How can I develop better explosiveness for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Excellent question! One of the most valuable physical attributes you can have in any martial art is the ability to explode.
So what exactly is “explosiveness”?
Explosiveness refers to power. This is the ability to create a large amount of force in a short amount of time. There is a huge difference in strength and power, although they tend to play into each other. For example, if I can deadlift 600 lbs, but it takes me 60 seconds to get to my full lockout position, then that is super strong, but not very explosive. However, if I can lockout 400 lbs in two seconds, then this would be very explosive.
Power = (Mass x Distance)/Time
You can start to see how explosive power would hold immense benefit for Jiu Jitsu. The faster you can produce force, the less time your opponent has to adjust to it. This is going to help you shoot quickly into a blast double, to throw up a lightning fast armbar, or to side-switch and lock your opponent into a side mount that feels like a Mack truck just landed on them. The quicker you exert force, the better.
Now, building explosive power requires you to train in a very specific manner.
Guidelines for Training Explosiveness
- Your lifts should be done EXPLOSIVELY.
- You should still work on your absolute strength.
- Explosion should be done in moderation with your training.
- Practice your jiu jitsu techniques explosively.
- Don’t forget about good ol’ fashioned sprints.
- Explosion comes FIRST.
1. Your lifts should be done EXPLOSIVELY.
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people are not paying attention to their training tempo. This means exactly how fast your are performing the concentric (exerting force) phase of the lift and the eccentric (muscle is lengthening under tension, ie the downward phase of a bicep curl) phase of the lift. If you are training for explosion, then your concentric phase should not be much longer then one to two seconds. Any longer and you are no longer training to be explosive. This may require setting aside the ego and lifting a lighter weight in favor of a quicker movement.
2. You should still work on your absolute strength.
Now I know #1 was entirely about how your lifts should be done explosively, BUT you should still be trying to lift heavy as well. It is a lot easier to build explosive power on top of absolute strength than it is to build explosive power without high strength. Your core lifts (squat, deadlift, benchpress, etc.) are going to help you build that power.
3. Explosion should be done in moderation with your training.
As with everything, explosive training needs to be done in moderation. Keep in mind that explosive training can be very taxing on the body and nervous system, requiring ample recovery in between sessions. I’ve heard of programs that have people doing 30 power cleans in a row and other crazy things like that. Olympic lifts are great for training explosive power, BUT, they are extremely technical. I do not recommend doing any Olympic lifts unless you have sought out training from a professional.
4. Practice your techniques explosively.
A lot of your explosion is going to come from the motor patterns in your brain. Every time you are doing a technique you are reinforcing that motor pattern. Yes, when you are first learning a technique, you need to practice it slowly and learn all the steps. Once you have learned the technique, however, you want to make sure that you are training it to be fast and sharp. If you drill it fast and sharp, you are essentially programming your brain to do that movement quickly. If you drill it like a snail, you have now programmed your brain to do that movement like a snail. Make sense?
5. Don’t forget about good ol’ fashion sprints.
Sprints are one of the best exercises for building power. Even better, they require practically no equipment, and they are very time efficient. This will build explosive hip drive, which is one of the best areas you can excel in for jiu jitsu, physically speaking. Its best to do your sprints outdoors, as opposed to on a treadmill. The reason is that a treadmill will limit the length of your stride, undermining the explosive adaptations you are looking for.
6. Explosion comes FIRST.
As a general rule, you will always want to put your explosive movements first in your routine. Why? Because explosive movements require something called ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate). ATP is a very limited energy source used for high effort movements such as a one repetition max, or an explosive movement. The fact that is limited means that we don’t want to waste it on a movement that could use a different energy source. For example, if you put your sprints at the end of your workout, you won’t have the energy to gain the maximum benefit. Keep your explosive movements in the front.
So there you have it! These are the guidelines to building explosive power for Jiu Jitsu. Follow these and you will be throwing your opponents across the room in no time. However, a word of caution: seek out a professional strength and conditioning program tailored to your volume of training. If you are training 7 days a week, then your program has to be made knowing that. As long as you have a good program, and follow these guidelines, you will be building the explosive power you desire.
See you on the mats!
Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer