Do You Need Big Biceps for Jiujitsu?

Is this a stupid question or not? Do you need big biceps for jiujitsu?

Let’s explore.

When faced with thinking about making a decision, one of the oldest tricks in the book to help is to make a pros and cons list.


  • Big biceps look cool.
  • 24 inch pythons brother!
  • T-shirts look better on you.
  • The double bicep pose is a universal sign of awesomeness.
  • Everyone like biceps. Ask your mom.
  • You can crack eggs with them.


  • …..so much nothing

On the serious side, having bicep strength and size can be helpful. For one, your biceps, if you train properly/adequately, can help you with

  • Clinching
  • Gripping
  • Limb ripping
  • Strangles

Holding an aggressive opponent (with or without strikes) can be very challenging. Arm endurance while applying or defending submissions is also a very desirable feature of your arms.

They can also help you with powering out of armbar attempts, maintaining back control, controlling postures in guard, executing armdrags, and squeezing the life out of a RNC.

If your arms are too big, you may have trouble getting your arm under your opponents chin. Is that a real problem? If you’re adept at applying the strangle, you will get a tap. But if I had to have a smaller/solid arm or a beefier arm on my neck applying a strangle, I would prefer the bigger arm. Why?

  • There is more arm to grab on to defend
  • The arm doesn’t fit under the chin as easy, and
  • Bones are painful! You might get the nervous tap from a smaller but solid arm quicker than a big, smothering bicep arm.

So what do you say? Do you want bigger arms, smaller but strong arms, or somewhere in the middle?

A strong arm showing its biceps muscle illustration

Are You Happy?

Mark Rippetoe has famously said, “Many of us believe that a grown man weighs 200 pounds. He just does. Bigger and stronger is better than being underweight – for your health, your athletic performance in the vast majority of sports, and your longevity, as well as your appearance. I know that many of you will regard this perception as petty and superficial. You will say that intellectual pursuits are the true crowning glory of humanity, and that brutish size and strength belongs in the past, with animal skins, stone tools, and sloping foreheads.”

I’ve been 200lbs since 7th grade. None of it was muscle. But I found my way when the iron bug bit me at 13.

My life is pretty simple ans straightforward. I like to do the things that make me happy. That’s why I adhere to do things that align to the 3 M’s.



Meat! Mats! and Muscles!

Yes. Yes, and…………….HELL YES!

Keeping It Simple

I live my life with one overarching rule.

Find your favorites.

What do I mean? It’s pretty easy. I strive to find my favorite…..you name it.

Coffee? RiseUp.

ProteinBar? Met-RX

Lifting music? Heavy Metal

Jiujitsu Gi? Krugan (Old School)

Cut of steak? NY Strip.

Resistance Bands? Iron Woody Fitness.

Peanut Butter? Crazy Richards

Sitcom? Three’s Company.

Cartoon? Looney Tunes.

Cheat Meal? Lasagna.

Bodybuilder? Dorian Yates.

Powerlifter? Eddy Coan.

Jiujitsu Player? Roger Gracie.

I hope you get the idea.

Striving to look for your favorites is a quest for happiness. As simple as that sounds, it keeps me focused on pursuing things that make me happy.

Why would you settle for less?

Settling for less is a habit you can develop. To be “OK” with things is also being complcent.

I’ve been complacent in my life, especially in High School.

I had no drive, ambition, interests or motivation. A chubby, non-athletic kid.

Then I discovered the weights.

It changed my body, my mind, and my whole life’s direction.

I spent countless hours lifting and learning.

A favorite was discovered. MUSCLES.

What builds muscles? Protein.

What’s my favorite protein? It used to be turkey breast, tuna fish, and eggs. Then Met-RX powder and chicken breast.

Now it is Steak.

Another favorite was discovered. MEAT.

I guess you know by know Jiujitsu is a favorite.


It’s the most effective martial art for one-on-one confrontations. Along with boxing, it is part of my identity and has been for over half of my life.

It’s a favorite. the MATS are part of me.


There are a few of my favorite things.

Follow the way of the wise man that seeks to be happy. More muscles and mat time require more meat. It’s a great life.


Strength Training for Beginners: 5/3/1

Analysis paralysis is very real.

All you have to do is go through your Facebook, Reddit, Instagram or Twitter and every single day you are bombarded with all kinds of videos of people doing crazy workout shit.

You can get caught in the DO LOOP very easily of frustrated starts/restarts.

Analysis Paralysis - A Case of Terminological Inexactitude ...

I’ve trained with weights for boxing, bodybuilding, and Jiujitsu since I was 15 years old. In nearly 30 years of doing this A FEW THINGS remains consistent:

  1. Setting Goals is Key to Reaching them and Setting New Ones.
  2. Working Hard is a Skill Developed Through Practice.
  3. Start Small. Build Slowly.
  4. Stick With Basics.
  5. Be Consistently Persistent.
  6. Go “All-In” and Give Your Best Efforts (don’t half-ass your effort)

Do you want to be a killer on the mats?

Or kick ass in the weight room?

Well, then, you need to not do things outside of your training that conflicts with those training sessions.

Read this any way you want, but know that I mean it means removing bad things from your life and improving the quality of the good things that link to your goals.


I’ve written extensively about different training methods for the grappler. There are plenty of articles for you to read about the physical training.

If you train hard on the mats several days a week, you will make better progress if you keep your strength training program as simple as possible.  Before reading ahead, I strongly recommend reading Strength Training 101.

5/3/1 – A Simple and Effective Program to Build Strength

Jim Wendler 5/3/1

One of the more basic programs out there is 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler. Why choose this one?

  1. Because it was made for beginners.
  2. It focuses on the primary compound lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Military Press)
  3. It follows a Linear Periodization method which most beginners will thrive.
  4. It develops maximal strength
  5. It tests personal records (PR) frequently in both max weight and/or repetitions performed.
  6. Max lifts are based off of 90% of your 1RM setting you up for success in your lifts. This is key to developing confidence in your strength training sessions.

Don’t read that it is for beginners and move on from the program. That’s an amateur mistake.

You should appreciate the simplicity of the workout structure and flexibility to scale the accessory options things to meet your overall program needs.

I’ve been training for over 30 years and I will still follow variations of this program today. I make adjustments based on my own goals, but my belief in the primary compound movements and balanced accessory work allows a great degree of flexibility when additional training or life gets in the way.

Additional Considerations

Wendler also covers topics that are important such as de-loading, incorporating athletic movements, and active recovery methods.

Keeping athletic movements in your training such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing are important for developing explosive strength qualities. Like the main program, his recommends are simple to follow and implement.

I have also incorporate many Fundamental Athletic Training options in the DRILLSKILL workout manual. Get a Free Copy Now during COVID-19.

The same for active recovery, which featured weighted vest walking, foam rolling multiple times a day, and taking epsom salt baths.

Wendler has written numerous articles for both T-Nation and eliteFTS. You can find everything currently about the 5/3/1 program at his personal website.

If you’d like to see more program reviews, leave me a comment below with the program name and what you’d like to learn about it.

Time to Get Strong

Schools around the country are cancelling sports seasons all together due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this sucks, this is an opportunity to get strong.

There will be future sports seasons. But even more importantly, you can build strength that will last you your entire life.

The skills that accompany strength training are undeniable. See Strength Training 101.

I’m going to suggest a simple way to keep and learn new skills while building new strength that you can do with limited equipment. This is going to be part 1 of 3 articles focused on adding the base layer of your strength pyramid: The Strength Athlete Block.

I will also provide my top 3 methods, exercises, and equipment needs at the end of the article to get you started.

Strength Athlete Drills

Strength Athlete Drills

These movements require an external “implement” that you will need to dominate to generate great force and power to accomplish the task.

Power = Force x Distance / Time.  This is your guide.  Your goal should be to push, pull, carry, or flip the weight/object for a certain number of repetitions in a defined period of time, or achieve a maximum distance in that time.

For example, a Sled Drag could be done with different distances for a designated time period (e.g., 5 minutes for multiple sets) or you would track the time you achieved a certain distance, (e.g., 2000m total, 1000m total, 500m, etc. based on your sport-specific demands (e.g., 2000m total, 1000m total, 500m, etc. based on your sport-specific demands) or add up the total amount of distance you’ve covered over a period of time (e.g., total meters completed with a % of bodyweight up to bodyweight for X minutes, based on your sport or activity).

This is how you increase work capacity for your sport.

The moves:

Push: You put your entire body, arms extended, into pushing a weighted object. You get behind something and push it. I prefer pushing a car in an empty parking lot (all you need is a car and an empty parking lot to make this happen). Prowlers and sleds with pushing arms are also useful tools and versatile. A sled is an investment I recommend making.

Pull: Simply, the opposite of pushing. Anchor a rope or chains to an object and pull it towards you. Tires are free and perfect for this. Variations include using upper body only, using your legs concurrently with pulling muscles. 

Hoist: Picking a heavy object from the floor to chest/shoulder length.
Typical tools include a heavy sandbag, log, atlas stone, single dumbbell, or other odd objects. You must lift with your legs, lower back, hips, glutes, and upper body

This is the “power chain”. You will not be able to transfer enough force into the object to move it if you don’t have a simultaneous contraction. This move will force your Central Nervous System (CNS) to fire more rapidly than others due to the demanding nature.

