Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Strength Training

Closeup of strong bald athlete doing pull-up on horizontal bar. front view

Jiu-jitsu was designed as a martial art for people who lack the physical advantage in fights. The theory is that smaller people can use leverage and advanced techniques to gain the upper hand in a fight. However, getting stronger will still help to improve your jiu-jitsu skills, as well as make you a more competent grappler.

Grappling is close-quarters combat to the extreme. Your strength, endurance and smarts are tested against your opponent in a battle of technique and physicality. In jiu-jitsu, you constantly push and pull your opponent into different positions with your arms and legs. You start standing in jiu-jitsu, then try to take your opponent down to the ground. If you can take them down, your next goal is to make them tap out using different submission techniques like joint locks and chokes.

Stronger muscles help, and the best way to improve your muscular strength is to lift weights. Basic strength-training programs should be plenty for someone who wants to improve their jiu-jitsu game.

Upper-Body Training

While your lower-body muscles are important for jiu-jitsu, most of the time you're on the ground on your back or on top of your opponent. That limits contribution from your leg muscles, leaving upper-body muscles to do much of the work.

Bench Press

Lying down on your back and pressing weight up is an essential skill for jiu-jitsu practitioners because they often find themselves on their backs. The bench press is perfect for developing strength from this position.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie down on a bench with your eyes in line with the barbell. Grip the bar with your hands a fist length more than shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar over your chest with your elbows straight. Lower it down to your chest and let it rest briefly before pressing back up. Repeat for a total of 15 reps.

Bodybuilder exercising with barbell in gym


One of the best muscles for improving your back and grip muscles is the pull-up. Both muscle groups are vital for a jiu-jitsu athlete.

HOW TO DO IT: Grip a pull-up bar with your hands an inch wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, then go back down until your elbows are straight. If you can't do a full pull-up, put a stool or bench underneath the bar. Stand with one leg on the stool or bench and use it as assistance to help push your body up. Complete 10 to 15 reps.

Lower-Body Exercises

Jiu-jitsu starts in a standing position, and you have to work to take your opponent down. Leg strength helps you pick and opponent up and topple them over. It also helps on the ground if you have to try to quickly maneuver around someone.


The deadlift carries over to jiu-jitsu well because you're essentially just picking an object up off of the ground. It helps if you need to use raw strength to take an opponent down or break free from their grasp on the ground to stand up.

HOW TO DO IT: Start with a barbell on the floor. It should be around the lower half of your shin, about 2 inches in front of it. Set your feet shoulder-width apart and stick your butt back to lower yourself down to the bar.

Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The inside of your arms should rub against the outside of your knees. Puff your chest out, rock your weight back to your heels, and stand up with the weight. As you come up, make sure that the bar stays close to your legs and that your spine stays flat, not rounded.

When you stand up fully your elbows should be straight and the bar around waist-high or slightly below. Then, lower it back down to the ground. Complete 15 reps.

Girl picking up heavy barbell with weights for workout

Kettlebell Swing

Similar to the deadlift in that it targets the hip and back muscles, the kettlebell swing is a sports-specific addition to your weightlifting repertoire. It's an explosive exercise, which translates well to the fast-paced moves in jiu-jitsu.

HOW TO DO IT: Place a kettlebell on the ground, and stand a foot or two behind it. Squat down and reach forward to grab the handle of the kettlebell. Puff your chest out and pull the kettlebell back, throwing it between your legs.

Hold onto the bell and, when your forearms hit your inner thighs, swing it forward and up. At the same time, thrust your hips forward and stand up. Swing the bell all the way up until your arms are parallel with the ground, then swing it back down between your legs. Complete 15 reps


When you're grappling on the ground, you use your ab muscles constantly to push and pull your opponent. To simulate the movement at your core, try a partial Turkish get-up. The full movement is very involved, but the first part is very similar to the type of strength that a grappler needs to fend off an opponent.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the ground on your back with a kettlebell in your left hand. Press your left arm up so that your elbow is straight. Bend your left knee and put your left foot flat on the ground. Keep your right leg straight. Lay your right arm flat on the ground, reaching out to the right.

Drive your left arm up into the air, turning your shoulders to the right, and prop yourself up on your right elbow. Then, slowly lower yourself back down to complete one repetition.