Combining Weight training with Jiu Jitsu

Our head coach Barry sends out an email to our mailing list each week about BJJ and MMA Training. You can subscribe to receive the mails by clicking on this link

Receive free BJJ and MMA training tips, video, and information

Here’s today’s email:

Good morning,

I’ve chosen a monstorous topic to deal with today. Believe me when I tell you that figuring out when to lift weights and indeed when to do any other fitness work is one the most difficult topics you can ask me about. We won’t get to it all here.

I’ve often made an involuntary cringe face whenever one of my guys tells me that he’s in the weight room powerlifting/weightlifting/strongman 3 times a week lifting heavy and that he’s “going to combine it with his BJJ/MMA”.

They all sound so damn earnest. It breaks my heart to tell them- “No, you’re not”

I’ll give you one of my Dad’s terms- “You can’t ride two horses with one arse”

My Da is full of good stuff like that. You probably wish you’d subscribed to his emails instead.

It’s not that you can’t do it. That is to say, it’s not that it can’t be done. It can. But to explain why it’s probably not for you, let me introduce what might be a new term to you- Adaptive Energy.

I first heard this term from another coach (a guy called Dan John) years ago and it rang true straight away. Adaptive Energy is how much energy your body and mind have to change after a stimulus. So when you do your bench press and hit a new 5 rep max, you have done some damage to yourself which your body repairs a little stronger. That’s the principle of S.A.I.D.- Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. You do something to stress your body, it responds by adapting to the new stresses.

And learning is a stress too. It’s why gym-goers notice drop offs in their strength numbers when they’re going through stressful exams, or work, or when their wife has told them the XBox room is a play room now.

Martial Arts are a really cool mix of the mental and the physical. You’re learning and adapting mentally to new positions and new stimuli, and at the same time your body is adapting to the weird angles it needs to push from, the physical demands you make upon it are huge, but the mental demands are equally large.

You only have so much adaptive energy.

Now wait. Here’s the good news. You can lift and train BJJ. You can also run/cycle/paraglide/whatever floats your boat and train BJJ/MMA. In fact, I recommend one or two short sessions a week in the weight room to my serious guys. But here’s the rules I impose-

1. Under 45 minutes in total- don’t waste your time with bullshit exercises and long programmes
2. Stick to big lifts that will help you remain free of injury while on the mat
3. Don’t go near the red line- stay well within your strength range. If you’re pushing it make sure you’ve a day or two’s rest lined up.
4. Do twice as much for your back and hamstrings as you do for your chest and quads.
5. Remember why you’re there. You’re not a powerlifter or a gym bunny- you’re a fighter. Don’t waste your adaptive energy there.

In short- you’re going to be slower at making gains than your mate who posts those mirror selfies to his instagram. That’s okay. You can choke him easily.

I’ll give you another Dan John quote I like to sum up what I mean.

“The goal, is to keep the goal, the goal”

Long story short, remember why you train. Training to have greater strength is just fine, but expect your actual training to suffer.

The exceptions! And there are exceptions:
1. You’re a high level athlete or very experienced martial artist who doesn’t use a great amount of adaptive energy to train.
2. You are engaging in a fat-loss programme due to being over-fat. I don’t know anyone whose Jiu Jitsu or MMA hasn’t improved by shedding some jelly. It’s probably the only thing worth being tired at Jiu Jitsu for. Just be careful not to crash.
3. You do almost nothing else and have just oodles of time to rest and recover. Great. You’re either a professional athlete, a professional waster, or a drug dealer. You’ll do alright.

Okay, we’re done here for today. Go train Jiu Jitsu tonight wherever you are. I’m just off a week’s holiday in France where I used most of my adaptive energy to eat cheese, so I’ll be hitting it pretty hard today myself.

I’ll see you on the mat!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *