My reply to the post 3 Ways to Develop Explosiveness for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Hi everyone,

Spotted a post on my Facebook from some fellow Nova Forca warriors and the video compelled me to reply immediately.

You can check out the original post here:

The article itself is basic and poses no issue, but the video at the bottom of the page that they have embedded meant I needed to write a reply.

Here is the video embedded below:

And my (rather lengthly) reply:

This article and video really caught my eye… Thanks Ben Loki-two + Jose Mata. Sorry that this is a long post, but fundamentally some of the things being talked about in the video aren’t quite correct, and as I’m geeky with this it interested me to talk about it.

The problem with considering stuff like the video for BJJ is that it’s never as simple as saying ‘yes do this’ – everyone is different and everyone has different strengths (and previous training) which will affect where are how you should work.

It’s very important to think carefully about what you are trying to improve, and consider the speed – strength continuum. (Widely accepted to be along the lines of
Absolute Strength – Strength-Speed – Speed-Strength – Absolute Speed.)

Of course, this will vary for every athlete. A powerlifter will do almost all of his work at the Absolute Strength end, but also work with weights at say 50-70% of his 1 rep max to develop his ‘explosiveness’, in this case, strength-speed. (Moving a still heavy weight as quickly as possible.) They would rarely work in the absolute speed end however.

On the other end of the scale (absolute speed) you’d consider a sprinter that will do most of his work in the absolute speed end, which would be (surprise) sprinting. A sprinter however will work in the strength end, lifting weights, heavy squatting and deadlifting to build up muscles which will power their sprinting. They would also do tempo runs, which are slightly longer ‘sprints’ at 70-85% to build stamina – therefore moving slightly away from the absolute speed end of the continuum.

Which brings us to a BJJ fighter (the part you’ve been waiting for) – a bjj practitioner falls very much in the middle but towards the strength-speed end. They are dealing with opponents of a substantial weight, and often their movements will be opposing the force of their opponent. (Think bumping your opponent with your hips.) For the top game, often you will be switching between speed-strength and absolute speed. (Passing the guard [more force], then transitioning from side control to north south [not as much force]).

Pushups - James Schofield - Nova Forca

This means that (in working on the strength-speed or speed-strength parts of the continuum) resistance is required when training (the only thing they show with resistance is the med ball jump squat and the sprawl). Moving a light weight as explosively as you can will create greater force than using your bodyweight (all the featured box drills.) Especially important in a sport where you are dealing with your opponents force. Unfortunately, the jumps they show are pretty worthless. The athletes aren’t creating maximum force with each jump, they’re just jumping repeatedly, with no pause or reset. They aren’t training for an improvement in their jump, they are training how to jump continuously with no break – eg. conditioning.

The problem with the box drills that they show is that they don’t really accomplish anything – they are again, too high rep and are basically conditioning. They work quick feet, there is no progression. Doing endless small jumps back and forth onto a minimal height will only improve your conditioning, it won’t make you jump higher or be more agile. You’ll just become better at jumping on and off boxes. So yes, it is a training skill which can be implemented in your bjj training, but it’s not going to increase your explosiveness much if at all. If you wanted to do this you’d need to change some things:

Firstly, you need to work in lower reps than the 10 they give for all the exercises here. (They may have lower reps in the olympic lifts section, but I switched it off by then.) 5-8 reps would be a much better number – the more advanced the athlete, the less reps are required. If you are better at producing maximum force with each jump, you won’t require as many before you fatigute. Any jumps you do when you are fatigued means that technique is not perfect, which essentially means you are training bad motor control, and consequently becoming worse at jumping. Quality is important.

Another thing that the video misses is that it features only lower body and then upper body (excluding the sprawl med ball drill and the olympic lifts.) Medicine ball work is much more effective for fighters because it uses the whole body and includes power transfer between these parts of the body. Sidenote: A study done (I think at Michegan University) measured force production and the result was that weighted jump squats were just as useful for creating power as olympic lifts were.

They seem to have overlooked medicine ball throws totally which are probably the best way of creating power. Throws are great because you’re working your body as hard as you can, technique isn’t that important (in that you can still do well without doing it perfectly every time.) but explosiveness is.

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For more on the plyometric side check out Dr Yessis, who is pretty much the most knowledgable person on plyometric training there is. If you read that link you’ll notice his demand for quality when performing reps and the strict avoidance of fatigue.


Finally, there is the minimal amount of rest on offer in the video. Short rests keep your heart rate elevated and keep you working hard, eg. conditioning. Sprinters and olympic lifters will rest for minutes between sets – why – so that their central nervous systems, as well as their muscle fibres, recover fully. The video has some great exercises, but unfortunately they are more for general strength and conditioning rather than improving your athletic output like producing more force and jumping higher or being faster. Too often coaches get conditioning mixed up with power + explosiveness.

So the title “3 ways to develop your explosiveness for bjj” is a bit of a misnomer. Hope that’s of some vague interest to you guys. No matter if not, I enjoyed writing it. Any questions, comments or ideas please get at me. Thanks very much for reading.