Strength Training for Grapplers

strength training for grapplers

Grappling, or any of it’s variants like Sambo and BJJ, are full contact sports that are rife with injuries. Anyone who has rolled even for a few months will likely have knee, shoulder and elbow issues. Mixed with possibly back and neck pains. This is just the nature of the sport. It’s not too surprising when the goal of the sport is to cause enough pain to an opponent to make them tap. So, it kind of makes sense that injuries are going to be around.

Where Does Strength Come In? 

Strength training for grapplers is an incredibly powerful tool, one that should be included in every grappler’s program. The obvious reason is clearly increased strength and power in the muscles. Strength training will strengthen the tendons, ligaments and even bones as well. By increasing strength, your body becomes more resistant to picking up injuries.

The problem – no grappler wants to sacrifice too much time away from the mats. It’s easy to find hundreds of strength routines on the internet and while they are perfectly fine, they often require the individual to train for up to five days a week. Clearly this is too much for any grappler.

As a grappler, you need a strength routine that will give the maximum results with minimal input.

Strength Training for Grapplers 

The below routine is what I use and have done for some time. It takes two days and each of the days is less than an hour. The program is designed around the following movement principles:

Push

Pull

Hinge

Squat

Core / Grip

Day 1 consists of a Hinge exercise, a Pull exercise and a Core / Grip.

Day 2 consists of a Squat exercise, a Push exercise and another Core / Grip.

The Exercises

The beauty of this routine is how flexible it is. Stick to the prescribed movements for both the days and you have a very well-rounded strength routine.

If I am on the road and have no access to a conventional gym set up I will stick with my go to and use kettlebells for the routine. With access to a gym, make use of the barbells and dumbbells available. Same applies to having no equipment at all. Just go with tough bodyweight exercises. My favorite of all though is the sandbag version! This really is the beauty of it.

Push:

Overhead press variations, Bench press variations, Push-up variations.

Pull:

Row variations, Pull-ups and Chin-ups.

Hinge:

Deadlift variations, Cleans.

Squat:

Zercher, Back, Front, Pistol.

Core / Grip:

Plank variations, roll-outs, Kettlebell swing, Kettlebell snatch, farmer’s walk variations, get-ups.

What about the Reps? 

For the squat and hinge exercises you want to go heavy and keep the reps low. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a lot of rest. Anything up to three minutes is fine here.

The push and pull exercises are a little higher rep based. 3-5 sets of 8-10 with lesser rest. Keep the rest period to 90 seconds or less here.

The core and grip work will depend on the individual and the exercise. Make it a challenge during the entire set. 3 sets is enough taking minimal rest breaks. 60 seconds should be as high the rest gets here.

Routine Examples

To hopefully rid of any confusion, I will show three examples of the routine I have used. The first is Kettlebell based, the second is traditional gym based and the third is for the road warrior and is just bodyweight.

Traditional Gym Set-up 

Day 1

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Barbell Deadlift (Hinge)
  2. Barbell Row (Pull)
  3. Heavy Farmer’s Walk superset with RKC Plank. (Core / Grip) Why Farmer’s walks? Check here

Day 2

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Zercher Squat (Squat) Why the Zercher squat? Check here
  2. Overhead Press (Push)
  3. Heavy Farmer’s Walk superset with Hanging Leg Raises. (Core / Grip) 

Kettlebell Set-up 

Day 1

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements. 

  1. Kettlebell High Pulls (Hinge)
  2. Pull-up (Pull)
  3. Kettlebell Bottom-up Hold superset with Lying Leg Raise. (Core / Grip)

Day 2

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat (Squat)
  2. Kettlebell Push Press (Push)
  3. Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk superset with Double Crunch. (Core / Grip)

Bodyweight Set-up 

Day 1

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements. 

  1. Get creative, Couch Deadlift, Heavy Stone Deadlift (Hinge)
  2. Pull-up (Pull)
  3. Bodyweight Bar Hang superset with Ab Rollouts. (Core / Grip)

Day 2

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Pistol Squat (Squat)
  2. Clapping Push up (Push)
  3. Gripper Work superset with Handstand Hold. (Core / Grip)

Sandbag Set-up

Day 1

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Bearhug Squat (Squat)
  2. Overhead press (Push)
  3. Bearhug Carries (Core / Grip)

A small glimpse into today's sandbag fun – Raw, unpretentious, simplistic hard work in the rain. . Squats and presses with the 120lb bag. Lifts and bearhug carries with the 120+180lb bags together. . The sandbag offers up some simplistic training with very little excuses to boot. Anyone can make one and the strength they offer up is undeniable. . I've praised the sandbag before as the ultimate training partner and my opinion hasn't changed. . It pushes me when I need it to. It's there ready to train with no excuses. It provides me with anarchy, chaos and unpredictability in training – much like fighting and life. It couldn't care less about my moaning, my aches or pains – it exists simply to get me stronger and tougher. .

A post shared by Phil Bennett (@phil_completemma) on

Day 2

Warm up- Foam rolling, joint activation, raising the heart rate, general movements.

  1. Sandbag Shouldering (Hinge)
  2. Pull-up (Pull)
  3. Lying Leg Raises (Core)

Closing Thoughts on Strength  Training for Grapplers

The grappling arts a wonderful, very consuming – mentally and physically – element that takes up a lot of time in our weeks. Working on a dedicated strength training for grapplers routine will not only help you on the mats, but will also keep you on the mats longer and more injury resilient.

What is you grappling art? Do you have a strength program in place at the minute?

Get in touch with me and let me know! Remember, t’s fun to be social and I love connecting with you guys – Instagram.

Phil.

PS. I have written newer post on strength training for grapplers, so do check it out here.

complete mma training