It will depend on your BJJ game, but generally speaking, the following muscles are extremely important:
- Flexor digitorum superficialis
- Flexor digitorum profundus
- Flexor digitorum minimi brevis
These are the muscles in your hand and forearm that grip. Without a good grip, you can’t do much. Gripping is one of the things you do the most and before anything else. The list of important muscles could go on and on, but let’s keep this at three things, grip, core, and pulling.
Next is the spine. If you have a weak spine (the muscles controlling it), you won’t be able to do much, and they work a lot. Rotation, flexion, extension, a combination of those, etc. If your spine is out or any of the muscles are injured you would be pretty much out of action even if the rest of your body is strong and functions properly.
The list of muscles in your back is big, the erector spinae is a name that refers to many muscle groups of the back that keep the spine erect. Multifidus and obliques are for rotation of the spine, and the muscles for spinal flexion are your abdominals and obliques.
And last but not least is pulling. If you don’t have a good grip, you can’t hold on to anything, and pulling is futile. If you don’t have a strong core, you won’t be able to stabilize your core for the pull, and pulling is futile as you’d always be pulling yourself toward the opponent (if they don’t resist—push you away).
Pulling in our case is usually shoulder extension and elbow flexion combined. There is a lot more going on, like around the scapulae, but let’s keep it simple for now.
- Posterior deltoid
- Latissimus dorsi
- Teres major
- Triceps brachii
- Pectorals major.
Strength!… Enter the kettlebell.
Kettlebell work is great for grip, core, and pulling strength plus a whole lot more.
There are so many things good for the core, anytime you are lifting heavy weight you are working your core, but I am biased and love the kettlebell for core strengthening as you can work everything, flexion, extension, and rotation of the spine.
This is all fancy stuff, which most would probably say it’s useless, but it’s not, one works on so many things at once, proprioception, power, flexibility, etc. But one can also work on some basic pure strength with the kettlebell.
Okay! Finally, I present to you the Asgard Strength Complex. Why? Because it includes curling, core work, and pulling. It’s a bit weak on the grip, but for that, you can do snatches, farmer walks, swings, etc. I prefer snatches as you’ll be working power as well, especially dead snatches.
They may say “That BJJ is about skill and not strength”, and in a way it is, but put someone with 70% skill and 100% strength up against someone with 100% skill and 70% strength, it’s more likely for the first person to win and without a doubt, someone with equal skill but more strength will win.
The list of kettlebell exercises is almost infinite and you should assess what your weakness is and then include the right kettlebell exercises to work on those. If you’re interested in kettlebell workouts then you can’t go past our Kettlebell Workouts And Challenges series of books, also available on Amazon. This information is also available on Quora where I answered a question on this topic.