Calisthenics For BJJ: Complete Jiu-Jitsu Bodyweight Conditioning Guide

Contrary to popular belief, BJJ isn’t all about technique. Ask any hardcore Jiu-Jitsu practitioner out there, and they’ll tell you that your strength and body conditioning matters a lot on the mats. 

When two fighters have the same level of technique and mastery in BJJ, it’s only a matter of who’s stronger mentally and physically. And doing calisthenics for BJJ is an excellent way to develop muscular strength and endurance.

Body conditioning and strength training in BJJ are far different from other sports. Calisthenics offers an easy, affordable, and effective way of getting you in top mat shape.

Before we tell you how you can build your strength, let’s talk about the important muscles you need to work on in BJJ first.

Important Muscles To Develop In BJJ – Calisthenics For BJJ

Important Muscles To Develop In BJJ - Calisthenics For BJJ

In general, BJJ develops the entire body’s muscles. However, there are three core groups that can improve completely. These are also the muscle groups that you need to focus on.

  • Upper Body – These include the biceps, triceps, shoulders, forearms, and hands. Most of the techniques in BJJ require the use of your arms. You have submissions, sweeps, takedowns, and even defenses. The forearms and hands, in particular, need a lot of focus as these let you have better-gripping strength.
  • Lower Body – For the lower body, what you should focus on are your legs. The legs are used for initiating explosive takedowns. It’s also vital for various techniques such as the triangle choke and the armbar, where you use your legs to pin your opponent’s forearm.
  • Core  The core involves your abdomen, hips, and lower back. Having great core strength means you’ll be able to become more explosive. It also helps with balance and your ability to finish takedowns.

The thing about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that big bodybuilder-type muscles are often a disadvantage against equally trained opponents. 

It makes your moves feel more restricted, and you also become less agile. Most importantly, however, having large muscles means you can tire out more quickly.

Instead of going for a bulky body, most BJJ fighters aim for a lean and cut build. This type of build allows for explosive strength and high muscle stamina, which are critical for Jiu-Jitsu.

Instead of weight lifting, several BJJ fighters prefer to achieve this physique and physical capacity through calisthenics.

Bodyweight exercise also offers the bonus of faster recovery between sessions. Heavy lifting will be pretty taxing to your body if done the wrong way. That’s why so many people choose to do calisthenics for BJJ.

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Calisthenics For BJJ – What Is Calisthenics? 

Calisthenics For BJJ

Calisthenics for BJJ is a protocol of strength training that involves large muscle groups. 

These exercises are performed with minimal equipment. Some great examples of calisthenics exercises include bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, and squats.

This type of exercise is well-known for developing strength and a solid physique. Overall, calisthenics for BJJ is excellent for beginners. 

It helps you develop the strength you need to perform most of the BJJ techniques.

BJJ Calisthenics Workout Samples

Let’s set you up with a few examples of a calisthenics workout routine for BJJ.

Jiu-Jitsu Calisthenics For Beginners

30 Push-ups

BJJ Calisthenics Workout Samples
Calisthenics for BJJ - Push-ups
Push ups

10 Pull-ups

Pull-ups. BJJ
Bodyweight BJJ workouts
If you can’t do pull-ups, you can try assisted pull-ups with a resistance band as a beginner.
Assisted Pull-Ups
Resistance Band Pull-Ups For Jiu-Jitsu

15 Hanging leg raises

Leg Rise Starting Position
Leg Rise

40 Bodyweight squats

Squat top position
Squat

1 minute Plank

Calisthenics For BJJ - Plank

This introductory workout routine targets most of the core muscle groups needed for BJJ. 

As you can see, these are all bodyweight workouts that you can pretty much do at home. 

Aim for two sets of these per day. After doing one set, you’ll notice how fast your breathing will be.

As you step up, add more reps and sets to the routine. Do this after BJJ training to develop a focus on your technique and sparring sessions throughout the class. 

You can also do this on your days off from the mats.

What If You’re Not Strong Enough For BJJ Calisthenics Yet?

If you don’t feel comfortable even with the most basic routines, don’t worry. You can still build up your strength. Try one of the following protocols.

Negative reps

Negative reps in calisthenics for BJJ are when you don’t focus on the concentric portion of the movement but on the lowering part of it in complete control.

A great example would be push-ups. You usually focus on pushing yourself away from the ground. 

You would start in tabletop position in a negative rep and slowly come down to the grown. After one controlled negative repetition, you would release and start from the top again.

Lower the number of reps

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t do 30 push-ups, try ten instead. The important thing is that you don’t go to your max just yet.

Try to hit about 70% of your maximum capacity to build up your power slowly. You want to train these movements often if possible, and that won’t happen if you’re sore all the time at first.

