Workout Ideas

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In Multi-Purpose Training, I discussed how workout programs are essentially puzzle pieces that you must assemble together while anchoring the whole program to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The movements you add to your program should have purpose. The main goal of your workouts should be to get carry-over performance on the mat. When you include specific drills into your conditioning sessions, you’ll be drilling techniques and skills more frequently, which will improve your efficiency and effectiveness when its needed the most.

Your body is a complex machine capable of amazing feats. This article will expand on the concept into developing “basic functionality” of the human animal and “source-code” programming for the elite athlete.   (Editors Note: Sorry – I like my tech-buzzwords).

I’ll be discussing three categories of drills that I include in my sessions:

1) Fundamental Athletic drills

2) Strength Athlete drills, and

3) Combat Athlete drills.

Together these form the crux of the DRILLSKILL Program.

Fundamental Athletic Drills

Athlete movement characteristics are fundamental to most sports.  Nothing sexy here. These are fundamental building blocks of human movement.

BASIC DOES NOT MEAN SIMPLE! These are high-impact, high-energy consuming, demanding movements. Perform them to improve your overall athletic prowess.

In grappling-based sports, you need to generate tremendous amounts of speed and power to initiate and complete takedowns. That is unless you………don’t DO takedowns.


Some of the moves:

  1. Sprint – The fundamental athletic movement. Nothing tests your speed and power output like the sprint. I prefer shorter distances of 10/20/40 yards when including in a sequenced workout.  If I’m training for specificity or when trying to expand my aerobic/anaerobic capacity, distances will be 100m to 400m. Find a field hill, or stairs and get sprinting.
  2. Jump – Jumping and all its variations is great. Standing vertical jumps, hurdle jumps, broad jumps, lunge jumps, skier jumps, and power skips are some of the basics to use. For intervals targeting speed and power improvements, keep the repetitions to 5 or less, and 10 or more if targeting specificity in your anaerobic/aerobic conditioning.
  3. Throw – Throwing is an overlooked in strength and grappling programs. Anything that helps you generate force from the ground and through your trunk to create an explosive output from your upper body is useful on any combat sport. Throwing various sized medicine balls overhead behind you, in a twisting fashion, and chest/shoulder throw variations are all good for your program. Mix up the variations.


Strength Athlete Drills

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

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

The moves:

  1. Push – The prowler, a car, your minivan, sleds, floor glider/carpet loaded with weights, etc. You get behind something and push it.  There are lots of tutorials out there on how to build your own prowler or sled. I prefer pushing the car.  All you need is an empty parking lot.
  2. Pull – Simply, the opposite of pushing. Anchor a rope, chains, or some type of lengthy device to an object and pull it towards you. Variations include using upper body only, using your legs concurrently with pulling muscles. Here is a great idea way to build your own.
  3. Hoist – Picking a heavy object from the floor to chest/shoulder length. Typical tools include a heavy sandbag, log, atlas stone, or other odd objects.
  4. Carry – Pick the object of choice up and carry it. It is a unique challenge to your entire body and your ability to breath. Farmer’s carry variations with a trap bar, dumbbells, or plates are examples. Also, bearhug carries with a sandbag, weighted keg or swiss ball, have major mat-transfer properties. Ross Enamait has great write-ups on this specific topic that you should familiarize yourself.
  5. Flip – Tires or other heavy objects like a loaded sandbag. Getting under the object and using force to flip it over.
  6. 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.
  7. Lift – This category includes the Olympic lifts (i.e., cleans, jerks, snatch, and high pulls), as well as heavier, partial-repetition over-loaded lifts (e.g., partial deadlifts and squats).
  8. Swing –  This movement involves a significant hip-hinge movement. T-handle swings, or heavy “alley-oop” style throws are permissible.

