| | Bring The Hammer to a BJJ Fight

Author / John Durrett

5-7 minute read

I’ve been a martial artist for 25 years. In that time, I’ve had the honor of training in a variety of styles under a multitude of talented, passionate instructors. At a certain point, I began to think I knew the “kind of person” drawn to a specific martial art. I’d find a certain personality in the boxer, the kung-fu practitioner, the judoka. However, over the last several years, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) continues to surprise me. I see all types of people signing up for it. As the co-owner of a mixed martial arts gym, I’m constantly shocked at who walks through the door to take our BJJ classes, and I’m equally surprised at who becomes competitive with it. It is one of the coolest, most unique aspects of that particular art. The competitive nature of the sport, as well as the wide audience, raises an interesting challenge: how does one best augment their BJJ training in the weight room?

I’m going to convince you, my fellow grappler, that you must train like an athlete. Not just any athlete mind you: a Power Athlete. Of the many tracks offered by Power Athlete, Grindstone is the stand-out option for the BJJ practitioner.

Why Can’t I Just Choke People?

First, let’s look at the need for a secondary training stimulus for the martial artist. Is there one? Our sport has conditioning built in. You have to be in shape to excel, and you learn that very quickly when you begin training. Most schools, including my own, begin class with a technical portion before entering into several rounds of competitive bouts, aka “rolling” or “sparring”. This is the epitome of sport-specific training, and athletes will build their conditioning as they train more frequently. BJJ is also a resistance-based martial art, especially at first. Many people notice that when they begin, they get stronger. Their muscles are sore after training, and their grip and explosiveness improve. BJJ is a highly technical art. Matches are often won by the person with better technique, regardless of which athlete is stronger or in better shape. It is worth noting, however, that with technique being equal, the athlete who is stronger and better conditioned will prevail.

The key component in both of these  examples is the principle of adaptation. Sure, over your first few months of BJJ you’ll notice yourself getting stronger and your  aerobic capacity will grow, too. However, eventually these stimuli alone won’t be enough to drive improvement. What’s worse, the more your technique grows and the better you get at BJJ, the less effort you’ll have to exert when grappling. I often see athletic blue and purple belts get a little pudgy as they ascend in rank, with BJJ no longer bringing the same kind of stimulus. When this happens, one of our best choices is to turn towards the weight room, where we are able to push ourselves into tough situations. Adding a strength and conditioning program can make you a tougher, more explosive and resilient opponent.

Why We Lift Weights

There are several reasons we lift weights, and all of them are beneficial to grapplers. First and foremost, joints that lift weights are strong joints. Bones that lift weights are strong bones. Muscles that lift weights are strong muscles. Nothing sidelines or ends a grappling career the way an injury does. Weight training makes your body significantly more resilient to the rigors of the art. Fewer injuries means more time on the mats doing what you love and getting better. Lifting weights also allows us to accrue time under tension, reinforcing posture and position. In short, your body learns how to handle resistance while maintaining the shapes and positions you want it to have. This is crucial for the defensive aspect of grappling. Finally, Power Athlete does one very unique thing in their programming that you want above all else, especially when you take off the gi for some submission grappling. We lift weights fast! Our lifting is speed-driven. It’s not just about how much you lift, but how you lift and how fast it’s moving. In addition, Power Athlete employs several methods of lifting that address the muscular and nervous system. This co-development means that, in addition to getting stronger, you’re getting faster and more explosive. This style of training is unlikely to pack on tons of relatively useless muscle mass and will help you get leaner so you fit better into the weight class that’s right for your body.

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Who Has The Time?

The only issue we have left now is time management. You don’t have an unlimited amount of time to train. You want to put as many hours in on the mats as you can so that your technique improves, but you also need to be able to increase your strength and conditioning.

