I started BJJ about four months ago. After training for a month I posted the article, White Belt Strength Coach so I figured it was time for a white belt strength coach 4 month update.
After four months of BJJ, I’ve learned quite a bit and changed quite a bit as far as training programs for fighters.
The last four months have been eye-opening for me. I knew jujitsu would be tough, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me. Growing up I was able to adopt nearly any sport relatively quickly.
Enter Jujitsu at age 35.
Jujitsu is different, it’s like learning a new language. It’s frustrating and a lot of it feels completely unnatural. In fact, I feel like my natural tendencies and reactions do not hold much, if any, weight in BJJ.
If I push harder or try to pick up the pace like I’ve done in all other sports, I just end up more tired. To be honest, there are some days I leave completely frustrated. Getting owned by someone who weighs 40 pounds less than me is a very humbling experience.
If you know me at all, I hate losing. I had to stop playing Mario Kart with my wife because I would get pissed if I lost. I’m so competitive I’ll even get upset when I win something, but didn’t perform the way I’d hoped. I’m not going to lie, starting jujitsu at the age of 35 might be the most humbling thing I’ve ever done.
Even though I get my ass handed to me several times a week, it’s VERY addictive. When you are there with your teammates working towards the same goal, it’s an incredible feeling. I haven’t felt this sense of camaraderie since my college soccer days. The crew at Fenix BJJ in Lowell is incredible.
I’ve always been interested in combat sports, but a huge reason why I started BJJ is to become a better strength coach for my fighters. I felt a little fake sometimes over here training the best fighters in New England when I’d never rolled a day in my life.
Now that I’m gaining hands-on real life experience in BJJ, I better understand the physical component of the sport and it allows me to design better training programs for my fighters.
Training Programs for Fighters
Changes and Improvements After 4 Months of BJJ
1. Total volume of lactic work
Rolling is exhausting! I know I’m a rookie and I’m incredibly inefficient, but when I see two high-level athletes going at it, now I truly understand how tiring it can be.
When you are rolling hard, it’s lactic in nature and incredibly exhausting. Depending on the school and the athletes, this may be all of the lactic work needed in a fighter’s training program. Because I have a better understanding of what fighters are experiencing in BJJ training, I’ve significantly dropped the lactic volume with my fighters. Now I have fighters focus on alactic power, alactic capacity and continuing to build the aerobic base.
2. Decreased volume on back squats
Jujitsu can be very tough on the body, especially the spine. I have decreased prescribing heavy back squats as my athletes get closer to their fights.
On any given day, you could tweak your neck or your lower back rolling or sparring at the MMA gym. Things happen in combat sports! One of the most important things I can do for MMA athletes is help to keep them safe and healthy. This means giving them the appropriate exercises that will not only improve the strength and performance, but also their health.
I’m not saying that I will not use back squats with my fighters, but there is a time and a place for everything and I’m finding that adding in more split stance exercises is much more beneficial as fighters get closer to their fights.
3. Increased recovery and regeneration sessions
I’ve changed a lot in my own personal training and adding in more soft tissue and mobility work has been vital to me staying healthy. I spend a ton of time working on big toe mobility, ankle mobility, hip mobility, thoracic, shoulder and neck mobility. Now that I look at it, I’m doing a ton more mobility than I did before, but it’s keeping me healthy and feeling better.
I’m also adding in Epsom salt baths each week. These have been an absolute game-changer for me. There isn’t a ton of actual science on why Epson salt baths work so well, but I don’t really care. I sleep better and I have decreased muscle soreness so I’m going to continue doing them regardless of the lack of scientific evidence.
I train BJJ 2-3 Times a week and I do another 2 to 3 strength and conditioning workouts so I need to recover. Over the past 10 years I’ve had several lumbar disc herniations, shoulder impingement on both shoulders and currently have 3 bone spurs in my right hip, a small fracture that will never fully heal and two tears in my labrum. So yeah, I need the Epsom salt baths and let’s just say I’ve been keeping the makers of Advil in business.
4. Easy on the deadlifts
Because of my grumpy back, I had to take about three months off from deadlifting. My body could not take the volume of rolling like a white belt spaz and the stress of heavy deadlifts.
For me, it was just too much so I stuck with kettlebell swings for a while. Just last week, I added deadlifts back in and they felt pretty good so I will slowly integrate them into my program.
I know that everyone’s experiences will differ but I will continue to be honest about my experience and how it’s affecting me both personally and as a strength coach for MMA fighters.
I’m grateful for these experiences and I know that it will make me a better person and a better coach! I’m having a blast and I don’t regret the start of this journey one bit, Advil or not.
As always, train smart and train hard!