Combat Athlete Drills

  1. Grapple – There are hundreds of grappling specific movements, and more when you add on-the-ground movements unique to BJJ.  Shrimping/hip escapes, bridging, guard recovery/guard passings, rolls, break falls, pummeling, takedown drills, are just some of the categories of different grappling based movements. You can find many different resources by just “Googling” grappling drills. This is a must-have category for BJJ players. Start here.
  2. Clinch (Knees and Elbows) – Clinching includes drills that address the area of combat when the distance has been closed and you are on your feet. Various drills to address different clinching styles found in Thai boxing, Greco Roman Wrestling and Folk Wrestling are grouped here.  Also, we add in the strikes that are most used in the clinch; knees and elbows, to round out your options.
  3. Slam – Pick something up, and using your whole body to generate force to slam it forcefully back to the ground.  Channel your inner Alexander Karelin here. Medicine balls, tires, burst-proof sandbags, or smaller heavybags are all useful. I’ll also classify sledgehammer swings into this category.  Heavier is not necessarily better for this exercise.  Rate of force development is what you want.
  4. Takedown – It takes a strong trunk to initiate and complete a takedown. Drills that focus on making someone leave their feet is the call for this area.
  5. Balance – Try to find a sport that doesn’t require your balance. In BJJ, you need to be comfortable with chaos on the feet, and working on your balance is a key weapon. Swiss balls, basketballs, larger medicine balls, and PVC pipes are all useful tools.
  6. Ground & Pound – After you’ve grounded your opponent by strikes or a takedown, you have a plethora of strikes to choose from, from the dominant positions (e.g., Mount, Side Mount, Rear Mount).
  7. Strike (Punch/Kick) – Having a heavy bag helps, but it isn’t a necessity. You can shadow box, keeping the combinations quick and explosive.  I like 4-count combinations for this purpose.  The possibilities are many. Here are example combos that you can use full power:
    • Jab + Cross + Left Hook + Right Cross
    • Jab + Cross + Left Hook + Right Hook
    • Jab + Cross + Left Hook (body) + Left Hook (head)
    • Rear Leg Kick + Left Hook + Right Cross + Rear Leg Kick
    • Lead Leg Kick + Right Cross + Left Hook + Rear Leg Kick
    • Rear Leg Knee + Left Elbow + Right Elbow + Left Leg Kick
    • If you don’t have a punching bag, you can use a tire. I made this video demonstration a few years ago with a tire and resistance bands

Sample Workouts

Here are a few example workouts to provide ideas.  Remember that these workouts are geared towards my current goals.  Modifications would need to be made to the weight, workout duration, total repetitions, rest periods, or all of the above depending on the outcome sought.

Workout #1: Jump/Slam/Punch


  • 10 min Grappling Drills – PVC Pipe Balance Board

Group 1: 3 sets each

  • Side Bends x 10
  • Plate Circles x 10
  • Plate Twists x 10

Group 2:

1 Round equals:

  • Sprawl + Jump x 5
  • Tire Slams x 5
  • Heavybag 4-count combos x 5 (20 total)
  • Change exercise each minute. Repeat for 10 Rounds

Workout #2: Throw/Punch/Grapple/Carry


  • 10 min Grappling Drills – Swiss Ball Knee on Belly Drill

Group 1:

1 Round equals:

  • Medicine ball side-to-side throws into heavybag x 5 per side (10 total)
  • Heavybag 4-count combos x 5 (20 total)
  • Headstand to Bridge Overs x 5
  • Farmers Carry x 40m (bodyweight) (approx. 20-30 seconds of effort)
  • Repeat for 8 rounds

Workout #3: Sprint/Slam/Jump/Pull


  • 10 min Grappling Drills – Single leg balance drill

Group 1:

1 Round equals:

  • 20 m sprint
  • Medicine ball slams x 7
  • Broad Jumps x 5
  • Sled Drag x 20m (approx. 10-20 seconds of effort)
  • Change exercise each minute. Repeat for 8 rounds.

If you would like a chance to win a FREE copy of the DRILLSKILL Workout Manual containing 100 workouts, fill out the form below.


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