Top 3 BJJ Strength Training Tips – BJJ Strength Training Podcast #1

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Top 3 BJJ Strength Training Tips

  1. Work on Isometric and Leverage Based Strength.
  2. Look at more than just the Big 4 Movement Patterns (Squat/ Hinge/ Push/ Pull).
  3. Rolling is the best “strength training” you can do.

Bonus Tip – Don’t mistake physical training for mental toughness training. 

Until next time…

Train Strong,

James Wilson

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Is Holding Your Breath the Key to Improving Your Cardio?

It doesn’t take long before you realize that BJJ requires a lot of cardio fitness. This makes cardio training one of the most popular subjects for people looking to improve their performance on the mats. But what is cardio fitness and what are the best types of cardio training to improve it?

At its most fundamental level, your cardio fitness comes down to how well your body can utilize oxygen. This is one of the reasons that VO2Max is considered an important part of performance in endurance sports – the more oxygen you can take in, the more oxygen your body has to work with.

However, the reason that VO2Max isn’t able to predict your performance is because there is a lot more going on than just how much oxygen your body can take in. Your body also has to be able to efficiently use that oxygen or else it doesn’t matter how much you can take in.

This is why athletes with a lower VO2Max can beat athletes with higher scores. Because they are able to make more efficient use of the oxygen they are taking in they can outperform someone who is able to take in more oxygen but can’t use it as efficiently.

And while VO2Max is largely genetic and can’t be improved much after an initial training period, your ability to utilize the oxygen you do take in can be trained and improved to a much greater degree.

To better understand how we can do this, let’s first look at what our body uses oxygen in the first place. This will make it easier to understand what we want to focus on in order to improve how efficient we are with oxygen.

1 – Oxygen is transported via red blood cells in the body. The more red blood cells we have, the more oxygen we can carry in and the more metabolic “leftovers” we can carry out.

2 – The red blood cells release the oxygen where it is needed. The easier your red blood cells can offload the oxygen the faster you can get it where it needs to go, which is into the working muscles.

3 – Your muscles take in the oxygen and use it to produce energy. If they can’t get enough oxygen then they start to produce energy anaerobically and produce lactic acid. Lactic acid accumulation creates a build up of hydrogen ions, which contribute to muscle fatigue. The better your muscles can use oxygen and tolerate the build up of lactic acid the harder you can work before fatigue sets in.

4 – Your muscles offload metabolic “leftovers” from these processes, most notably Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and the red blood cells carry these leftovers to the lungs to be exhaled before the process starts over again with the next breath. It is the build up of CO2 that triggers the feelings of breathlessness so the better we can tolerate that build up the harder you can work before triggering that feeling.

Based on this you can get a blueprint for what you want your cardio training to accomplish. Not only do you need to be able to take in oxygen, you need to be able to transport it to where it is needed, offload it, utilize it and be able to tolerate the build up of the “leftovers” from this process. If you can do that then you will be able to make better use out of the oxygen you can take in.

So how do you accomplish this? As funny as it may sound, the answer lies in holding your breath.

Strong breath holds have been studied for a while and it is surprising to me that so few of us know about them or how to use them. Some of the effects of breath holds as they relate to our goals are…

1 – Signaling the release of EPO from the kidneys. This hormone creates a signal for the maturation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. This results in more red blood cells to carry oxygen.

2 – Improving CO2 tolerance. This has a double effect for us since CO2 is needed to offload oxygen from the red blood cells (known as the Bohr Effect) and a rise in CO2 is what triggers the breathless feeling, meaning that in improved tolerance means we can have more CO2 in the system – making it easier to offload oxygen – without triggering that feeling.

3 – Improved buffering of lactic acid build up/ hydrogen ions. One of the goals of hard interval training is to build up lactic acid in order to improve how well the body can tolerate the hydrogen ions that they produce. Strong breath holds create a build up of lactic acid since you don’t have more oxygen coming in, forcing the body to create energy anaerobically. This creates an improved buffering effect, meaning you can tolerate more lactic acid build up before succumbing to the fatigue the hydrogen ions help to trigger.

4 – Increased lung capacity. This helps us not only take in more oxygen but also makes it easier to offload CO2 and other leftovers from the metabolic processes in the cells. 

5 – Increased strength of the respiratory muscles. While holding your breath the brain continues to signal your breathing muscles to contract, meaning that you are performing an isometric contraction during the breath hold. This increases the strength of these muscles, making them able to work harder with less effort.

As you can see, the effects of breath holding cover just about everything we need to improve how efficiently we can take in and utilize oxygen. Regular cardio training, including high intensity intervals, can only check a couple of these boxes, meaning that if you aren’t doing breath holds as part of your cardio training then you are missing out.

Another benefit to breath hold training is that since the breath holds are creating the stress for the body to adapt to then you don’t have to work as hard physically. You can create the metabolic environment needed to see the improvements without creating a lot of wear and tear on the body. 

So how do you use breath holds as part of your cardio training? It is actually pretty simple.

A workout I like to start people out with consists of 5 warm up breath holds and 5 strong breath holds. Here is how to do it:

Warm Up Breath Holds

– Hold on Exhale while Walking for 10-15 paces 

– Stop and do 30 seconds of Nose Breathing

– Repeat 5 times

Breath Hold Workout

– Hold on Exhale for 20-30 paces, walking for first 5 and then starting to run

– Nose Breathing for 1 minute

– Hold on Exhale for 25-35 paces, walking for first 5 and then starting to run

– Nose Breathing for 1 minute

– Hold on Exhale for 30-40 paces, walking for first 5 and then starting to run

– Nose Breathing for 1 minute

– Hold on Exhale for 35-45 paces, walking for first 5 and then starting to run

– Nose Breathing for 1 minute

– Hold on Exhale for 40-50 paces, walking for first 5 and then starting to run

– Normal Nose Breathing for 1 minute

I call this type of workout CO2 Tolerance Training, since one of the main goals is to increase the levels of CO2 in order to allow your body to adapt to those higher levels. This means that you will be triggering that panicky “I can’t breathe” feeling, which is triggered by rising levels of CO2.

