 times with each day as their own.

When I got ready for my comp I dropped all lifting for 2 months and just amped up sparring. Lifting and comp prep are a bad recipe, takes too much recovery and putting yourself in a prime spot for injury.

When I wrestled, we had a clear “season” and off season. Off season I focused on lifting with just club practice and minimal comp. in season lifting gets dropped for conditioning and technique.

One of my most recent bjj coaches was an ADCC vet and was a believer in taking that approach as well to bjj. If you are prepping for a comp, drop most weight lifting and focus on sparring. When not prepping for comp, drop sparring for lifting and do lower intensity training like drilling or like the beginner or basic classes if you have them.

This is getting long so I’ll make another post on your comment about wrestling.

Don’t wait to purple to train take downs. Start now. Find someone at your club who was a good wreslter and just drill and spar takedowns with them. Just understand this when it comes down to it:

The “wrestler” first grappler will alway be a bit different than the bjj guy who learns take downs. Your average 4 year HS wrestler has already had an average of 100+ competition matches in grappling in his life, in a sport that revolves mostly around take downs and top pressure with aggressive stalling penalties. They have drilled and situationally sparred takedowns for more hours of mat time than your average purple belt has mat time in general.

There is a reason why people pull guard, as a wrestler it disturbs me, but as a lower belt I foam at the mouth when upper belts and black belts want to stand up with me. It’s my domain, and it always will be. But in competition it’s only 2 points and a good guard player or someone who focuses on guillotines and darces will welcome your attempt at a take down.

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Let me make one other point: as a blue belt, there is nothing more important than skill acquisition right now. Save for your time as a black belt, there will never be another time when you will be more able to learn and develop like you can right now. Get a good lifting program that does not detract from your jiu-jitsu training and, please, work on those technical skills on the mat if you want to be a successful competitor. I’ve been training since 2005. I cannot emphasize this enough. Good luck!

Not much to add to excellent advice being given here, just want to restate the fact that you have to decide whether you want to be a BJJ competitor or a lifter who trains BJJ.

If the former is the case as you say, that you should focus on BJJ technique first and foremost. You’ll get tons of mat endurance from practicing twice a day.

If you’re training and/or competing with over 200 pound guys, I’d strongly suggest reducing your lifting program to a bare minimum and even skip lifting sessions, or even weeks if you’re feeling exhausted or your mat performance starts to suffer.

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Guys,
I love the solid advice!

I also really like the point around training takedowns from now and working on wrestling. This makes good sense especially because I like using my top game with lots of pressure. I don’t like playing off my back and use most my energy on the bottom getting back to my feet, taking the back or sweeping my opponent.

I noticed you all referred to wrestling vs judo. Any reason?

I’m originally a judoka who in later years switched to BJJ. Judo is excellent if you find a good school that teaches you transitions immediately from either throws or trips.

I was pretty good in BJJ competitions and most of my success revolved at either tripping or throwing opponents and passing the guard at the moment of the fall and ending up in a better position, thus partially negating the often better BJJ skills of my opponents.

For those who’ve trained judo for a long time and start competing in BJJ it’s a mental thing, they’re expecting an ippon after a successful throw and have trouble adjusting to the fact that they frequently end up in a very disadvantageous position from a BJJ perspective. That’s the case with all self sacrifice judo throws.

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Thank you @burien_top_team.

Can you please expand to your point on skill acquisition?

I focus mainly on top game and when in bottom, I try to regain top position or the back.

Do you mean acquire new skills around my game or force myself to acquire skills outside of my game?

It’s a bit of a truism, but for many competitors, the game they forge as blue belts is the game that stays with them well into their black belt lives.

Learn what you need to learn - at an increasingly granular level - in order to be better at what you want to do than everybody else. For a competitor, specialist > generalist.

In part, this increases your odds of simply beating people at a game you know better. But almost more importantly, it will allow you to remain relentless (and relatively tireless) and confident in your attack, even when your opponent is familiar with and defending against your game.

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Lots of good advice here.

More than anything else, Simple & Sinister 2.0 has done WORLDS for my BJJ.

Lots of program depth, the core is Kb swings and heavy Turkish get ups, (some squats too).

Heavy Getups mimic sweeps and guard pulls. You will see new sweeps all over the place, because you’ve perfected getting up under heavy loads and duress, coming back down the bottom 1/2 of the getup is like practicing securing your closed guard under heavy duress. It will help your BJJ mobility like almost nothing else.

The, the hard style Kb swings are program core. Hard style swings are kind of like throwing strikes. They train speed, power and gas tank. After you’ve swept an opponent, he will find out why you trained so mainly swings when you shoot in with the best speed and power of your life.

S&S 2.0 is great BJJ training.

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I’ll just point out that you already are very strong by normal person standards. In my BJJ circle standards you’d still be among the strongest on the mats. By powerlifting standards you wouldn’t be so strong, but not a weakling either.

I’m not sure what the top tier of Masters 2 looks like in the weight classes you intend on competing in, but I’d be shocked if you were out-classed strength-wise in any division besides SHW.

I’m a year older than you (but not on TRT) and I couldn’t imagine training like I did to get to a 600 deadlift and throwing 5 or more serious BJJ sessions on top of that each week, but I’ve never had high-level masters competitive aspirations in either pursuit. I’ll probably just to the little state-level men’s tournament up the road from me each year. I also have a job, a volunteer job and a teenager, so that takes up a good chunk of my time and energy as well.

I’m not saying you can’t get it all done, especially if you have the time to do it all very well. I’m saying it would take a lot of focus, recovery, food, attention to your body and whatever else Tom Brady keeps up his sleeve at his age.

This sounds a lot more attainable once training starts back up. If you can drop a weight class or two while still hanging on to a 300’s bench, a 400’s deadlift and a high 300’s/400’s squat you’ll be in great shape, strength wise. I don’t know of anyone seriously training jiu jitsu who can put up barbell numbers like that under 200lbs, but again that’s just the circle I’m personally connected with.

I don’t know of anyone on this forum who keeps up discipline with lifting and jits the way @burien_top_team does and I only know one guy like that in real life. He’s a total unit at his bodyweight and a long-time black belt to boot. Listen to what he has to say!

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