Hold the initial position

If you tried controlled negatives, lowered the amounts of reps, or just can’t even get one repetition yet. 

Your last option is to go to the initial position of the movement, hold it for a few seconds and then release.

If we take push-ups as an example, you would lock in a tabletop position and hold it there for 30 to 40 seconds. Another excellent alternative is changing the inclination angle of the push-up to make it easier.

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Intermedium Calisthenics Routine For BJJ

Here’s another good sample of a calisthenics workout. This time, it’s a bit more advanced:

10 Bulgarian split squat 

Bulgarian split squat
Bulgarian Split Squat Down Position

10 Single leg RDL

Single Leg RDL
Single Leg RDL Calisthenics For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

10 Pull-ups

Wide Grip Pull-ups
Pull-ups Upper Movement

10 Handstand shoulder press

Handstand Shoulder Presse
Handstand Shoulder Press

10 Hanging leg raises

Leg Rise Advanced
Intermedium Level Leg Rises

30 sec lower back power hold

Lower Back Power Hold

Aim for 2-3 sets when doing this Workout. As you can see, this type of routine also helps improve your explosiveness. 

The handstand and the lower back power hold help you develop your muscle stamina which is crucial for lasting long in BJJ.

Tips For Jiu-Jitsu Calisthenics

Calisthenics is a great way to develop your overall physique and conditioning for BJJ. However, you can make it better along the way. 

Remember that while great, it has its limitations. Here are a few essential tips to consider.

1. Less Limbs, Heavier Workout

Calisthenics is more about the mastery of your body weight than being able to weigh heavy items. To make your calisthenics workout more challenging and rewarding, lift more limbs from the ground. What does this mean?

Instead of doing your regular push-up, do one-handed push-ups instead. You can do this for squats and pull-ups too. As you’re carrying your weight with only one limb, you can develop your strength even further.

2. Use Weights

The common misconception is that calisthenics is purely a bodyweight workout. However, there are lots of weightlifting equipment that can help you perform better.

Go above and beyond lifting your body weight by using weighted vests and plates. This is an excellent way to step up your workout sessions without adding new exercises. 

3. Control Your Tempo

If you’re working to develop strength and muscle stamina, try to control your tempo further. What this means is that you should slow down your movements.

For example, when doing a pull-up, slowly lift yourself instead of doing a full pull-up through explosiveness. Doing this helps your muscles develop further, and it can definitely build your muscle stamina as you go.

4. Always Go For Progression

The key to calisthenics is to do more today than what you did yesterday. You can seriously level up your ground game by going even for small increments of progress. For instance, add one push-up to your routine per day. Before you know it, you’ll be doubling your reps easily.

5. Use Isometrics

This refers to holding a position to help enhance its effects. Let’s look at a squat, for instance. Instead of going up immediately after bending your legs, hold that for a couple of seconds first. Do this at the end of each set with time intervals of 10-20 seconds each.

This can help improve muscle stamina. Additionally, it can help tone your body as well.

Calisthenics For BJJ Pros And Cons

Calisthenics is a great way to enhance your strength and physique for BJJ, but it’s not all good. To give you a better idea about whether or not it’s worth it, here are the pros and cons of calisthenics.

Pros

  1. Full-body Workout – calisthenics doesn’t target a specific part of your body. Instead, it goes for the entire body. You’ll be able to develop your strength throughout, which is excellent for BJJ – a sport where all your limbs matter.
  2. No Equipment Needed – what’s incredible about calisthenics is that it’s something that you can do at home. No fancy equipment is needed! That being said, it’s something that you can do whether you can go out or not.
  3. Explosive Strength/Muscle Stamina Development – BJJ practitioners need both explosive strength and muscle stamina to become better at the game. Luckily, calisthenics features all of those vital strength development areas.

Cons 

  1. Limited Progress – while calisthenics is good for BJJ, it’s not just the body conditioning workout you need to take up. That’s because you get a limited range of movements with calisthenics. With weightlifting, for instance, you can continue increasing the amount that you are carrying.
  2. Requires A Lot Of Technique And Strength For Beginners – there are beginner workouts for calisthenics, but even those are difficult. As this is the bodyweight you carry, you will need to have pre-established strength to pull off calisthenics.
  3. It Might Get Boring For Some People- Because your progress might be limited by your ability to master more complex movements at some point, you might end up doing the same workouts over and over again. For some people, than might be an issue long term.

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Is Calisthenics Good For BJJ?

It’s a great complement to your BJJ training, but as we’ve said, calisthenics shouldn’t just be the only body conditioning program that you should take up. Adding weight lifting can help you go above the limits of calisthenics.

If you enjoy this article, don’t forget to share it with a friend that wants to train calisthenics for BJJ.

Also, please leave a comment if you have something to say. Your ideas help everyone reading this grow.

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