BJJ, Competition

Getting Stronger, Faster.

Now that I’ve received my purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I updated my training camp for my first competition in December 2018 as a new competitor in the purple belt division women’s master division.

I decided to add strength and conditioning training because I didn’t feel I was maximizing my time in the weigh gym. I’d go often but didn’t want to bulk up. For example, the workout regimen was basically the same stuff I was doing years ago. I didn’t have explosiveness – I was never a sprinter. I also  felt that I could be physically stronger. 

This summer I took an invitational class at Studio Fitness in East Downtown Houston and met the gym owner, Layne Chess. I approached him about helping me to increase my strength without putting on additional body weight.

After my initial assessment with Coach Layne, he confirmed my timeline and short-term goals. He sent me an individualized strength and conditioning program. The strength element is a kettlebell-based workout and the conditioning element is a cardiovascular exercise component. 

Strong First Kettlebell Workout

Now, I’ve used kettlebells here and there in the past informally but I’ve long since lost good form. The greater probability was that I had subpar form to start! I did not know very much about how a kettlebell workout could translate into strength on the jiujitsu mat. Coach Layne goes into a good deal of explanation and science during our sessions. 

Dr. Yasi: How does kettlebell translate into functional strength? 

Coach Layn: One of the greatest values of working with a kettlebell is that the load of the ball is in front of the handle, unlike a dumbbell in which the load in in line with the handle.  Even the most basic of kettlebell movements cause you to work through a larger range of motion, increasing the flexibility demands of the exercise, and strength through length is key.

Cardiovascular Interval Exercise 

When I decided to work with Coach Layne, I assumed that I would be doing only strength training. I did not even consider some form of cardio to supplement my training camp. The way I had thought about cardio for jiujitsu was in the form of, um. . . live sparring in my competition classes? This is was I was told from early on. Cardio happens on the mat so why waste time doing cardio if not for weight-cutting? What is the deal with all this H-I-I-T stuff? Cardio is cardio, right? 

Dr. Yasi: What’s the benefit of heart rate-based interval cardiovascular exercise? 

Coach Layn: First it’s important to understand what you’re using the cardio for, and then program for that.  For you, we designed a cardio regimen that gets you into your Zone 5 for a bit to replicate full on intensity on the mat.  Then we allow short rest periods to simulate those moments of recovery you get between rounds.  Over time we’ll shorten your rest periods helping to train you to recover quicker.  It all correlates.  The body knows time and intensity, so the better you can replicate these forces off the mat, the better you’ll handle them on the mat.

Dr. Yasi: Why does intense cardio make you want to vomit? (Asking for a friend.)

Coach Layn: There are several reasons this can happen, from under to over hydration, or merely blood leaving the stomach to supply the body when intensity is super high.

My final point is that I am a data-driven person. I have experienced noticeable gains in strength and cardiac performance already. Plus, I’m just starting week 4 of this program. My lesson learned is to hire an expert, even if time-limited, to help me in my areas of weakness. I don’t know what I don’t know. Please reach out to Coach Layne if you’ve hit a strength and conditioning plateau, feel stuck or lost in the weight gym, or just want get an edge on the competition. I’m not his only competitive athlete at his gym, but probably the most excited!

Reach Coach Layn and his staff at:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s