Carry : In my opinion, this is the “Grandfather” of all Strength Athlete drills. There is nothing more basic then picking something up and carrying it. It tests every muscle from head to toe, concurrently. Pick the object of choice up and carry it. It is a unique challenge to your entire body and your ability to breathe. Farmer’s carry variations with a trap bar, plates, tires, and heavy bags are examples. Also, bear hug, Zercher and overhead carries with a sandbag, have major transfer properties to grappling-based sports. Wheelbarrow pushing is also a variation of carrying a heavy object with 2 hands.

Flip: Tires or other heavy objects like a loaded sandbag. Getting under the object and using force into the object to flip it over.

Drag: Refers to the act of walking/sprinting with a weighted drag behind you, like a sled or tire.  Sprint mechanics are typically used in this movement. Power walking, heel to toe, per Westside methods, are also preferred for improving your ability to produce force into the ground, which is the basis for all explosive athletic movements.

Lift: Lifting is a broad category that includes Overload lifts, Olympic Lifts, and Odd-Object Lifts. These types of lifts challenge you in many different ways.

  • They are a mental challenge. They can psyche you out if you let them.
  • They are very useful for developing intra-abdominal pressure capabilities
    and trunk integrity.
  • Plus they stroke the ego since they allow you to handle a lot of weight.
  • They require tremendous coordination of the entire body.
  • They typically involve a significant hip-hinge movement to support power-generation throughout your body.

The Top 3

If you are going to start with any three drills, I prefer:

  1. The Carry
  2. The Drag
  3. The Lift

For objects, I recommend:

  1. A Sandbag: Building a sandbag is the only work you would need to do. It’s a cheap and effective workout aid. If you need instructions to build one, just look for “sandbag workout DIY” and you’ll find plenty of options.
  2. A heavy dumbbell or kettlebell: A heavy dumbbell can be made or purchased. Kettlebells will need to be purchased and are also very versatile. I recommend using Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to get these.
  3. A tire as your sled: Tires can be obtained free from any garage. Go and ask them if they have any and they will be happy to give them to you. They pay to dispose of them so you are doing them a favor.

For the top three training protocols to start, I recommend:

  1. Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM): This is my favorite method for learning a new drill. Pick the exercise. Perform it for 5-15 seconds (just a few reps) and let the clock tick and recover for the rest of the minute. Repeat this until you accumulate 20 – 40 quality reps (this amount depends on the attributes of your sporting event and strain of the exercise selected). Explosive Strength is an ideal strength to concentrate on when doing EMOMs. For example, 2-3 box jumps at 70-80% of your 1RM height would be a useful exercise. Another would be a heavy dumbbell snatch using a weight between 70-80%o of your 1RM. This is an ideal protocol for baseball players where plays are often quick, anaerobic bursts followed by longer rest.
  2. Rep Quantity Goal (Total Reps for Time): This is a great option to work on sustaining your explosive qualities. Using the time period of your athletic event (e.g., times sparring rounds, quarters in football, periods in basketball, etc.) will allow you to train for your sport-specific time demands. Keep track of the total reps and time you performed them in to work towards surpassing them.
  3. Distance Goal (Total Distance Covered for Time): This works particularly well for carries, sprints, and sled drags. For the carries and sled drags, once again, replicating your sport-specific demands is highly desirable. For example, I recommend that grapplers use a combination of implements during carrying and sled dragging to use the amount of bodyweight of a typical opponent. For example, A 150lb athlete can use 2x45lb plates on a sled while wearing a 30 lb weighted vest and carrying a 30 lb medicine ball. This combination will challenge the athlete to move the weight of their opponent for a designated time. You can track the total distance you cover as a goal to keep surpassing.

Keep things simple, and just work hard. Don’t over-analyze or over think when you can just pick up a weight, carry it for time or distance and get better at that simple task.

I’m done rolling with big guys

I’m done rolling with big guys

This was the post of someone that was tired of training and getting injured. I came across this frustrated “rant” on reddit (r/bjj).

The post was titled “I’m done rolling with bug guys”. Here is an excerpt of the post below:

“I can’t catch a break. If I have to roll with White/blue belts that have me by 50-60 pounds I always get hurt, it never fails. Its like the spazziest (not sure that’s a word) big guys in the world train at my gym.”

After thinking about his challenge, I responded with what I thought was something we can and have all faced at one time or another.

In fact, if I look back at my time training, without a doubt I have been injured the most when I was a while/blue belt and I trained with other white/blue belts that had very little in the way of technique.

