I get a lot of messages from our Instagram and Facebook followers asking for advice on how to best supplement their Jiu Jitsu training, or how to balance Jiu Jitsu with their current training routine. These are valid concerns because most of us work long, odd hours, which can make it difficult to fit everything in. Common questions that usually come up are:
How many days per week should I train Jiu Jitsu?
How do I fit Jiu Jitsu into my current weight lifting routine?
What are some of the best supplemental exercises or programs for my Jiu Jitsu training?
While valid, I think there's a tendency to overthink these things into what's known as, "paralysis by analysis." In other words, we over analyze the hell out of how to get good at Jiu Jitsu when really, we just need to get on the mats and train.
The process can be simplified by considering three main factors, which will hopefully help get you to where you want to be. These are personal goals, time, and age, which are all related.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is; what am I trying to accomplish? Do you want to learn how to fight and be really good at it, or do you want to PR on the bench press? I use the bench press as an example because since forever, this particular exercise has somehow become a measure of one’s overall toughness and fighting ability. Being strong in Jiu Jitsu may help you early in your journey, but after you reach a certain level, you’ll find that technique will rule all. Plus, no matter how strong you get, there are always people bigger and stronger than you. Sorry to hurt your feelings. I’m only speaking from personal experience as someone with short man syndrome, who used to lift 6 days per week and walk around with my chest puffed out thinking I was tough, until I got choked by a girl at my first Jiu Jitsu class. Needless to say, I adapted my training that day and have never looked back. I still like to have a general baseline of strength, but I’d rather be really, really good at grappling (and throwing hands when needed). It’s an endless process, but that’s my primary goal and therefore, what I dedicate most of my time toward.
To get really good at something, you need to practice that particular thing on a consistent basis. This is true for everything from hitting a PR at your local CrossFit gym (sorry, BOX), to playing the guitar. Unfortunately most cops don’t have a lot of spare time, especially to add a new hobbie and learn something new. We work 10-12 hour days (not including all the times we get held over because someone decides to stab someone else with 5 minutes left in our shift), have family obligations, work overtime jobs on our off days and try to sleep for a few hours in between. That being said, we usually don’t have the luxury of working out 7 days per week and training in multiple disciplines.
Like I said, goals and time are related. I recently asked my head Jiu Jitsu instructor what his thoughts were on how to best supplement your Jiu Jitsu training with other things like lifting weights. Here’s his reply, which I found to be pretty interesting:
“There’s what I call diminishing return. Say I deadlift 450. In order to get to 455 it takes a shitload of work. Work that cuts into BJJ time. I will also never see a return on that added 5 pounds to my max. I’m better off just training (Jiu Jitsu)...Getting stronger won’t help me. My BJJ growth is infinite on the other hand.”
This is coming from a dude who can probably deadlift 450.
Age is another big factor that often gets overlooked or ignored. If you’re 25 years old, you likely have all sorts of personal goals to save the world, squat 1,000 pounds and become an elite CrossFit athlete, TikTok celebrity and social media influencer. You probably also have the time, level of fitness and energy to accomplish all of these things.
However, if you’re about to turn 40 (shut up), are married, have several kids and deal with constant joint and back pain, your training regimen and overall life routine is going to look a little different. Sometimes I find myself trying to be that 25 year old kid I once was, but just the act of getting out of bed in the morning brings me back to reality.
Since I know many will still want specific answers to the common questions I referenced at the beginning of this article, here are my recommendations:
Q: How many days per week should I train Jiu Jitsu?
A: I would recommend a minimum of 3. If you can fit more in, do it.
Q: How do I fit Jiu Jitsu into my current weigh lifting routine?
A: Cut back on weight training and replace it with Jiu Jitsu. If you currently lift 5 days per week, cut back to two days by focusing on circuit training or the big 4 compound movements. Lots of articles and research out there that shows you can still get strong as hell by lifting two days per week. Your body will also thank you. And, you'll be able to train Jiu Jitsu 3+ days per week. Problem solved.
Check out this awesome 2 day split routine from Muscle and Strength. I did this back in the day when looking for a way to add more Jiu Jitsu to the mix, and I found it still got me really strong and freed up a lot of wasted hours in the weight room.
Q: What are some of the best supplemental exercises or programs for my Jiu Jitsu training?
A: Anything involving kettle bells and/or Yoga. Both of these things allow you to mimic a lot of the movements we do on the mats, as well as strengthen those specific areas of the body and prevent injuries. Yoga is also great for cops, so you get a double benefit from it. Here are a couple of great resources I use (I’m not getting paid or compensated to promote any of them, I just think they’re the bomb and have helped me out a lot):
Yoga For BJJ - The paid version is $20/month (don't tell my wife), but they also offer free videos for the budget conscious.
Yoga by Adrienne - She’s all over YouTube and all of her stuff is free. It's less sport specific, but still offers great content.
Matt Edginton (aka @the_jiu_jitsu_ronin) - Follow this dude on Instagram. He’s a BJJ black belt who posts daily movement drills and strength and conditioning exercises to help improve your game.
Five-O Fundamental Video Series - it's a shameless self promotion, but technique videos are also a great way to supplement your training, and we happen to have an entire series we created specifically for cops. More will be added in the near future. Plus, it's always free and available.
Decide what your ultimate goal is with Jiu Jitsu, ask yourself if you’re willing to make sacrifices to free up time to achieve it, and be realistic with yourself based on what stage of life you’re currently at. Then, go train.