As a caveat, I am an intermediate lifter, but I think it is important to think about how weight lifting should be incorporated into your overall plan of being a better Jiu-Jitsu athlete. Often times we see an athlete lose a match or even some in class training to a stronger athlete and think that they should be more emphasis on strength training to the detriment of their Jiu Jitsu training. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You need to continue skill acquisition as you build your strength. I have seen first hand a blue belt go from losing a match to getting into CrossFit to improve their strength to opening a CrossFit gym, never moving past purple belt and then getting out of CrossFit to just focus on power lifting. Okay, that guy got stronger, but for what reason. Also I would say that I being strong in the gym doesn’t correlate to feeling strong on the mat, you need technique to bridge the gap. One of the best closed guard players that I have ever trained in, was a lanky friend that couldn’t do 2 pullups. Sometimes those guys with long levers aren’t naturally good at moving a weight through space. On the other hand, strength training is important to grappling and just improving your life as you age.
1. Get a Plan
To improve at anything I would start with getting a good coach that you like and will listen to you. I am currently following a strength and conditioning plan put together by Luke Tirey (who does online coaching as well), and have other strength and conditioning coaches at the academy (Ciara, Noah, Derek) or who also practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the area (Russ and Hopper). But get someone to who can listen to your needs, schedule and build something for a long period of time. I follow a 3 day a week lifting plan loosely based on a 5,3,1 program, with some changes to it based around some injuries (I don’t do a lot of overhead presses). So most days focus around 2 main lifts of either squat, bench, deadlift, pullups) with a bit higher reps than the 5,3,1 usually does. I don’t do deadlifts right on or before hard jiu-Jitsu or wrestling practices. 2 of those days include sprint work with lots of rest and a 4th day is added for extra fun lifts and more long slow distance training.
In general I think most people try to do too much in the gym and it will take away from their time in the academy. Make sure you still have energy left for Jiu-Jitsu training. That is where the fun is.
Lastly, while strength training is generally a very safe activity, make sure you don’t skip warming up before hand. I always do my band work to get my shoulders and back warmed up before doing anything (Jiu-Jitsu included), but I would never get on a bench without warming up my shoulders and back first.
2. Find a Gym
Find a gym you are comfortable at or build your own at home. I think it is hard to beat joining a gym in the Broomfield, Westminster area. You can sign up at Chuze or Vasa for a very low rate and have access to a ton of equipment. Having a gym with a ton of squat racks, kettlebells and dumbbells with some airdyne/assault bikes and rowing machines is about all you need. Then find some place that is convenient and on your way to work or the academy. Try to stay away from the Planet Fitness type places that discourage you from working out hard.
3. Eat Right
Try to eat as well as you can. Especially at athletes get older I think conditioning can come down to eating better and better. More veggies, less eating out, the simple things. Luckily I think the average Jiu Jitsu athlete has a more long term view of improvement. Instead of thinking about how to get better in the next couple months, think about how you want to look and feel in the next 10 years. They are going to come anyway.
As I have said before, strength training and conditioning is supplemental to your primary activity of Jiu Jitsu training. The same thing can be said for supplements as well. Think about eating good real foods as a the baseline and the protein powder and all that as secondary. But some supplements that I add:
Electrolytes (My goto is either gatorlytes or the electrolytes from costco that have potassium)
Protein Powder (Some good tasting whey protein powder off amazon, sometimes I do use the vital collagen peptides from costco because they dissolve well)
Creatine (This is cheap and plenty of studies back it up, most older men should probably be using it, be careful using it around tournament time as it does tend to increase water weight).