Lowest Common Denominator

This is more of a white belt general statement than it is a heavyweight training partner statement.

When you don’t have any technique to rely on, we will always rely on our next most reliable asset or attribute.

For some it is strength or our size. Others flexibility. And others, explosiveness.

It is human instinct to revert to the tools we have in our toolbox. The problem, is that if we train to rely on the attributes, then we never develop the technique we need to be our primary method of battle.

It’s the equivalent of having to throw a punch after getting in a verbal confrontation with someone. Without an extensive vocabulary, punching becomes the only way we can defend our ego.

It’s a shitty way to go through life. Dealing with tough situations in life will come. You can’t punch all of them in the mouth to victory.

That’s a fixed mindset mentality to growing as a human. You need more tools and technique in your toolkit.

How to Deal With Larger Opponents

This is the best time to training the foundation of your Jiujitsu. You should focus on Surviving before you Defend; Defending before you Escape or Sweep; and Escaping or Sweeping before you try to turn offensive and Control and Submit.

Its valuable use of your training time to work on surviving, defending and escaping especially against larger training partners. In fact, depending on your opponent you may need to move up or down the hierarchy to focus on your skills. For example, if you are facing a new white belt in class with no skill or physical attributes to help them, you may decide to work on your sweeps, control, or submissions. Against your instructor? You’ll need to move back to the foundation of surviving and defending. This is a useful guide to support optimizing your training efforts.

Often times, we haphazardly train with no order, only chaos to “win” every training session. Well, a win in my book is surviving the attacks of your skilled classmates, or hitting that sweep you’ve been working on against a peer.

Rickson Gracie has said, “if you are not comfortable to deal with an opponent 50 lbs heavier than you, there is something wrong with your JiuJitsu.”

Unless you only train Sport JiuJitsu, this my not resonate with you. However, it is a true statement. In a self-defense scenario, you don’t get to pick your opponents size, skill level, or bad intentions. Surviving, defending, and escaping are most important to train for for this reason.

That spazzy white belt is more likely to simulate a street encounter than they are likely to out point you in a tournament because their skill level is more attribute based (strength and size) than it is based in JiuJitsu technique.

Keep this in mind. JiuJitsu is JiuJitsu. Everybody applies techniques differently based on their understanding of the art, their body, their individual strengths and weaknesses. JiuJitsu has the answers to many of the challenges you face, you just need to believe that and figure out how to apply it. Have full faith in the art and don’t put any limits on its effectiveness to help you with your challenges.

As we age, our physical attributes will diminish over time. Therefore, we should strive to grasp training with technique over anything else, now, while we can absorb the lessons from a mind/muscle connection and understand how to decompose the skills and techniques needed to execute them with leverage and efficiency.

Let me know how your progressing in your journey.

Starting a Jiujitsu Business & Website

Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.

HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM started in 2015. I spent countless hours in the early morning and late at night thinking through my life-long lessons in strength training and Jiujitsu training to build out content for the website and develop my first training program, the DRILLSKILL Jiujitsu Player workout manual.




Also, Poolesville Self Defense opened its doors in September 2017. We now have over 100+ students and growing. We’ve moved locations twice to grow, and we have instructors helping out.


None of this happened overnight. There was a long path to getting here. Every experience contributed in some way.

I thought I would capture some of what had to happen in order to get to this point so that it can serve as a reminder of the journey, and show others that whatever they feel like accomplishing is within their grasp.

Here is the summary version of what I feel was vital to the success of getting a program off the ground:


First, my “resume’ of experience. I didn’t pick up one book and get started. There was a lifetime of learning behind the actual programs and curriculum we developed:

  • 25+ years of experience in strength training, writing programs, and training others
  • 20+ years of Boxing experience
  • 15+ years of Brazilian Jiujitsu experience
  • 20+ years as a professional services consultant (helpful when structuring the business, negotiating contracts and rent, selecting equipment suppliers, hiring trainers, etc.

Trusted Partner

I started training others in Jiujitsu from my home on 2016. I quickly had 8-12 students and was book-ending work with early morning and late evening sessions. This became unsustainable and impractical.

At the same time, I had a good friend, training partner, and BJJ black belt Ray Castro (www.rpcfitness.com) tell me that he was changing careers. After 20 years as a CPA, he was done. He was going to pursue what made him happy and get certified in personal training and begin his journey. His skills in accounting and taxation also became assets to our business as we were getting started.

Image result for ray castro rpcfitnessImage result for poolesville jiujitsuThankfully, his interests and mine align. We both are lifelong strength and conditioning enthusiasts as well as BJJ training partners.

I told him there could be an opportunity to team up/partner on opening a Jiujitsu/Self-Defense school in Poolesville, MD where I live. Running a program by myself out of my house was a limiting return on investment on my time.

