What strength and conditioning exercises should I do to get better at BJJ?
What kind of kettlebell workout should I do to get better at BJJ/grappling?
These types of questions seem to be coming up a lot lately. So, here we go.
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The only way to get better at BJJ/grappling is by doing BJJ/grappling!!!!!
BJJ is about teaching your body how to move in certain ways and respond to different situations. The only way to teach your body how to do this automatically is to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. This is commonly referred to as "mat time". You learn techniques and then you drill them. Then you try to do them against resisting opponents. After many hours of practice, many failures and many successes...what were once "techniques" learned in class start to become "your" automatic responses by your body. You are training muscle memory. You learn that grappling is about body movements. You learn to incorporate your own personal physical attributes (whether it be speed, explosiveness, agility, flexibility, etc. or lack of these...) into the techniques to give you your own personal fighting style which is part of the beauty of jiu-jitsu. It can be tailored for each individual's strengths and weaknesses.
Just getting stronger won't help you get any better at BJJ/grappling. It won't help you learn how to move your hips, where to put your knee, where to place your hand, one inch this way or half an inch that way, adjust the pressure of your hip, turn your head slightly to the left, base more on your right side, put pressure with your right shoulder, shimmee your shoulders forward, wiggle wiggle, base here, base this way a bit more, etc. and then there's the whole other issue of timing. Strength may help you survive in the short term. You might be able to muscle out of bad positions or force submissions. But how do you do a proper escape? How do you do a proper submission? In the long run, if you have not learned proper techniques you will only have the strength you started with. If you're a big guy and regularly dominate everyone at your academy, what happens when you have to face someone your own size? And what if he HAS learned the techniques? If you learn technique and then use strength on top of that, then you will have a combination that is difficult to beat. Strength is easy and can always be added after you develop a good foundation of techniques. Technique comes first and takes time, patience, frustration and lots and lots of practice.
Going back to the origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu...Helio Gracie himself had a frail body.
Don't misunderstand because yes, strength and conditioning do play a role in BJJ/Grappling, but one has to have the proper technical foundation to build upon.
Making you stronger will not make you better at BJJ/Grappling.
Making you better at BJJ/Grappling will make you better at BJJ/Grappling.
After you have developed a strong foundation and as you get better at BJJ/Grappling, strength and conditioning will help your BJJ/Grappling be even better, especially if you compete. If all it took was strength, then powerlifters would all be BJJ/Grappling World Champions!