What Are The Five Best Strength Exercises For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

shadows of jiu-jitsu fighters performing different moves

There is immense emphasis on technique when it comes to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Despite this, the importance of strength in the sport may be overlooked by the amateurs and beginners taking up the sport. 

The need for strength training in competitive sports has been firmly established and recognized by the pros. In a contest where both the fighters match each other on the technique and skill fronts, strength will eventually be the deciding factor. You will often hear the pros in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu circles voice this assertion in different words.

Sadly, however, as a beginner just taking up the sport, you’ll come across a lot of strange advice and ideas out there. One of these very opinions is that you don’t really need to focus on strength training in jiu-jitsu. While nothing could be farther from the truth, not enough amateurs and beginners of the sport give strength training the importance that it truly deserves. 

If anyone tells you to ignore strength training when taking up the sport, you should immediately be able to judge their credentials and head for the exit door. With that said, let’s take a look at the truth about strength training when it comes to jiu jitsu, and some of the best exercises that will help you build up your game.

Strength Training For Jiu-Jitsu

Strength training is almost a staple in every professional athlete’s training regime. However, the strength required for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is quite different from, say, the type of strength a weight lifter would need. For example, a Jiu-jitsu athlete should not be training to be able to lift thrice his body weight and should leave that to the Olympic lifters.

The strength that a BJJ fighter requires is very functional and focused. When you’re looking to compete, you need the right mix of endurance, athletic strength, agility, and speed. Furthermore, factors such as body type, weight division, and weak areas are also supposed to be considered when starting off on a training program. All that said, let’s look at some of the best strength exercises that will help you build that functional strength.

The Dead Lift

The dead lift traces a very functional and basic body movement. It requires you to pick a weight up from the ground and return it back again. This basic strength training exercise is monumental in terms of the benefits it offers BJJ practitioners.

The muscle groups that this exercise will help strengthen includes the glutes, hamstrings, the spinal erectors, the lats and the trapezius –basically the entire posterior chain. A strong posterior structure will substantially improve your takedowns, stabilizing your base and bridges etc. Furthermore, you depend primarily on these muscle groups to stand up straight, in closed guard position, or to keep yourself firmly grounded when someone hops at you for a closed guard.

When performing the movement, ensure that your spine is neutral and abs are tightened throughout the movement. At the top of the movement when you’ve lift the weight completely, squeeze the glutes and feel it before you go back towards the ground to complete the rep.

Split Squat 

Squatting is indispensible. If your training routine is missing this king of an exercise, you’re in for a lot of trouble. This movement is essential when it comes to developing that much needed balance for BJJ. A slight variation of the basic squat, the split squat is especially useful as it helps prevent structural imbalances along the trunk and the hip area.

BJJ requires you to get into a squatting position quite often. Tackling strong open guard players or deep half players will call for the bending of the knee and the hip joint. Besides, the most common stances will have you bend at the knee. The split squat prepares your body for that and does your knee joints a favor by strengthening your glutes, quads, and hip flexors that work as the secondary muscles and support the movement. It will also go on to strengthen those muscles and joints so that when a 90 kg opponent hops guard on you, you’re able to stand your ground and tackle it.

When performing the exercise, ensure that you’re going deep enough on every rep for your rear knee to touch the floor. Keep the weight distributed evenly on the front foot and your abs squeezed throughout the movement.

Chin Up

Upper body strength is equally important in the game. Chin up is a basic compound movement that is extremely useful when looking build up functional strength for jiu-jitsu. Pulling strength is especially important in grappling sports such as Jiu-jitsu where you will find yourself constantly pulling and gripping your opponent and your shoulders will be under attack frequently.

Building up that pulling strength will enhance your snap downs, playing guards, and takedowns and make you better at securing grips.

The exercise will strengthen a number of your back muscles including the rhomboids, the lats, and the lower trapezius. It will also strengthen your grip, improve posture, and build up the shoulder muscles against the Omo plata, Americana or the dreaded Kimura.

Get under the bar with an underhand grip and fully and pull yourself up contracting the scapula first before pulling yourself up with the arms to touch the bar with the chest at the top of the movement.


Upper body strength is not complete without adequate pressing strength to compliment the pulling strength. It will effectively build your deltoids, triceps and pec muscles to assist you in stopping a takedown, inverting yourself, avoiding a pass, or in bridging an opponent.

As you perform the movement, make sure you lean forward towards the bottom of the dip, keep the elbows in behind you, and take a full dip.

Hollow Body Hold

Core strength is vital in most athletic sports and Jiu-jitsu is no different. It provides a strong base to all the movements while protecting your spine. Furthermore, if the core does not have the required strength, it will put the lower back under a greater strain and that can be detrimental. A hollow body hold will help you get that much needed core strength in jiu-jitsu.

Start with lifting your knees up and then follow it by bringing the chest up and holding it for as long as you can. All this while, the lower back must be firmly on the ground.

A comprehensive strength training program coupled with sound technique will put you on the fast track to becoming a formidable Jiu-jitsu fighter. If you feel you need to know more about Jiu-jitsu and training programs, you can go ahead and visit our website to find out everything you need to know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, fitness diets, and much more.

John Porter

John is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt and founder of Livermore Supply Co. When not training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, John enjoys learning languages, traveling to the warm parts of the world, and photography. Outside of Livermore Supply Co., John has a career in the technology field.

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