Can 64% of your results really come from just 4% of your efforts?

The 80-20 Principles tells us that with anything in the world, it is the small causes that have big results. Also known as the Pareto Principle where it was first observed in the world of finance (named after the guy who first found that 80% of a nation’s wealth is held by 20% of the people), it has been shown to hold true in practically every facet of life.

Some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the mat.

Those who recognize this fact and take advantage of it have a huge leg up on everybody else. Perhaps the most popular example is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris where he showed that if you can find and focus on those small things that cause the big results you can slash you work and effort while greatly increasing your results.

Of course, this all has a lot of direct transfer to training as well (Tim even wrote a book called The 4-Hour Body based on applying the 80-20 Principle to training). The truth is that most of your potential results only come from a small handful of things you can do and that when you focus on them you can see better results in less time.

80-20 2While this isn’t groundbreaking information for a lot of people, I recently read something about the 80-20 Principle that really changed my perspective on it. Namely, the 80-20 Principle is subject to the 80-20 Principle.

In other words, once you figure out what the top 20% is that causes 80% of the results you can then turn the 80-20 Principle on that top 20% and it still holds true.

The top 20 % of the top 20 % counts for 80% of 80% of your results.

If you are a bit confused you are not alone, it took this example for me to get it…

Let’s say that 20% of the roads in your town carry 80% of the traffic. If you then looked at the top 20% of those roads – or 4% of the total roads in your town – you would find that they carry 80% of the 80%, or 64% of all traffic.

That’s right, only 4% of the roads in your town carry 64% of all the traffic. Now, the numbers may not work out to exactly 80-20 every time – sometimes it is 70-30 or even 95-5 – but the principle of small things causing big results holds true.

The more you dig down into the top 20% of the top 20% the better you can leverage your time into results.

What this means for us as BJJ practitioners is that if you don’t have a ton of time to train then you better be focusing on that top 20% of things you can do with your time…or better yet the top 20% of the top 20%.

But this is where a lot of us get lost. Because so many people don’t understand the power of the 80-20 Principle they don’t understand that not every hour of training is created equal.

Some things you can do are much more productive than others.

And some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the mat (think stretching and mobility training for example).

Things like mobility training, strength training with an eye on the movement patterns you need on the mat and cardio training that focuses on the real energy systems demands of rolling deliver far more bang-for-the-buck than another mindless hour spent on “cardio training”, researching techniques on YouTube or beating the hell out of yourself in a CrossFit class.

When you tap into that top 20% of the top 20% you can have your life and your body back while rolling better than ever on the mats.

And this principle becomes even more important the more time you spend on the mats.

It gets tricky because it starts to become more of a juggling act as training time competes with mat time and other social/ family plans. Making sure you are doing the best with the time you have is crucial to making sure you stay rolling strong.

If you have any questions or thoughts about the 80-20 Principle and how it applies to training, rolling or even life please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear them.

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Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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Goodbye to a dear friend…my first training journal.

As much as I hate to do it I have to say good-bye to a dear friend this week. This friend has been my constant companion on my BJJ journey for over a year and I’m really sad to see them go. Luckily, though, I already have another one to take their place.

The “friend” I am referring to is my Jiu-Jitsu Log training journal. As you can see it has been well used over the last 14 months of training and I can honestly say it has made a bigger impact on my BJJ than just about anything else.

I first read about the Jiu-Jitsu Log and the idea of keeping a training journal in the book Zen Jiu-Jitsu: How to Improve Your Game 100% in 30 Days. Like most white belts I was looking for any edge I could find to speed up my learning curve and this book was a gold mine of tips that I recommend to every new white belt I talk to.

Having nothing to do with techniques, it instead focused on the habits that would make the strongest foundation for you to learn techniques from. While I am simplifying things a lot, it broke down to 3 steps:

1) Figure out what you need to work on.

2) Develop a plan to drill and practice those techniques.

3) Keep a training journal to force you to be mindful about your practice.

The key to the whole thing was being mindful when you are rolling and drilling and while you could do it without it, the training journal makes the whole process so much easier.

For starters, if you know you are going to have to write something down in your journal you will start to pay a bit more attention when you train and drill. Sitting down and drawing a blank about what you worked on that day isn’t a good sign about your level of mindfulness.

Second, the act of writing some key points down about a technique you learned or some refinements you made to a technique you already knew will literally activate the brains subconscious memory. This means that you are able to impress the memory of those techniques and lessons deeper than if you didn’t write if down in a training journal.

The truth is that 5-10 minutes after class writing some things down in your journal is worth far more than an hour of watching techniques on YouTube. And that, my friend, is the key to speeding up your learning curve in BJJ.

Now, a quick word on what to look for in a journal. I personally feel that there is a lot of value in actually writing your notes in a journal rather than using an app on your phone and typing them in. Again, the brain makes a connection with the act of physical writing it doesn’t with typing and this is one case where low-tech trumps high-tech methods.

You can get a simple spiral bound note book and use it to keep track of:

– The date

– Who taught

– What drills you did

– The techniques you learned/ practiced

– Who else was in class (this is especially helpful in learning new people’s names)

As you can guess, I personally use and recommend The Jiu-Jitsu Journal. I have no affiliation with them, I just found their journal to be really easy to keep track of things and plus it just feels cool pulling out a journal made for BJJ.

Whatever you end up using, make sure you are keeping a training journal. I’ve logged almost every class, seminar and private lesson I did over the last year in this one and I plan on filling up this new one even faster.

So how about you? Do you keep a training journal and have any tips on using them or what to keep track of? I’d love to hear your thoughts, just leave a comment below this post.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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Reader Q&A: How to avoid overtraining if you train BJJ 4-5 times a week.

I got this great question over the weekend from a blog reader who wanted some advice on balancing training BJJ 4-5 days a week with strength and conditioning training while avoiding overtraining. He also has to juggle family, a job and the fact that he is closing in on 40…things I am all too familiar with myself so I had some insights to share.

I thought this problem is probably something a lot of people face so I wanted to share my answer in case it can help someone else as well.

“Hi James,

I just stumbled across your website and am fascinated by what you talk about in your blog. I’ve been training bjj for 3.5 years and love it. I’ve done a lot of strength training over the years as well as HIIT for conditioning. For a time I was doing both when I’d train bjj M-W-F and workout T-TH-Sat. Now I am training BJJ almost every day M-F. I read your article about the fact that you can over train by doing both BJJ and strength/conditioning.

I’m 39 (married with 4 kids) and in better shape than most 29 yr olds…I haven’t done strength training for a few months but really want to get back into it….is that too much on my body train BJJ 4-5 days a week plus strength/condition? Also what would you recommend for recover supplements?

Thank you again!”


Sounds like we have a lot in common – closing in on 40, busy with family and kids and strong addiction to BJJ. Trying to balance that with strength and conditioning can be tough…unless you have the right perspective on it.

I want to first clarify something about that article – I was trying to point out that you can overtrain from focusing on cardio as you main form of training outside of BJJ. Strength training is different and something you should have in your program. Long cardio focused workouts are of those things you can add in if you have the time and ability to recover or if you don’t get to train BJJ very often but for guys like us it is a bit overrated.

I think some of the confusion stems from how strength training has been morphed into another type of cardio training. A lot of program use workouts that have you moving quickly and testing your cardio more than your strength.

At the end of your strength training workout you can do 5-10 minutes of some higher intensity cardio but don’t overdue it. Focus your time on mobility and strength with a little cardio on top instead of the other way around.

This is also why I like bodyweight training so much since it is a great way to get strong without putting a lot of wear and tear on the joints. If you haven’t signed up for the free 30 day BJJ bodyweight workout program be sure to check it out, it has some great mobility drills and bodyweight exercises in it. It also shows you how I structure workouts to focus strength and mobility while also fitting in some cardio training.

I think that everyone should be fitting in 2-3 strength training sessions each week along with 10-20 minutes of mobility work/ foam rolling each day. The more your train BJJ the more important this becomes to help offset the overuse patterns inherent to BJJ and to avoid the natural decrease in strength and muscle mass that comes with age.

As far as recovery supplements, I don’t recommend much. I think that the most important thing you can do is be taking at least 10 grams of fish oil each day. Besides all of the noted health benefits it also helps control internal inflammation that can contribute to joint soreness and pain as well as support testosterone levels.

A post-workout supplement is also good to use since it helps speed up the recovery process from training. Add in a greens powder if you don’t eat enough veges and a protein powder for convenience and you’re set for the most part. Most supplements are worthless and sold on hype and the placebo effect so just focus on getting good rest and eating well to help your recovery.

I also wanted to share an article I wrote on why I hate the term “strength training”. While you should check it out, in short I point out how it gives the false impression that simply putting up bigger numbers is the goal, which is the wrong focus. If you focus on improving the efficiency of your movement then your numbers will go up but if you focus on the numbers you can miss the chance to really improve your efficiency.

And it is that improved efficiency we are after since that is what helps us on the mat, not just better numbers in the gym.

Strength training is super important for guys like us and along with mobility training should be part of the bigger picture for how we train for BJJ. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions about this or anything else related to off the mat training for BJJ.

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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