Folkstyle Wrestling/Training Technique


For wrestling, submission/BJJ, or MMA, I like interval training, that is, doing a workout (whatever it happens to be) at an alternating aerobic and anaerobic pace. My goal, with regard to the conditioning element of a match, is to keep up a good aerobic pace with my opponent, of course forcing him to do the same in the process, then attack (anaerobic activity pressing such also on my opponent in response to me), then go back to an aerobic pace, repeating the process throughout the match. My thinking is that the winner conditioning-wise is the individual who can recover from an anaerobic burst back to an aerobic state to prepare for the next successful anaerobic burst or attack the quickest.

So when I train for competition I may, for example, roll with somebody at a typical solid aerobic pace for one minute, be very aggressive the next 30 seconds, go back to an aerobic pace for a minute, and so on. Or your could run (jog, sprint, jog, sprint, etc.) in a similar manner. Or your could to a hard takedown drill for two minutes and jog for one, repeating the process over and over. You get the picture.

Also, keep track of how many minutes of aerobic and anaerobic activity you are doing to increase it gradually and systematically so you know for sure how your training is going. It is not just the volume of training (more is not always better as you can overtrain) but also how you train whether you are talking technique, conditioning, or strength.

I generally try to maintain a modicum of noncompetition shape for general training (learning to improve the technical aspect of my game), although there have been times over the past couple of years that has simply not been possible. I like to cycle my training for both physical and mental preparation reasons. It has been my experience that you need to avoid the same routine all year else you get burned out and fail to progress maximally. It is my understanding that lifting ought to be done with some variably in order of exercise to avoid habituating the nervous system; at least that's what I was taught at Penn State some years ago.

I think that it is wise to take (at least, depending on what you are trying to accomplish in the competitive arena) one day off per week even if you are training intensely for competition, again for both physical and mental reasons. There are some people, including those who are very good, who probably overtrain. Mimicking them because "they are champions", etc. is not necessarily the wisest thing to do as some people win in spite of (versus because of) how they train. For example, some people train (cardio or strength) like maniacs but may win owing to technical and mental factors (including because of the volume of training) although may not objectively be in maximal physiologic condition (e.g., weaker than they would have been without overtraining).

If you are training two or three times per week BJJ, wrestling, etc., I would suggest lifting on other days. As you "ramp up" your training for competition (especially serious competition) that level of training is not likely to be adequate so you will have to lift on days you are training. I think you are right on target keeping the hours between your strength and jiu jitsu training maximal (if you lift before BJJ). I lift in the morning before work and train BJJ in the evening. My view is that you will profit from improving the technical aspect of your game when you are relatively fresh and not having a major fatigue factor interfering with learning or ingraining new skills (i.e., if you are drill technique with which you are not particularly familiar or proficient while fatigued you are probably going to take longer to develop skillful technique). Being a pipsqueak and rolling with guys, some of who are twice my size, it is just too risky injury-wise to get a hard lift in before BJJ practice. If I am hurt, I cannot train or compete adequately.

One option, depending on your schedule, would be to lift after your BJJ practice if time is really tight, although not vice versa which I think is risky (when you roll in BJJ).

One thing that is crucial, I think, is to recognize that, over the long run, it is skill, not conditioning or strength, that will be the largest factor in success. That is not to say that cardio, strength, nutrition, psychological preparation, etc. are not important, just make sure that in your "training portfolio" that actual training (learning technique and sparring technique) does not become "the odd man out." "Major in the major subjects, minor in the minor subjects." The other things are to supplement, not substitute, the whole reason for what you do: BJJ.

Also, recognize when it is worthwhile to just take a day off, particularly from lifting. My experience has been that three times per week is best for most of my training cycle but that when things really ramp up for competition it is easy, simply by virtue of the volume of training to increase in the upswing in your training cycle, to get fatigued, dread practice, etc. At that point, wisdom is taking a day off from lifting (get a massage, etc.) and even consider lifting twice per week toward the end of your training cycle as you get close to competition so that the volume of doing what you will be doing in competition increases proportionally. I personally have found it helpful to lift two days per week freeweights and one day Nautilus with a trainer who busts my you-know-whats for a brutal hour (with substantial negative training). I make that guy earn his 35 bucks (none of this just yapping motivational crap)! If I feel fatigued or start to feel burned out, I chuck one of the freeweight days.

When training now, I like to go on a short run 5x/week (two or three miles) before lifting. I gradually add interval training to the run. I am best at wrestling, second best at BJJ, and weakest with my stand up. Therefore, in part because of inefficiency with my boxing, I find that an excellent cardio workout. I think that skills with which were are most proficient (read efficient) are a bit more of a challenge to push ourselves with. So boxing rounds with a partner holding mitts does me wonders, again, in part as I am less skilled and efficient (and therefore get more fatigued) with those techniques.

One exercise I like for cardio, strength, and mental reasons, and is easy to do in your BJJ room, is carrying a partner on my back around the perimeter of the room. You can do this in rounds with a brief walking break (i.e., to keep moving). This gets my heart rate through the roof if your partner (or instructor) can push and motivate you. You can do this to mimic rounds in a match or do the aerobic-anaerobic mix with your partner or coach telling you when to jog and when to sprint.