Why bodyweight training is a must for students of BJJ.

Bodyweight training is a universal training method with a long history. Pretty much everyone who has ever “trained” on any level, from ancient man to modern day Olympians, has used bodyweight training.

When you do a chin up, a push up or a bodyweight squat you are doing exercises that have been also been done by Spartans, Greek Athletes, Roman Gladiators, Medieval Knights, Old Time Strong Men.

When you think about it, bodyweight training is a pretty cool legacy that we share with an impressive list of people.

Unfortunately, most of us need to go back to the roots of strength training and learn to truly master our own bodyweight. Up until the modern fitness culture, strength was often built and displayed using bodyweight, not machines and barbells.

The term Calisthenics come for the Greek words Kalos and Thenos, which roughly means “beautiful strength”, and it was originally the term used for hardcore feats of bodyweight strength. However, over time barbells and machines replaced the hardcore bodyweight exercises and the term Calisthenics came to mean light, high rep exercises that you did to warm up or do in a group class.

The ability to master your own bodyweight was lost – old school strongmen, powerlifters and bodybuilders were often able to execute single arm chins and handstand push ups, something most of the modern group of these guys can’t claim.

Me working on my single arm shin ups…

Along with this loss of respect for hardcore bodyweight training something has been lost in our athletic development and this makes bodyweight training one of the best ways to help BJJ students everywhere regain that lost element of athleticism.

Bodyweight training is the best way to improve body control and awareness which is essential for learning new skills and improving your “flow” on the mats. It is also easily accessible by everyone and can be done anywhere, anytime.

In fact, while I may be new on the BJJ scene I’ve been working as a high level strength coach for over a decade and I’ve seen that the lessons I’ve learned there translate very well to my new passion. I’ve also noticed the same problems with movement and strength issues hindering techniques on the mat that I’ve seen in the other sports I’ve worked with.

Because of that I know that strength and conditioning holds the key to your long term progress in BJJ and the sooner you take advantage of it the sooner you can avoid the frustration that comes with performance plateaus, nagging injuries and techniques you can’t seem to grasp.

By looking at “strength training” as a form of movement practice you can create much more carryover from your exercises into your BJJ practice. When you improve your fundamental ability to move off the mat you’ll improve your potential to move on the mat.

In fact, many times it isn’t a lack of understanding a technique that is holding you back as much as an inability to create the basic movements you need to apply the technique properly. Fix the movement and you’ll fix the technique as well.

Now, once you move like you’re supposed to you need to work hard and improve your strength and cardio – all things being equal, the stronger guy (or gal) will win and being able to outpace your opponent can cause them to make mistakes.

This means that while technique is King, your strength and cardio can still make a big difference and bodyweight training is one of the best ways to start taking advantage of everything strength training has to offer.

So, when you consider that you’ll be able to improve your technique, increase your strength and develop better cardio, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of strength training?

To help you get started I’ve put together a complete 30 Day BJJ Bodyweight Workout Program that I want to give you for free. This workout has…

A warm up drill to help improve your mobility in the your hips and shoulders, two key areas to our ability to move efficiently both on and off the mats.

Bodyweight Flow Drills to help improve your hip mobility, core strength, shoulder stability and overall athleticism. The Bodyweight Flows take you back to when exercise was knows as “play” and bring a fun new element to your workouts that have a ton of transfer to the mats.

Strength Training Circuits to help improve your leg, core and upper body strength in ways that will help you move with more authority on the mats. While strength shouldn’t be used in place of technique, it can sure make your technique much more devastating and hard to counter.

Bodyweight Cardio Drills to help improve your ability to push the pace when and dictate the flow of the match or be able to drill longer and harder. Since so much of BJJ is moving your bodyweight around these drills are great ways to condition yourself for the unique demands of grappling.

Just register below to get instant access to this FREE 30 Day BJJ Bodyweight Workout Program and let me know if you have any questions about it. Also, if you like this free workout please click one of the Share or Like buttons below to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson


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Naked Warrior revisited – Single Limb Training for Injuries

One of the more common questions I get asked is about what to do while recovering from an injury. While some injuries are harder to work around than others, the most common injuries from BJJ are to the arms and legs and so finding ways to keep strong without all 4 of them is necessary from time to time.

My basic advice for training with an injured arm or leg is to train everything else as hard as you can. The idea of backing off of everything else so you don’t develop a big strength imbalance isn’t the way to go for two reasons.

First, there is significant evidence of a neurological “carryover” from training the non-injured side. What this means is that if you injured your left arm, for example, but kept training the right arm as hard as you could the left arm would lose less strength than if you did nothing at all.

Second, it will speed up your recovery once you’re all healed up. While you’ll want to back off a bit to let the weaker side catch up, it will catch up much faster.Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 11.45.22 AM

The irony of all of this is that I’ve been nursing an old elbow injury that flared up a month ago and I’ve had to spend a lot of training time following this advice. What I found was that the simplest and best program for me was the Naked Warrior.

The Naked Warrior is one of Pavel Tsatsouline’s many fine training books and centers on only 2 exercises – the single arm push up and the single leg squat a.k.a. pistol squat.

At first this seems like a pretty hard-core approach for someone nursing an injury but once you realize that you can scale the exercises back it makes perfect sense.

This approach allows you to train all of the other limbs hard without a lot of wear and tear from weighted exercises. I tried to lift “normal” for a few weeks just using my left arm and found that after a while I started to feel the stress of all the misloaded lower body exercises and my non-injured arm was starting to feel the stress as well.

After thinking about how I could stay strong (sets in the 3-5 range) without causing some other sort of overuse injury in the process. That’s when it hit me…the single arm push up and squat would be the perfect solution.

So, for the last week I started doing 2 sets of 5 reps every day as my strength training. I’ve had to modify things a bit by using a bar set up in my rack so I can do an elevated single arm push up and I’ve been using the TRX straps to help me maintain good posture on the single leg squats but even then I can already tell my body likes this approach much better.

It’s been tough for an exercise geek like me to stick with just two exercises but I know that it is good to do every once in a while. Plus, I’m going to get really good at my single arm push ups and single leg squats, two exercises I know are important but I just don’t spend enough time on.

This brings me to me final point, which is that with the right perspective even an injury can be a positive experience for you if you stay receptive to opportunities. Hopefully you never have to but if you do find yourself facing an injury to an arm or leg look at it as a chance to work on your strength, Naked Warrior style.

That’s it for now, if you have any questions about how to apply this approach or any tips you’ve found helpful in overcoming injuries please post a comment below. Also, if you liked this article please click one of the Share of Like buttons below to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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So who the hell is James Wilson and what on earth does strength training have to do with helping you improve your BJJ skills?

That’s a great question, glad you asked. First, let me introduce myself – my name is James Wilson and I am a newbie to the BJJ scene. As I write this I just got the 4th stripe on my white belt and I have about 9 months experience on the mats. I didn’t come into BJJ with any type of grappling background and I am certainly not a phenom on the mats.

So with that not-so-rousing inttroduction why would you care what I have to say? Well, before I stepped onto the mats and became a white belt at something new I have been leading a very different life.

And it is my experiences there that should be of interest to you if you want to know the secrets to improving your fitness and skills in BJJ.

You see, since 2000 I’ve been working on my “black belt” in mountain biking…and not the “lets throw on some spandex shorts, jack our seats up as high as we can and go pedal for 4 hours” variety. No, I’m talking the 40 foot double jumping, 20 foot cliff hucking “you must be crazy” kind of riding.

Me going big off a wall ride...

Me going big off a wall ride…

Don’t get me wrong, I still pedal a lot and have logged some 6 hour epics in the mountains of Colorado but I really ride for the thrill of finding something that scares me a little and forces me to see what I’m made of on some level.

What’s more, since 2005 I’ve been helping other riders through the strength and conditioning programs I’ve created. I’ve worked with some of the top teams and riders in the world and my programs have been featured in the top magazines and websites. I’ve been quoted in Men’s Health as a guest expert and I also contributed to an international best selling book.

In other words, I know a thing or two about helping people get the most out of their training programs.

In November of last year I finally got the opportunity to start taking BJJ classes. I had done martial arts as a kid and wanted to get back into it when I had the chance.

I think like most guys my age the impression Royce Gracie made in the original UFCs led me to want to check out BJJ. The martial art I studied in high school always left me wondering if the punches and kicks would really work in a fight and those UFC fights – and the success of BJJ since – told me that was what I wanted to study.

So I found a school, signed up and have been hooked ever since. I’ll spend 4-6 days a week training and I also volunteer to help coach my little girl’s class as well (love working with the kids BTW).

Watching Shilo in kid's class

Watching Shilo in kid’s class

And while I’ve had plenty of struggles and already been tapped out far more times that I can count I’ve also picked things up pretty quickly and progressed reasonably well for a 37 year old with no prior experience thanks to the nature of the training programs I created for mountain biking.

You see, I base my training programs on improving the quality of my movement as well as how much I can do. Instead of developing a few movements to a high level I train to stay balanced and athletic, which pays off when trying to learn new skills both on the bike and on the mat.

I also saw the same problems with my fellow BJJ classmates that I saw with some of the mountain bike riders I was helping, namely a lack of movement skill and body awareness. This makes learning and remembering new techniques much harder and needs to be fixed before you can apply them to specific techniques.

So I started BJJ Strength Training Systems to help spread the word about how a good strength and conditioning program can help not only your fitness but your technique and skills on the mat as well.

Now, this is the point where I also need to explain something that may sound a bit funny coming from a strength training professional – I do not like to spend hours in the gym. In fact, if I could take a pill and get the same benefits I would – I would much rather be on the mat training or hanging out with my little girl Shilo and my little boy Z.

Me and Z...

Me and Z…

But, I also know that the training helps me roll longer and harder.

Whenever I slack a bit on my training I inevitably feel it in few weeks – my legs feel tired and heavy, my low back starts to get sore, my left knee starts talking to me again and I generally don’t have the same energy and drive to roll as much as I usually do.

So, I design my programs to deliver max results in minimal time, all while keeping things as fun and engaging as possible. My programs are written by someone who knows you’d rather be rolling too, not spending hours in the gym.

I started this blog to help me get my cutting edge, revolutionary training concepts out to my fellow BJJ enthusiasts. Here you’ll find training routines, rehab strategies, cardio programs and other information not available anywhere else. Some of my colleagues wonder why I give away so much info for free but I don’t care.

I want to help you be a better BJJ player – end of story.

My hard work paying off...

My hard work paying off…

I know that if you use the information you’ll find on this blog you will do just that. I also know that once you see what this free info will do for you then you will be more likely to check out one of my more in depth programs; but even if you don’t that’s alright. Just knowing that I am helping advance our sport into the 21st Century in enough.

So check back often since the revolution never stops! I’ll be posting new articles, videos and podcasts every week, making this the best BJJ strength and conditioning website. And let me know if you don’t see something addressed on here that you want to know more about – I rely on you guys to let me know what is on your mind and what you want to improve with your rolling.

Well, that’s about it. It is time to go and hit the mats for some training and rolling. Get out and ride roll today if you can – having fun on the mats is what the BJJ Strength Training System is all about!

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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