This will give you the chance to learn how to better deal with this feeling, allowing a chance to create a wedge between the uncomfortable stress and how you react to it. Creating a feeling of “relaxed suffocation” is one of the goals of this type of training which will pay off a lot when you get pushed into that feeling when training and rolling.

Because this workout isn’t physically stressful you can perform it 3-6 times a week. If you are hitting the mats a few times a week then this is probably all you need to do from an “extra cardio” standpoint since training BJJ is the most specific type of cardio training you can do. If you aren’t able to train on a regular basis then having a more traditional cardio workout once or twice a week would help to keep your cardio rounded out. 

Remember that the point of training is not to get better at training, it is to get better at our sport and daily activities. Part of this is understanding how to create the metabolic environment we need to trigger the changes we want. 

While breath hold training may not look as intense or leave you panting in a pool of your own sweat they do create the necessary environment needed to improve how efficiently we utilize oxygen in several ways that regular cardio training simply can’t. Give this workout a try for a few weeks and see for yourself how this “easy” workout can improve your cardio where it matters the most – on the mats.

Until next time…

Train Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

p.s. It’s been a little over a year since I last sent out an email but one of my goals this year is to get back to sending out a weekly email to all of you. While I may not have been creating new content, I have been busy with BJJ and learning some new things that I’m looking forward to sharing over the next 52 weeks.

The biggest development since my last email is that I opened a small BJJ school exactly one year ago this week. It was obviously a tough time to open a school but we were able to navigate things well enough to still be open and training. 

This means that I’ve been thinking a lot about what can help my students improve their BJJ, and a big reason why I want to get back on sending out weekly emails. They will help me communicate these ideas and insights to my students and hopefully help some of you as well.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this or any of the content I have on my website and if you don’t want to receive these emails anymore just click the Unsubscribe button below.

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Free Workout of the Month – Download Now

Last weekend I got the chance to go to a Josh Hinger seminar. I don’t know why but I really like him and his jiu jitsu. Maybe it’s because he could be competing in the Masters class but still enters and wins the Open class, showing all the younger dudes that old men can still bring it.

Maybe it’s because his special arm-in guillotene, a.k.a. The Hingertene, is a devastating weapon that I’ve personally been having a lot of success with. The great thing about it that it opens up a lot of other submissions as people defend it, which makes it a great go-to move to set up a lot of other things if it doesn’t work.

Either way, I found out that he was going to be in Salt Lake City so I drove the 4 hours to learn some more ways to use the Hingertene. And after 3 hours of Monoplatas and Hingertene details and follow ups it was well worth the effort to make.

Another thing that I really like about Josh is his commitment to training both on and off the mats. He knows that the only way to perform at his best is to balance BJJ with strength training and the results speak for themselves.

If you’re looking for a workout to help you on the mats then I’ve put together a new workout of the month for you. You’ll see I incorporate some unique training tools and methods like Ramping Isometrics and the Steel Mace into these workouts. I do provide some alternatives if you don’t have some of the training tools I do but it’s a good way to see how to use these things in a workout.

You can download the workout by clicking the link below. No emails or anything needed, just click the link and download the PDF to your computer. Each exercise has a link to a video demo so you have everything you need to get going.

Click Here to Download This Month’s Workout

Remember to start your workout with some sort of mobility routine. It’s important to be moving well before you start training, otherwise you’re just laying fitness on top of dysfunction. You can check out this blog post for a follow-along demo of a good routine to use if you need one.

Hope you enjoy thing month’s workout and that it helps you get even more out of your training. Plus, being fit helps you have more fun on the mats and that’s what the ultimate goal should always be.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson
BJJ Strength Training Systems

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How Rolling Like A Baby Can Help Your BJJ.

Being able to separate the upper and lower body is an important skill on the mats. Guard passing, sweeps and a lot of other moves require you to point your chest one way and your hips in another direction, which is a specific type of mobility that a lot of people struggle with.

In this video I explain more about the importance of rolling like a baby to help your BJJ and show you a simple way to start ading it to your routine.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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Feel Better With This 5-Minute Wrist & Shoulder Mobility Routine

Few things take a beating on the mats like our wrists and shoulders. Almost everything you do in BJJ requires the upper body to either transfer force into your opponent or absorb energy from them, placing a lot of stress and tension on these two areas.

Plus, you have to deal with getting thrown and swept. The wrists and shoulders can take some good impacts from flying through the air, which means most of you reading this have or will have some sort of injury to these areas from hitting the deck.

What this all adds up to is a lot of tight, immobile wrists and shoulders. This can show up in a lot of ways, including restricting your movement on the mats and/ or neck/ elbow pain.

All which can detract from your performance and enjoyment. This means you need something to help you keep those areas moving and feeling their best.

In this video I take you through a 5 minute follow-along mobility routine that can help you improve your wrist and shoulder mobility. Try using it 3-5 times a week for the next few weeks and see how a little mobility can go a long way on the mats.

As your training progresses be sure to make time for your strength and mobility training. With routines like this you don’t need to let excuses like “I don’t have time” keep you from doing the things off the mat that will help you perform and feel better on the mat.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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