We formed a partnership.  Like the Hart Foundation.

hart foundation wwe hall of fame 2019 bret hart iim neidhart

Then we got to work. Some of the things we had to do included:

  • Find students: We used Facebook to gauge interest. Other than the 8-12 people I had training with me, we needed to see if there was enough demand in the area to open a school. We offered a women’s self defense seminar over several weekends in the summer and happily received 70+ interested responses.
  • Find a place to run classes: We rented space from a local yoga studio. This worked out for several reasons, primarily the rent was more affordable than any other location in town, they had martial arts style mats already, and it was out of my house!
  • Create a curriculum: With our combination of experience, what services should we provide? How many days should we schedule for training? How many students would we have? All unknown at the time we started but inter-dependent.
  • Find mats: The yoga studio was ideal because they had mats! Mats are one of the larger expenses in getting started, so we needed to make enough money to buy our own eventually.
  • Open the business entity: We needed to decide on a legal entity and partnership to run the business.
  • Obtain liability insurance: Another expense, but mandatory if you will be training others or providing an environment that people will train.
  • Build a brand and marketing material: We had to create the name, logo, and develop marketing material. We posted flyers at every local business around town for an open house.
  • Go: We set a date to open and we’ve been running ever since.

There are so many cool things that come from this. Seeing students progress is at the top of the list. The skill development, social network, and confidence they are building is the best part of teaching and running your own school. This helps you determine the ongoing skill development needs of the students so you can improve on your instruction and curriculum.

New Business Challenges

Now we  have the good fortune to bring the best possible instruction and experience to our students. We’re looking forward for the next opportunity…new business challenges.

  • Student retention
  • Improving instruction
  • Expanding services
  • Adding new classes
  • Adding 24 x 7 access
  • Planning for a new location

There are many details every day that make the difference and decisions that need to be made about your business that can not be shared in one article. I’ll be sure to share more as we continue on this journey. In the meantime if you have questions just reach out.

3 Tools to Improve Your Training Program

Are You Puzzled?

How do you intend to reach your BJJ and fitness goals? Train? Think about training? Then Train more?  Good start.  But what are you going to train? When? Why? How much? With what frequency and intensity? How do you track your progress?

Many people get stuck developing their personal program.  I’ve written before about setting goals, and shared my own personal goals with you.  BJJ is the primary “anchor” by which all of my other training goals will be hitched.  My strength training, conditioning, mobility, flexibility, and other “puzzle pieces” all are intended to develop and enhance my strengths and shore up my weaknesses on the mat.

Let’s start by laying out a potential week in my plan.

Sunday a.m. Jump Rope

p.m. Strength Training + Isometrics

Monday a.m. BJJ + Grappling Drills + Finisher +  Flexibility
Tuesday a.m. Metabolic Conditioning

p.m. Mobility + Core

Wednesday a.m. BJJ + Grappling Drills + Grips + Flexibility
Thursday a.m. Weighted Walking

p.m. Strength Training + Isometrics

Friday a.m. BJJ + Grappling Drills

p.m. Grips + Flexibility

Saturday a.m. Metabolic Conditioning + Core

The starting point to filling out the schedule is that I emphasize my highest priority items first.  I will train BJJ or No GI minimally two times per week. I will also do two Strength Training and Metabolic Conditioning sessions each week.  Those are non-negotiable.

BJJ and No GI are usually on opposite days at my academy (M/W/F).  Next, adding in my Strength Training (Su/Th) on opposite days and separating those workouts by at least 2 days gives me adequate recovery for my BJJ sessions and my other more demanding sessions of the week. The same applies to Metabolic Conditioning (Tu/Sa). I like to do them as a dedicated session to improve aerobic/anaerobic capacity and work on other important grappling attributes (carrying heavy objects, jumping, throwing, sprinting, pushing, pulling, etc.).  After staggering these workouts in my week, I’ll add in all my other specific targets to work on.  Because my target goals are complementary and fit together (like puzzle pieces) it makes sense to work on them together.  I illustrate this below in the section about “Bundling” workouts.

Weekly Punch Card

One tool I like to use is a weekly “Punch Card”.  It’s simple and flexible and lets me prioritize my training.  Here’s how I use it.  As I mentioned above, BJJ, Strength Training, and Metabolic Conditioning workouts are non-negotiable workouts added to the template first and then I add and categorize the other target areas based on where they complement by primary focus area.  I strive to complete all workouts (punch the card) in the first two columns every week.  I target a minimum of two sessions a week to work on them.  This should be enough that, over the course of a year, I am able to measure and see demonstrable progress.  My main focus with this tool is verifying that I am completing my most important workouts of the week.  Here is an example of my last week of training below.

