Bodyweight workouts are awesome. They require no equipment, meaning they can be done anywhere, anytime. You can do bodyweight workouts at home under lockdown. On holiday. At the office. At school. In the park.
They’re also a really effective way to work out because they usually functional movements, which work multiple parts of the body, and are fairly low-impact. You’re not packing on a ton of unnatural weight for your workout, which can lead to a lot of pressure on joints and ligaments.
This is perfect for BJJ and MMA athletes, who have enough aches and injuries to deal with as it is.
These are just a few reasons I love bodyweight training for grapplers. There are some amazing bodyweight circuits that help grapplers to improve cardio and muscle endurance, as well as burn fat.
No matter your end goal – if you want to improve your game, slim down, pack on weight, or just generally improve your health and wellbeing, these bodyweight workouts fit the bill.
9 Bodyweight Workouts for Grapplers
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective bodyweight exercises for you, the BJJ/MMA athlete.
The pull up is the master of bodyweight workouts. This is one of the most efficient and effective upper body workouts, which is supremely important for a fighter. Pull ups hit a number of major muscle groups, such as your shoulders, arms, back, delts and even abdominal muscles. Different types of grips can be used for engaging stabilizing muscles and working on grip strength (another big plus for grapplers!)
Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises are fantastic for your abs and core. This is one of the most effective full abdominal strengthening workouts. In addition, you get a solid workout for your hip flexors, as well as your upper body and grip (by hanging from the bar).
Do this exercise by hanging vertically from a bar (you can use a captain’s chair or dip bars to make it a little easier). Lift your knees up, to the point where your legs are extending 90 degrees from your hips. For a more intense workout, try and keep your legs straight.
Push ups are a staple exercise for any fitness routine. It’s no surprise they’re great for BJJ & combat sports athletes too.
Push ups work the core, chest, shoulders, triceps, back, and legs, making them a super-efficient compound exercise – the kind of you want in your workout as a fighter.
If you’re not used to doing push ups, first focus on going slow and getting your form right. 25 slow, perfect push ups are better than 100 push ups with poor form.
As you progress, you can start adding in push up variations, such as stability ball push ups, decline push ups, diamond push ups, clapping push ups, or even handstand push ups (if you’re brave enough). You can also throw your BJJ Gi on while you do push ups for a little increase in weight/resistance, as well as becoming more comfortable performing movements in your fight gear.
The previous exercises target (mostly) the upper body, so you’ll want to add something that works the lower body too.
Squats are the #1 compound exercise for the legs, glutes, and lower body in general. While weighted squats can put a lot of pressure on your knees (which are already mangled because you decided to roll with leg locks the other day), bodyweight squats don’t put any undue pressure on your joints.
Without the weight of regular squats, you won’t be able to pack on mass the same weight, but bodyweight squats will help you increase your functional strength and muscle endurance. You can also add in variations such as pistol squats and jump squats, for an additional boost. Jump squats are particularly good at developing explosive movement.
Bulgarian Split Squat
We touched on squat variations previously – another, which you can add alongside regular bodyweight squats, is the Bulgarian squat. This is a little bit in between a squat and a lunge.
Bulgarian squats, or split squats, are a bit more of an isolation exercise, honing in and targeting your glutes and leg. An additional benefit is for your balance, as you’re forced to maintain stability as you go up and down.
You can do these squats unweighted, or use dumbells (or any other type of weight) to add resistance and difficulty.
Dips are an awesome upper body exercise. They work your chest, triceps and core, and for a lot of people, require no additional weight to be effective.
They work well because it’s a functional movement, utilizing multiple muscle groups. Perfect for BJJ.
Dips are also great because of their convenience – you can do dips just about anywhere. Just find a chair or a bench and dip away.
Animal Flow (Bear Crawls)
Animal move exercises are based on the multi-planar factor, which is a single move using a large motion range. They work amazingly well for joint mobility and at gaining body strength. Animal movements are excellent and effective for strengthening the upper body, core and legs.
Common animal movements include bear crawl, crab crawl and the komodo dragon.
Abdominal Hip Thrusts
This move is phenomenal at working your hip flexors and core. At the same time, you’re building endurance and toning your glutes, hamstrings, and even some of the upper body used to stabilize yourself during the motion.
You’ll perform this exercise by lying on your back (on a bench or on the ground, holding on to something to anchor your shoulders), and thrusting your legs straight up in the air. Use your abs and hips to generate power, and try to stay controlled the whole way.
Burpees are an effective full body workout, which boosts your overall strength, power, explosiveness, cardio and endurance.
You’ll transition from push up to jump, push up to jump, training your entire body, and putting a great deal of stress on your cardio.
BJJ & MMA Bodyweight Workouts – In Summary
If you want a convenient workout that’s easy on your joints, look no further than bodyweight training. Add this type of workout into your conditioning regime will do wonders for your game, and your body. You’ll move better, display better core strength, and get in better shape.
For more guides on how to get in top shape for BJJ & MMA, check out these posts: