How To Train Jiu-Jitsu FOREVER! - Strong As Hec

How To Train Jiu-Jitsu FOREVER!

November 28, 2009 it all finally caught up to me. I had just earned my Jiu-Jitsu brown belt 6 months prior and was training two--maybe even 3 times a day--week in and week out.

... Hard ass warm-ups
... tons of push-ups
... partner drills, solo drills
... and ten 5-7 minute rounds of sparring in the awful--humid Corpus Christi heat

It was SO damn hot--we would completely fog the windows. You could even see the steam rising from you as if your soul was slowly leaving your body.

I always thought of if as weakness and fatigue leaving my system. LOL

But it finally happened...

... Torn left medial meniscus and shortly after, torn right MCL

I was devastated!

My training was reduced to one day of training a week (maybe) and mostly watching from the sideline.  It SUCKED!

After 17 years of Jiu-Jitsu I've learned so many valuable lessons.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is how to better approach my training.

In fact...

... I began to look at how I trained Jiu-Jitsu through strength training eyes.

Why's that?

Jiu-Jitsu is an intense art--ironically it's been quipped the "gentle art" or in Portuguese, "arte suave".  But if you've been on the mat for any period of time...

... you know it's anything but "gentle."

Speaking of looking at Jiu-Jitsu through strength training eyes--let's take a look at strength training with the deadlift as an example.

Would you train your absolute max each and every day? 

Heck no!

Why not?

Because you'll eventually fry your nervous system, overtrain (yes, overtraining is possible despite what others say) and eventually you'll tear something.

More than likely you'll approach your lifting in the 70-80% zones of intensity and occasionally aim to peak your strength.

In such time, you'll integrate mobility, flexibility and even technical days as an "active recovery" day to improve your skills and reduce injury.

So why do we still approach our BJJ training with this "go hard or go home mentality?  

Going hard and rolling hard each and every session is the equivalent of training your absolute max in the deadlift every time you lift.

I've seen many BJJ players take this approach and today...

They're broken, can no longer train the art they love and toss it up to "man, I'm just getting old."

Sure, you'll get little injuries here and there, it's a contact sport/art after all.  Contact injuries come with the territory.  But, they shouldn't sideline you forever.

If you keep getting injured...

... it's time to re-evaluate your approach.

I was chatting with one of the readers of my blog a while back and he said something profound that I knew to be so true:

"It's like I'm a junkie who wants to get high daily by hitting my limit"

Since 2012, he's been pushing the envelope day in and day out with very little rest. While he did get stronger and had the endurance of a race horse...

... it came with a huge price.

I won't go into the details of his training, but--it was brutal and he pretty much destroyed his back, shoulders and knees.

Now don't get me wrong.

There will be a time to push and incorporate that type of physical and psychological training but it's to be reserved for peaking for competition.  And, unless you're training to compete--you can do without it.

Very similar to peaking for a max attempt deadlift...

... If you're not training for a powerlifting meet or the Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC) you can do without testing your absolute max.

So you may be wondering, what's the best way to structure your BJJ training so you don't overtrain? 

Chief biomechanicist for the Soviet Sports in the 80's, Professor Vladimir Zatsiorsky, mentions in his book Science and Practice of Strength Training,  the key to getting stronger over time is...

train as often as possible, as heavy as possible and as fresh as possible.

Over the last 10 years I've taken this same philosophy and applied it to how I train  Jiu-Jitsu. Each day I vary the intensity or effort in how I roll and drill.

This allows me to train often, train hard, train fresh *and* reduce injury.

Here's a sample of what my weekly BJJ training looks like:

  • Monday - Drills, positional training.
  • Tuesday - Drills, sparring from the guard at 70% effort.
  • Wednesday - Drills, sparring from top at 80% effort.
  • check-square
     Thursday - Drills, rest or recovery, NO SPARRING!
  • check-square
     Friday - Rest
  • check-square
    Saturday - Open mat (if schedule permits) sparring 85-90% effort.
  • check-square
    Sunday - Rest

This is not set in stone but you get the idea.

Sometimes I get in more training--sometimes less.  Once or twice per month I roll hard, 90-100% effort, with only brown and black belts.  These days are brutal and I look forward to my recovery days.

As I approach 40, my game may not be what it was 5 years ago, but I know with confidence that I'll still be able to train and maybe even get back to the competition scene at a high level.


Because I know I'll be stronger and healthier than my opponent and that opponent is--ME!

So ask yourself...

How long to you want to train Jiu-Jitsu and be able to pass on your legacy to your children?


P.S. - If you've been struggling with staying healthy for BJJ, leave me a comment below.  I've been where you're at and would love to offer my advice.

P.P.S If you liked this post and have been trying to improve your strength, mobility and endurance for BJJ but are at a loss of where to start... 

I recommend picking up a copy of my program  BJJ Strength Secrets for only $27.

The BJJ Strength Secrets

A 4-week strength phase to get stronger, better conditioning and improve your mobility for BJJ and AVOID missing time off the mat

"The Highest Privilege I’ve had"

Training under Hector has been the highest privilege I’ve had in Jiu-Jitsu, he helped me develop a confidence that I didn’t even know existed. His coaching isn’t overwhelming with a bunch of fancy exercises. Hector will teach you how, why, and when to move. Within 2 months of training, my resting heart rate dropped to the 50's and my blood pressure dropped to around 110/70. I had chronic hip pain that disappeared after a few weeks of training while my flexibility and mobility skyrocketed; I even dropped 10-15 pounds!

Dr. John K. DC, BJJ Purple Belt