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Strength Training for Grappling Sports

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  • Strength Training for Grappling Sports

    Hi all,
    Long time lurker here wanting to get everyone's perspective on strength training for grappling sports. I am interested in both jacketed and jacketless styles.

    1. Do you think there are specific implements that yield superior results for grappling sports (eg. sandbags, rocks, barbells, bodyweight, etc.)?
    2. How often and heavy (and in what rep ranges) do you think one should train while balancing a schedule of grappling 4-8 sessions a week?
    3. Do you think there are specific exercises that are of particular value for grapplers specifically?
    4. What, in your opinion, are the best grip exercises for grappling?
    5. What do you think of the 20 rep squat program for grapplers if weight class is not an issue?
    6. Are there any additional comments or topics of considerations that others have possibly not thought of when strength training for grappling?

    Thank you for your time and responses, they are much appreciated. Please go as in depth with this topic as you like.

  • #2
    Grippers helped me when I did jiu jitsu, plenty. And I have my Iron Mind sand bag loaded to 233lbs to wrestle with. When I'm done with wrestling and lifting it, I grab the top and pick up, drag, and kill my fingers.

    You can get all you want from these two items.


    • #3
      Thank you for the response Robert. Were the sandbag and grippers the only strength training you were doing outside of jiu jitsu at the time, or was this on top of other strength training? Also what kind of sandbag exercises were you doing when "wrestling" with it? Just shouldering and squatting or tossing?


      • #4
        Sorry, Karl ...the jiu jitsu was probably 10 or more years ago. The sand bag was not in the routine back then- just the grippers.

        But using it the last year has made me pretty strong...for an avg. guy...

        I like to use it after grippers; I pick it up anyway I can and just wrestle with it when I have it up to my chest...trying to get it to one shoulder, then the other.


        • #5
          I'll second the grippers recommendation that Robert made. I was a Judo/AJJ student about 15 years ago. Didn't do any sandbag training back then (or now), but I did a LOT of work with field stones that were above my bodyweight. Bodyweight was around 150lbs, so it wasn't much to write home about, weight-wise. But I got very strong ("wrestling strong") from doing a bunch of no set gripper work and vigorous strength training with a handful of heavy stones I had at my disposal.

          The no set grippers helped with gi grappling. Holding onto clothing is where getting strong on no set (or deep set) grippers really shine. Trust me on this. I have never had someone pull out of my grip - when I've grabbed clothing, especially. Ever. There's something to be said for that. That doesn't mean I've won every time I've wrestled or fought someone "for real." But it does mean that unless I wanted to let go of their clothing (or whatever I was able to grab), they were not going to get rid of me.

          The stone training helped with no gi grappling. I did a lot of clean and presses with the various stones. I also liked just lifting them like one does Atlas stones (to about chest height), but not setting them on a plinth. Then controlling the stone back to the ground. At 150lbs, I was clean and pressing a 165lb very asymmetrical stone for nearly a dozen singles every workout. Again, nothing world class or elite. But a level of strength that is achievable by pretty much anyone who set their mind to it at that bodyweight. And a level of strength that was very competitive with any other trainees I met (near that bodyweight) because it seemed to be extremely usable - I could transfer a lot of that strength into another person's limbs, etc.


          • #6
            Thank you for the response Ben. I completely agree with the importance of someone not being able to break your grip in grappling. Also, pressing a stone overhead with anything beyond bodyweight is impressive in my book. Did you do any barbell work, or was all of your strength training done with grippers and stones?


            • #7

              Its been a longtime since I've visited this forum. I've been doing BJJ for about 16 months now and recently started Judo. I'm in my 40s and I've learned that the training I used to do, doesn't work as well for me now with my BJJ/Judo work. I lift 2x per week on a very abbreviated program, train BJJ/Judo 2x per week, and the rest is slow long cardio done with Heavy Hands and Airdyne bike. What I learned quickly is that hard grappling is strength and cardio combined. As for grip, I started off working with towel pullups and towel holds, actually working up to one hand holds with bodyweight for 10 seconds and doing some pinch gripping. Once again I quickly learned that yes, my hands got stronger but they also stayed so beat up and fatigued, especially my fingers that I had to forgo the extra grip work. I needed my hands to be recovered more than stronger for class. I've not had any issues with grip during training other than my forearms getting so pumped that I could grip anything, but that happens. If your hands are so weak that its truly giving issue I'd say go for some GI or towel and thick bar work but don't make it exhaustive. It doesn't take alot to get decently strong. I am sure you already know this, but nothing beats actual mat time.

              This may some totally out of place in this day and time, but I found the most benefit from what the old timers call road work. Long slow cardio works the best for me and I see more benefit from it in my grappling than anything else. Don't believe this nonsense either that it makes you weak. I'm breaking records now that are 10+ years old for me.