HWBJJ Focus Areas Weekly Punch Card Optional Training
BJJ training BJJ/No GI BJJ/No GI BJJ or No GI
Strength Training Strength Training Strength Training Strength Training
Grips Grips
– Rollouts
– Mixed
Isometrics Isometrics

Metabolic Conditioning



Jump Throw Sprint (Intervals)

(Explosive speed focus)

Push/Pull/Carry (Strongman drill focus. Total Rep focus)
Finisher Finisher Wildcard
Grappling Drills Grappling Drills Wildcard
Mobility & Flexibility Handstand Back bridge Wildcard
         Yoga Yoga Wildcard
Recovery Jump Rope or Weighted Walking or Foam Roller Jump Rope or Weighted Walking or Foam Roller Wildcard



Not Completed

The last column is an “optional” column that I will use to enhance certain “feelings” I get when training.  If I have a rare opportunity to squeeze in another BJJ session during the week, I’m going to do it and potentially take something else come off the list.  If I find, for example, I am really experiencing rapid gains on my Deadlift (a goal of mine this year) and I want to prioritize my strength training even more, I can add additional optional work to that column and reduce (i.e., put on maintenance) or remove other items to reshape my focus for my goal.

The bottom line is, I always try to accomplish the first two columns worth of workouts in my plan and I have flexibility to adapt my plan based on feedback from my body and whether I’m making progress toward my goals.  In order to make the most of my training sessions, I prefer using two different techniques that are easy to implement: Bundling and Bite-sized workouts.

Bundling workouts

“Bundling” is a term I use to simply refer to doing more than one thing within my training window.  Workouts primarily center on one area, such as BJJ, Strength Training, or Metabolic Conditioning.  Very rarely will I perform both types of workouts together, or on the same day.  It has happened, as I like to experiment to see what my body responds to. However I often find my joints are too sore from BJJ training to put full effort into a Strength or Metabolic session.

I usually train BJJ in the late morning/early afternoon.  In order to prepare for the session, often I will use Grappling drills, or a Yoga sequence to loosen up my joints, muscles, and get blood and oxygen flowing. Grappling drills are often a part of our BJJ session warm-ups as well.  After the BJJ session, I will very often spend an additional 10-20 minutes performing more Grappling drills.  I will also very often perform a Finisher.  Finishers are a way to blast through plateaus; mental and physical.  You’ll often be fatigued after a challenging BJJ session.  Making the effort to perform 10-20 wind sprints, bodyweight GPP, tire flips, heavy bag carries, sledgehammer swings, etc., will accumulate monster benefits over time.  Extra rolling sessions after class can often give you an extra test as well to finish off your workout.  At the end, I’ll also use yoga sequences to try to improve my flexibility, while the body is already warm.  Another option is to add core or grip-specific work at the end of your BJJ training.  In this manner, I end up bundling anywhere from 2-4 different training needs together, which is an efficient option when your number of training days during the week is limited.  An example session might look like this:

Warm-up (Grappling drills) 10 min
BJJ-specific training (drilling, technique, rolling) 60 min
Finisher (e.g., Tire flips, sprints, extra rolling) 10 min
Yoga sequence (for explosive strength) 10 min
Total workout time 90 min
Total target areas worked 4

With at least 22 target areas to train each week, getting 4 checked off my punch card in one training session is a step in the right direction.

 Bite-sized workouts

“Bite-sized” refers to having a focused mini-workout to perform.  I purposefully keep these sessions brief so my focus can be strong and reserve them for when I’m pressed for time (e.g., I have a 5-10 minute window).  The beauty of these is that you can spread them out throughout the day and really accumulate progress if you stick with it.  Grip work is a great candidate for these workouts.  I often carry a few tools with me and use them throughout the day.

I’ll sit in my car, in the office, or even in meetings and use these tools all day long.  The Pinky ball is a great tool for working individual finger strength. It’s primarily an isometric strength tool (i.e., you’ll hold it for time as you fight the compressed rubber that’s fighting you back).  Any corner store should carry these and they are as portable as it gets.  A quick Google search returns many options.

Pinky balls: (http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=super+pinky+balls&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=60682165032&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2459871253142707371&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_11wm4t9ku5_b)

The captain of crush grippers are great for overall hand squeezing strength. They typically come in a set with increasing levels of difficulty.  They will be hard to outgrow.

Captain of Crush: (http://www.captainsofcrushgrippers.com/)

Note: I have no affiliation with any of these products.

