Raising the Bar – Strength and Conditioning for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.


After the Master World Championship in August last year, I hit a really low point in my life and took almost 3 months off Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I wanted to be on my own, cut off social media and was just wondering… what am I doing with my life, really? It was a time when I began to develop a lot of negative questions about my ability, self-worth, happiness etc… with a lot of ‘what is the point’ mindset. It was just a shitty time. Earlier this year I came back. Thankfully, not much has changed on my technical ability however, I have lost a significant amount of fitness and strength I’ve developed during the lead up to the Worlds. I started 2019 with goals again and one of them was committing myself to developing strength and conditioning for BJJ.

Enter Kate Whapples. Fighting Fit’s S&C Coach. I told her I want to be stronger, as often I compete in under 53.5kg. My walk around weight is 46-47kg to compete in the under 48.5kg (Rooster) category. It may seem like 5kg is not much of a difference, BUT… it really is. So, even when I’m the lightest, I’d like to at least not be completely be crushed like a pancake. Small goals :p

She started me on a programme for building basic strength for 6 weeks. Doing Squats, Chest Press, Rows, Jumps and Core exercises with only twice a week commitment to the programme. Then, she introduced Olympic Lifts and pull ups. The video below is from early February time, when I could barely do 5 body weight pull ups. This time the exercises have developed more into developing power and explosiveness. I was doing Hang Cleans, Squat Jumps, Split Jerks and Ninja Jumps. At the end there was always a small conditioning exercise too like ropes or rowing.

A month later, she introduced 1 more Olympic lift into the schedule. So far, I have been good I think in doing them but alas, I found my nemesis… the Snatch. For some reason my brain cannot tolerate something heavy swinging in front of me and staying above my head. But I like the challenge. The video below is from late March. Of course, I’m a complete beginner to Olympic lifts… so my techniques need a lot of sharpening up. But, you gotta start somewhere right? Also at this point, body weight pull up count have increased to 8-10 reps.

On to April, the month of the Abu Dhabi World Pro. It was a month of personal best. So far at 47kg body weight, April vs January numbers:

  • Squats: 55kg 4×8 reps (started 45kg 4×6 reps)
  • Cleans: 32.5kg 5×3 reps (started with 20kg bar)
  • Hip Bridge: 65kg 4×10 reps (started with 50kg)
  • Jerks: 30kg 3×5 reps (started with 20kg bar)
  • Weighted pull ups: 2.5kg 2×5 reps (previous 3 reps body weight)
  • Chest press: 37.5kg 4×6 reps (started with 20kg bar)
  • RDL: 60kg 4×8 reps (started with 45kg 4x6reps)

I am very happy with how everything is progressing. Every time it’s always an opportunity to improve techniques and to challenge myself with more weights. I’m sure I can get a lot stronger than I am now but at the same time I know it takes time and discipline. Above PBs are from just over 3 months of S&C twice a week alongside BJJ. I can already feel the benefits of it in training, and I know Kate has some high goals on pull ups for me over the next few months. In our sessions she also made me do some injury prevention exercises and some yoga to keep my limbs nice and loose. Really helpful.

In summary, S&C compliments BJJ. Personally for me, it helps to break the BJJ routine and keep things interesting. Also, get a professional to help you. It’s worth it. Get someone you like and get on with as a Coach, who will push you constantly, be creative and write specific training for your goals… Or to just shout encouragements when you’re about to drop the bar. Again, it’s worth it. I mean, if my BJJ don’t get better anytime soon, at least I’m on my way to getting really strong (or as strong as a Rooster weight can be) πŸ˜€

Contact Kate Whapples: katewhapples@googlemail.com 
Follow Kate @coachingbykate