Information on how to run faster, lift stronger and think deeper

Stronglifts and BJJ

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 3, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Stronglifts and BJJ


Stronglifts and BJJ

Stronglifts is not really the ideal program to team up with BJJ. Leave the weight room to the side as a BJJ beginner and focus on technique and functional strength first. If you are competing and feel you lose your fight on being overpowered by your opponents have a look into Wendler 531 and the Juggernaut method. 

Get the free 80 page Stronglifts 5x5 ebook

What is your why

Before we go into the details of Brazilian Jiu Jutsu and whether Stronglifts is a good fit let me ask you a couple of questions


  • Why do you want to combine BJJ with Stronglifts?
  • Why do you want to get stronger?
  • Why is your current body not good enough?
  • What happens when you reach your goals?
  • What happens when you don't?


While these questions might seem a little odd they are crucial to your long-term success. Life is hard and it will punch you in the dick. You better have a good reason to keep going, because otherwise, you won't.


Many beginners and early intermediates structure their research and training by this way of thinking


  • What do I want to achieve?
  • How do I want to achieve it?
  • Why do I want to achieve it?


Most people will think extensively about the first question. Fewer will give some thought to the second. Almost none will reflect deeply on the last. This is why many start with excellent new years resolutions which are built on sand. If what they want to achieve does not materialize rather quick they move on to something else. To break this cycle and form a long-term commitment it helps to restructure your thinking this way:


  • Why do I want to achieve something?
  • How do I achieve it?
  • What needs to be done to achieve it?


This way it will become second nature to make your goals and actions more meaningful and satisfying. Try it yourself and if you are not convinced look up Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle.  He makes an excellent case for this kind of thinking.




Stronglifts 5x5 is one of the most known lifting programs for beginners. Its middle of the road approach between muscle building and strength development is attractive for many beginners. You will train three times a week using the following exercises:



You will squat every session. All other exercises will be rotated. The aim is to complete five sets of five repetitions on each exercise except for the deadlift. The starting point is the empty barbell except for the row and deadlift. Once you complete a 5x5 complex you go up in weight. If you miss a certain load three times you will go down in weight. I won't get into more detail as the free Stronglifts 5x5 app does a great job to give you guidance. You can read my extensive review of the program if you want to see a one year progress on it.


The biggest advantages of Stronglifts are its simplicity and effectiveness. You will always know whether you are doing good or bad on any given day and even exercise. The progression is aggressive enough for beginners and provides direct feedback in each stage. 


The biggest disadvantages of Stronglifts are its marketing and lack of specificity. The print on the Stronglifts website overstates the results you can expect, especially in terms of hypertrophy. This is not necessarily bad but can demotivate you if you expected more and get less. The lack of specificity can be a problem for anyone who deviates from the norm or athletes. If you are very small and light you will overtrain on Stronglifts. If you are very big and strong you will undertrain.


Brazilian Jiu Jutsu


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was formed in 1882. Its parents are the martial art forms Judo & Jiu-Jitsu. The prefix Brazilian comes in because Carlos and Helio Gracie adapted the two martial art forms into a new one which specifically focuses on getting your opponent to the ground and make them submit. Out of Jiu-Jitsu were the most efficient takedown techniques taken and Judo was scrapped for the most efficient ground movements. Of course, these generalizations are always crude and incorrect in detail, generally, this is the idea.


With the recent surge of Ultimate fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu got a boost in popularity especially for fighters who want to improve their takedown and submission game. The most prominent and successful fighter from this line of thinking would be Royce Gracie. 


The biggest advantages of Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu are the focus on putting yourself into advantageous positions to overwhelm your opponent and introduction of the most effective 


Which program should you do?


It depends on your personal preferences and needs as outlined in the first paragraph of this article. If your main focus is martial arts and you are just starting out, focus on this.


There is enough to learn in martial arts without doing anything else besides it. Especially if you are not going to compete. The first three years can be easily filled with that. Grappling, punching and submitting your opponent has a lot more to do with your focus, mind, technique, and speed than your actual strength. Strength is also important but definitely last on this list.


If you are a seasoned BJJ fighter who is looking into taking your game to the next level Stronglifts might not be the program of choice depending on your needs. If you want to build muscle fast to go up a weight class I would recommend Gironda 8x8. The injury risk is a little less than with German Volume training and you also get a cardio workout out of it, if done right. If you want to stay at the same weight and want to get stronger go with Wendler 531 first for a year or two and than move on to the Juggernaut method. If you are really fit and can easily squat your bodyweight for a set of five to ten, you are wasting time with Stronglifts 5x5. Specifically look for programs with AMRAP sets if that is the case. 


If you are in your teenage years and feel underdeveloped start with Stronglifts 5x5 if you are shy. Consider Judo instead of BJJ to start. Once you are more confident put on a couple of pounds move into BJJ. The crowd there is usually a bit younger and rougher than in Judo clubs. This can be intimidating at first.


I have done Judo for 12 years on a national level in Germany on my starting at 10 and finishing at 22 when I left my hometown. The strength-work our trainer did with us who produced one bronze medal in Sydney and several national titles was mainly around hypertrophy. The functional strength was developed in circle training and on the mat.


Further reading


Topics: Lift stronger, Stronglifts 5x5, Fitness, Strength