This is what makes Grindstone such a perfect program for the martial artist. As Power Athlete’s famous “flex program”, Grindstone operates with only two mandatory days of training a week, totaling anywhere from one and a half to three hours of training time. You read that right. By focusing on developing athleticism and prioritizing movements designed to build only what you need and nothing you don’t, you’re able to build a stronger, faster, more powerful body to put your martial arts skills on full display. This kind of schedule is achievable for anyone, even those of you working hard all day and coming home to some rambunctious kids. Do you have more time to lift? Grindstone easily expands with recommended days, focusing even more on your conditioning. This not only allows you to increase your training volume in a customizable way, it provides the most important things for your continued growth and development. This ensures you make the best choices possible for your training, like choosing to hit a voluntary workout or spending a little extra time at an open mat where you have some really good training partners.

Grindstone, like all Power Athlete programs, focuses on the development and maintenance of posture and position against opposing forces. Sounds a lot like BJJ, doesn’t it? With focuses on hip drive, grip strength development, and power development, this athletic training style is an ideal fit. Grindstone also offers plenty of important accessory movements that make your body more resilient: lifting weights doesn’t just make you a more powerful combatant, it also helps your body stave off wear and tear. Too many times I’ve seen injuries on the mats that could have been avoided by a proper strength and conditioning program. Last, but certainly not least, Grindstone doesn’t beat you up. With less volume than many other programs, you’ll end up saving your body to perform where it needs to.

Over the years, I’ve seen a ton of different solutions presented for this on internet forums, social media posts, and I’ve heard a ton of ideas passed around the mats. Some suggest training like an Olympic Weightlifter, but this is far too taxing on joints that are already under distress from grappling, and it doesn’t address the conditioning factor. Others suggest bodybuilding, as it can bulk up your physique and aid in your sport performance. However, what use is all that muscle if it can’t hustle? Finally, CrossFit is often offered up as a solution, but the random style of training and high strain on the nervous system just aren’t suited for martial arts. 

Ready For Action

Now comes the time for proof. When you learn a new technique in class, you try it out a few times, and then you bring it into your rolling to see if it works for you. Power Athlete is ready to give you the same opportunity with their Grindstone program. You can try it, risk free, for 7 days. Plenty of the martial artists at my gym have tried Grindstone and loved it, myself included. It’s time for you to be a part of that group and to add a new secret weapon to your martial arts training.

TRY GRINDSTONE NOW: 7 Days Risk Free Trial

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John Durrett

John is a Coach at Underdog Mixed Martial Arts in West Hartford, CT, where he teaches both martial arts and strength & conditioning. For over a decade, Underdog has built several professional fighters, even sending some to the UFC and Bellator. John began training martial arts at a traditional Karate dojo at the age of 6 years old. This was the start of a lifelong journey which has seen him log countless hours in a myriad of styles, including Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kali, Eskrima, and Jeet Kune Do. In addition, John has spent over a decade working as a professional strength and conditioning coach, coaching at the High School and D-III Collegiate Level. Along with over a dozen other certifications, he holds the distinction of being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA and is honored to be counted as a Power Athlete Block One Coach. He is intensely passionate about empowering athletes to find their max potential and explore their body’s unique capacity for the martial arts.


  1. William W Radebaugh on September 23, 2020 at 12:46 am

    I’m currently a Marine, LEO, and BJJ/Combatives practioner who utilizes HAMR for my S&C. I can see where Grindstone might be the better solution for the everyday Joe or even a competitive BJJ practitioner that has a limited schedule. I have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to fit in all of my training, stretching, work, rest, family time, etc; but my life and the lives of others depend on it. If that’s not where you’re at in the world, don’t stretch yourself so thin.

    • coachdurrett on September 24, 2020 at 11:17 am

      It’s admirable that you make your training such a big priority, Will! If things ever get overwhelming, Grindstone is still a great option, even as a temporary program. You made a great point here; we shouldn’t do more than we can recover from. As long as you’re handling the volume well, keep on HAMRing!

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