Bodyweight-only work is also a good option to do in bites.  20 pushups and 20 squats performed every hour you’re awake adds up fast – you’ll log in hundreds of reps.  Another option is isometric work.  You can almost always find a door jam to push against or pull against from multiple angles.  Ross Enamait of www.rosstraining.com has been a big proponent of these types of options, whether you are at home, in the car, in the office, etc.  You can do work anywhere. You can see great examples from him at his website and in the video below.

The takeaway is this. Your program shouldn’t be a box of loose and unmatched puzzle pieces.  Use a few simple techniques to “anchor” your program, organize it, prioritize it, and put it together.


If you have questions about details of my program or your own program, leave them in the comments below, email me at heavyweightbjj@gmail.com.

Training Intensity

There’s a time and place for everything

Time to paint a picture with the time machine.In my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s I focused on doing a TON of weight training.The “Iron bug” bit me before the “jiu-jitsu bug” had!I had to have the moon and stars align like the Ultimate Warrior in order to go to the weight room and make sure my workout was adequately intense.ultimate-warrior

My mindset back then was, “I want the most return on my training as possible.” This meant using high-intensity training techniques, as much weight as I could possibly handle, and doing it “right” as quickly as possible.

I had a very long, daily, pre-workout ritual. It looked like this:

  1. Start brewing coffee. Full pot. Very strong.
  2. Crank up the music in the house. Heavy metal or……Dance Mix (it was the ’90’s!)
  3. Turn on the TV full blast. Simpsons reruns.
  4. Pull out the stack of FLEX magazines.
  5. Start drinking coffee. For 30-60 minutes.
  6. Visualize the entire workout in my head, over and over.
  7. Finally. Head to the gym.

End to end, this pre-workout process took at least an hour. Often longer. But it was basically already completed. It was like turning on the TV and hitting play on your favorite show – it was already a done deal.

Intensity of The Workouts 

Dorian Yates and before him, Mike Mentzer (and before him Arthur Jones) were against the grain trainers/bodybuilders that promoted High Intensity Training.

The idea….hit the muscle with as much intensity as possible in one set. There is little need to do more than one set of the same exercises if you’ve “hit the nail with the hammer and it went in” (I’m paraphrasing here).

That one set, however, was NOT a typical set of 10 reps lifting (concentric focus only).

It was a BALLS OUT effort that required your brain and body to fire together with RELENTLESS INTENSITY until your MIND OVERTOOK YOUR BODY’s PERFORMANCE.

Here is an example set:

  • Do a few warm up sets (~2-4). Grease the groove. Get your mentality right. Weights ~60-70% 1RM.
  • STRENGTH training was 1-5 reps. SIZE was 6-12 reps.
  • GO!
  • LIFT and LOWER under control (3-5 seconds). EXPLODE on the way UP.
  • Have your partner help with 2-3 forced reps (not every lift. Don’t try this with Squats or Dead’s)
  • Then SLOWLY do 1-2 reps lowering the weight ONLY.

These sets could last well over a minute. I made some of my best GAINS in STRENGTH & SIZE with this training.

Why am I sharing this story?

Because there are lessons to learn that I’ve look back on now and use ALL THE TIME for creating success on and off the mat.

This style of training was GREAT for developing me in several areas:

  1. Setting daily goals (and longer term goals).
  2. Creating INTENSE focus and relentless pursuit towards goals (read DISCIPLINE).
  3. Learning to visualize and achieve things.
  4. Learning to work HARD and putting in ALL the work.
  5. Challenging myself to work beyond my current (perceived) capabilities (read Testing Your Limits)

I’ve discussed #4 before in my article 3 Tips to Sharpen Your Skills. Check it out.

If we practice with purpose to develop better training habits, we will perform better when it counts.  Sometimes,  that means taking your training to an uncomfortable level. Uncomfortable is a relative term, as what is hard for some trainees may be a warm-up for others.  Watch this video from Marcelo Garcia as he demonstrates this concept very well.

Use training intensity changes to test yourself and your limits at different times. You don’t need to do it every training session, but it is mandatory if you want to know what you are capable of.

There’s a time and place for everything. 

Fighting Frankenstein: 2 Mobility Drills for Jiujitsu

I’m not the most flexible guy. I’m not known for going inverted or even playing much butterfly (my poor knees!).  I have arthritic conditions due to an autoimmune disease, so I am always looking for ways to minimize my joint damage and improve my mobility and flexibility.

Enter Phillip Chubb.

Phillip has been a training partner of mine for the better part of 10 years. He has been studying multiple disciplines since I’ve known him. It’s his passion and how he makes his living.  In addition to holding a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a Black Belt in Personal Defense Systems (PDS) under Mike Moses, Phillip has been devoting years of study to body mechanics, movement, strength training, muscle growth, gymnastics, dance, floreio, and many others.

