Just Lift The Bar First


I’ve been aware ever since I started BJJ that an integral part of it was going to be strength and conditioning. Yes, doing all of the technique classes and rolling is the main part of the game, but s+c can supplement and support what you’re doing on the mat.

Since I started BJJ “properly” (and here I’m talking about when I started doing classes consistently, more than once a week, and taking a serious interest in technique based learning), so therefore a year this October (when Kaizen Academy opened), I have lost roughly 12kg in body weight. Some of this was due to a prolonged illness, some of it was because of the sport and working out 5-7 days a week. What does this have to do with strength and conditioning? Well it’s the fact that I’m right at the bottom of my weight class, and I’m not very strong. I’ve gotten better in recent months, but whilst you can see a slight muscle line on my arms/back/shoulders if you look very closely, it’s not where I want to be at in terms of muscle definition, and it’s not enough.

So, I decided to start dedicated some time to actually going to the weights room and putting in the effort there. I’ve only done a couple of sessions so far, and my body is screaming at me in dislike, but hopefully the work will pay off. When I was talking to our in-gym guru (Robyn) about this he said that there were three basic movements you need to do for most sports – unless there’s a specialist muscle group you’re working – and that is a squat of some sort, a lift (i.e. a deadlift) and a push (i.e. a benchpress). The problem is, however, is that when I used to go the gym before I lost all that weight, I could squat 25kg, benchpress 30kg and deadlift about 50kg, at my best. It’s still not huge, and for some people those weights would be absolutely puny, but for me it was okay.

Now, however, having lost about ¼ of my body mass, I’ve had to drop even further down the scale. I’m now squatting 15kg, benching 20kg, and deadlifting 30kg. So I’ve had to take it down in all three of the major areas. For bench press, for now, all I’m doing is lifting the bar. I don’t even bother putting any weights on the end. Yes, I was a little bit gutted (and a little bit embarrassed) at using so little weight, but I figured that at least I was trying. In a couple of weeks, if I can pull of my sets and reps well at this weight, I’ll move up a little bit.

Everybody’s got to (re)start somewhere though, right?

The other thing I was concerned about when starting all this up again was making sure that I got my technique right. I was a little scared about deadlifting because I’d heard so many horror stories about lasting back injuries if you messed up the technique. So, in that vein, I got someone (Cosima + Kayleigh) to watch my form and correct/advise me. Hopefully this means that I can now deadlift safely without fear of doing myself any damage.

I do actually like lifting weights, and I can’t wait to see all the “newbie gains” that the guys at the gym keep saying I’ll get. I don’t want to put on too much weight (a couple of kilos would be grand), but I don’t think that’s something I’ll worry about just yet. Right now, my goals are to get strong, a bit more muscle, and to make myself more injury-proof, which is yet another benefit of strength and conditioning. I don’t want to do too much of it, because I find that my body gets stressed out at me if I do, but I’m aiming to do two sessions a week, on top of the BJJ that I already train.

How much strength and conditioning do you do? What exercises do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,




One thought on “Just Lift The Bar First

  1. Hey. I do the Stronglifts 5X5 program. Squats, deadlift, benchpress, overhead press, barbell row. Increasing weight by 2.5kg per workout. You should try getting the app on your phone! HAPPY GAINS!


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