Crossfit is still relatively new, sexy and it’s a buzzword in the fitness industry. Doing “Crossfit” has almost became a status symbol among fitness enthusiasts, its almost like saying you own a Ferrari puts you a few levels higher on the social hierarchy scale then saying you just “own a car”. But does this mean that Crossfit is the end-all be-all of fitness? If it is the pinnacle of athletic training then why don’t professional athletes use it? Considering they are getting paid to play sports and not getting paid to exercise. Today we are going to examine how effective training Crossfit for BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) really is and how to modify the training to have the best carryover to BJJ.
For starters let’s look at the needs of BJJ athletes. BJJ is definitely a technical sport but anything besides actually practicing BJJ isn’t going to improve your technical proficiency, but increasing other attributes via Crossfit for BJJ may help you win if your opponent has a technical skill set that is similar to yours. If two athletes with the exact same skill set are competing against either but one is a slob and one is a strong, conditioned athlete. Then obviously the athletic one will prevail. BJJ athletes are similar to other grappling athletes in the fact that they need strength, strength endurance, and mobility/flexibility.
Explosive strength helps other grappling athletes more than BJJ athletes because they spend more time on their feet. Training explosive movements could definitely help performing a suplex or things of that nature but they seem to be less important for a BJJ athlete who is going to spend the majority of his time grappling without his feet being planted. So I do not think an emphasis on explosiveness is needed for BJJ athletes, the reality is that most strong athletes are fairly explosive anyways.
Defining Crossfit training methods can be a tricky topic as different Crossfit boxes across the country have diverged and utilized slightly different methods since the creation of Crossfit. With the popularity of Crossfit football, Crossfit endurance, and all the other Crossfit variations defining what is Crossfit becomes increasingly difficult. But for the sake of this article we are going to consider Crossfit to consist of a few days of standard strength training in barbell movements and a few other days of circuits involving running, jumping, and lifting because I think that having a Crossfit training week consisting of these things is the best strategy of utilizing Crossfit for BJJ Athletes.
With the popularity of MMA and BJJ surging in United States in recent years so has the popularity of MMA/BJJ Strength and Conditioning coaches. With the sport being so young the amount of people that should consider themselves experienced MMA/BJJ Strength and Conditioning Coaches should be low, but where there is money there is posers.
So now we have an abundance of self-proclaimed MMA Strength Coaches who prescribe circuits for there fighters and thing that circuit training is the best method of getting their athletes strong and conditioned. While they never actually strength train, they definitely try to do everything at once via circuits. So it was only a matter of time before Crossfit for BJJ became a training methodology considering a large part of Crossfit is circuits or as the Marketing Geniuses at Crossfit prefer to call them “WOD”s.
I am not bashing on Crossfit or MMA Strength coaches but we need to use a little common sense to decide the best way to utilize Crossfit for BJJ. The reason solely training circuits doesn’t work that well is that you are trying to raise a ton of skills simultaneously. Thinking that combining every attribute into one workout to raise them all simultaneously is not a logical assumption. If I spent six hours a week driving my car while singing the National Anthem and simultaneously playing poker on my phone how good do you think I would be at those things at the end of a month? What if I spent two hours a week driving my car, two hours a week singing the national anthem, and two hours playing poker on my phone? Which method would raise these skills the fastest? A far-fetched analogy but you get my point, at some point you have to stop adding more things to a training session and expecting them to improve.
I understand their attempt at logic though; they are thinking that you are performing lifts under stress which replicates a MMA/BJJ match because everything will be under stress. But training this way isn’t the most efficient way to raise strength. Standard barbell training has been around for over 100 years and is still the most efficient way to raise strength. Go ahead and keep the circuits in there because they are a great way to raise conditioning levels that transfer over to the sport fairly well. Another added effect of barbell training is that over time it increases tendon strength so added tendon strength and beefier joints will always help resistance to submissions.
The only thing that I would stray away from that is typical in traditional Crossfit workouts that won’t positively affect a BJJ fighter is Olympic lifts and training explosive strength. If you want to train these attributes I would make these the lowest on training priorities. I think Olympic lifts are great for MMA fighters because they can help develop whole body explosiveness for strikes, throws, and slams. But considering most BJJ training is going to be on the ground with your feet not planted. I do not see the ability to jump or explode to be very useful.
Slower strength movements that cause you to grind reps will carry over better to overpowering an opponent. Moves like squatting, deadlifting, and benching aka Powerlifting moves. I would try to avoid performing lifts in the 8-12 rep range just because this is the hypertrophy range and will cause you to outgrow your weight class unless that is your desired result. I rarely see Crossfit workouts programmed for hypertrophy anyway, so that should be of little concern.
So in the end would I use Crossfit for BJJ? Yes I would after I modified the typical Crossfit training week to limit Olympic lifts and place an emphasis on strength, strength endurance/conditioning, and mobility. I think it would make a solid program. But don’t forget that you still need to practice BJJ at some point to get better at BJJ.