I’m over 230 lb, so flexibility and mobility has never been a strong attribute of mine. I approached Phil with the idea to show me a couple of moves that I could use to help my tightness before Jiu-Jitsu training. This nicely worked into a collaboration to write a companion article for our community here at HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.  Without hesitation, Phil agreed.

He and his wife Martina have assembled a fantastic online service and community around all things to improve human performance.

Check them out at the Mindful Mover.


2 Drills For Tight Jiu-Jitsu Players (by Phillip Chubb)

As Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners, and even other grappling based arts, we all want to get better and stay far away from injuries. Getting better means improving our skills and learning new ones. We have to continue to learn new techniques while perfecting our old ones to improve our martial art abilities. We also want to stay injury free as this will let us stay on the mat and keep improving.

This article is going to help you do that by helping you work on your mobility.

Mobility is your ability to use your flexibility. So not only your ability to stretch, but how well you can get into it and use it. It’s makes a direct carryover to your BJJ practice and, if done right, can both improve your skills and keep you safe in case of accidents. Being able to bend and move well allow you to enter different types of attack and defense options.

For a good example of this, you just need to look into a series like Eddie Bravo’s Rubber guard. If you look at the positions, it’s easy to see how proper flexibility and mobility training can help you learn a new series with more ease and open up new options to attack with.

On the other hand, good mobility can also save you from injuries. How many times have we seen someone’s knee bend the wrong way on a takedown or a leg entanglement? How many of these accidents could have been prevented if the injured person had just a bit more mobility. Sometimes that mobility can be the difference between an escape and a tap. And sometimes it can be the difference between a tap and an injure that sidelines you for months.

Like the phrase says, “A penny saved is a penny earn and an ounce of prevention is worth more than a gallon of the cure”. By preventing injuries in the first place, you get more time to train and improve which helps you reach your BJJ goals faster. Since most BJJ practitioners find their time is limited already due to spending time on the mats, we are going to work on two stretches that provide a lot of return on the time you invest in them.

Those two are the internal rotation stretch and the pigeon stretch.

The internal rotation stretch can be done seated on the ground as its easiest form, in a crab position as an intermediate, and squatting as an advanced variation. You’ll simply try to bring the knee from a vertical position the ground in front of you. This stretch opens up a range of motion that is often seen in Leg entanglements and various takedowns. Being able to enter this range safely will help prevent injuries when these positions do occur and the best part is it can be done anytime. Right before training or even while watching T.V are perfectly good times to do a set of twenty of these with a ten second hold on the last rep. These are great to help prevent knee injuries and make sure your knees and hips are safer on the mats while working takedowns and leg locks.


The other stretch we have is a modified Pigeon Stretch from yoga. Maintain a flat back while doing this and keep your hands off the ground. This keeps the stretch on the hips and keeping your hands off the ground lets you build strength in that position. The strength built here is great for opening up new attack options like rubber guard. But it is also great for helping your hips stay mobile in cases like being stacked after a failed triangle or armbar attempt.

Having this mobility before you end up in such a bad position can help you stay injury free when you end up in it. With these two stretches, you can easily increase your range of motion and surprise your training partners and opponents with some new attacks while staying on the mat and injury-free!

Work your mobility and see how you gain new abilities and options in your BJJ practice!

Blue Collar Grips

Do you want to have the strongest grip in your academy?Use the tools of the trade of the blue collar worker.handshand-photography-mechanic-photography
The strongest grips I deal with are skilled laborers that work with their hands – plumbers, mechanics, electricians, construction workers, etc.These folks expend an exceptional amount of effort using their hands, wrists, forearms, arm muscles, shoulders and back muscles. This gives them an incredibly frustrating grip to deal with and a major advantage when trying to gain control of their opponent.It doesn’t matter if they train in the GI or NOGI; they have a tool in their toolkit that most don’t possess.Imagine this: When you establish grips, you gain a significant control advantage over your opponent. You’re now in possession of their ability to move out of your grasp.
What you do next is entirely up to you.This goes for guard passing, initiating and controlling the clinch, and executing takedowns, sweeps and submission holds.What can we learn? Add the tools of manual labor-based tools and workouts to your program.Do them consistently year round. The benefits accumulate over time.img_9479Here is a sample grip-focused workout to give you an idea of what to perform. Add this to the end of a Strength Training or grappling session to exhaust your grips.

1. 1 minute Sledgehammer Swings into Tire (16# sledge). Alternate every 10 swings.

2. 1 minute Fingertip Farmer’s Carry (45# plates)

3. Rest 30-60 seconds. Repeat for 5 Rounds

More to come on GRIP training!

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