all about reps

I have a question that I'd like to throw out there. It's one that I don't have an answer to, but I am curious if different people have tried both of these methods and have some experience they can discuss.

Mr. Harris, you are a very strong spokesman for doing very high numbers of reps for individual techniques (and later combinations) with no resistance, in order to develop good muscle memory and coordination, precision in movement, and a high level of awareness to detail. I agree that it's an important training method, because I understand the need for these things (at least, as well as I can from this point in my journey).

My question is about HOW to get the most out of these reps. In framing this question I am disregarding issues of "which method is more convenient." I am more concerned about "which method is more effective."

If your options were:

1) Taking a 1 hour session each day and doing 500 reps of Technique X, OR

2) Taking 10 short sessions a day and doing 50 reps per session of Technique X,

Which do you think would develop those characteristics of the technique more effectively?


I went to an Eddie Bravo seminar and he was emphatic about reps. He said BJJ was practically the only sport where people don't think they have to do practice in order to excel (imagine if football players never drilled in between games).

He advised people do 1000s of reps of his stuff (rubber guard, etc.) to get a basic foundation, then 1000s more to become expert at them.

Watching him move, it was clear he'd ground out enough reps to not suffer any delay in transitioning from movement to movement (both in mental process and in body coordination).

That said, while I would love to rep, I do not have a single classmate willing to actually rep with me. They all prefer to roll (the segment on Roy's DVD where they rapidly become competitive instead of cooperative is spot on).

It is interesting that Eddie Bravo said that.

Bj Penn said the same thing in an interview on Mario Sperry as well (told to forum member Oldfox when he trained with Sperry and the Brazilian top team).

So I guess the reality is there are probably alot more people in the bjj communtiy who are strong proponents of repetitions and drills.

I'm a drill fanatic. I think drills (or repetition) is the absolutely the best way to:

- learn a technique

- understand a technique

- master a technique


I think either way is good. I think alternating between the two is good because it helps to alleviate monotony and boredom (which are the two main reason why people avoid doing repetitions and drills).

One thing to keep in mind is that some techniques don't take as long to do alot of repetitions because the technique is only a few movements. Some techniques because they are alot of movements take alot of time to do alot of repetitions.

Some of the things I do is I work in time intervals. I'll do a certain number of a particular technique in like 45 seconds or however long I think i can correctly do them in. I then make sets of these intervals. So for example I'll do 45 seconds of juji gatame from the guard, rest and then do another 45 seconds. Each set I try to do as many as I can while maintaining correct form.

Another thing I do is I do what I call "set-up finish" drills. These works very very well with techniques that have alot of movement in them. What I'll do is do just part of the technique, usually the set up part and usually a part which can be do quickly and often, set number of times, like 4 times. Then when I go to do the movement a fifth time instead of just doing only the set up portion I'll do the entire technique, the finish. And I'll do this pattern, 4 times setup 1 time finish for like 45 seconds or one minute. That is for a duration of one minute I'll do 4 setups 1 finish 4 setup 1 finish 4 setups 1 finish etc etc.

This is one of the may ways I add variety and variation to the repetition drills I do. What I've learned over the years is it is actually the variety and variation that you come up with that makes the drill and repetition the most effective. Sometimes it isn't necessary to repeat the entire technique but only part of it.

The SBG approach is about training more against a semi-resisting, "alive" opponent than doing too much of repetitions against a totally non-resisting opponent. I'd guess that you should train both - the question is, how much of each. Discuss.


Now you have entered into a new question. The answer to that question depends on how technical you want to be.

Mr. Harris proposes high amounts of resistance-free reps to build attention to detail, muscle memory, and to make discoveries about the technique. The SBG encourages alive drilling because it helps to build timing in a way that simulates live rolling but isolates a certain skill. Both are clearly important.

Personally, I think that Mr. Harris' method builds a very technical game. It makes your game very cerebral, and creates high levels of awareness to detail. The SBG approach helps with timing, endurance, and athleticism.

While I dislike making generalizations, my experience has been that the techniques I've learned from the SBG instructionals and seminars I've attended are more on the "athleticism" end of the spectrum (and farther from the "technicality" end). Don't get me wrong, the moves worked! But the training was far more physical-attribute-heavy.

Certainly, the trick is to find the balance between these methods that best enhances your personal game (it bears noting that both camps use both methods, but each encourages one more than the other).

Still, I notice that nobody has taken a crack at my initial question:

Is it more effective to do all your reps in one session, or to spread them out over many short sessions? (The second methods emulates the "GTG" or "greasing the groove" training method from strength training.)


Isn't SBG training non-attribute based? I just got my 2003 thornton seminar dvd set and the first 10 minutes he goes into non-attribute based training... strange...

I'd say do 50-100 good reps spread over a couple sessions.

SBG's 3-I method allows for ways to train if you lack physical attributes. If you are injured or just plain "too old to be starting this kid stuff" you can still train with the I-method.

However, my experience has been that training with the I method (and emphasizing the middle I, the isolation phase) in the way that they do tends to favor the athletic game.

I think that for each individual, the slant that your game develops is characteristic of the training method. If you train lots of resistance-free reps (what the SBG terms "introduction") with an emphasis on developing extreme attention to detail and good technique, you will become very technical. If you train for good technique but emphasize the alive drilling, you will build good timing and lots of endurance. And if you only roll all the time (integrate) you will get lots of endurance and physical conditioning, but not much technique or timing.

Personally, I think you need to really emphasize the first two stages. I try to balance them in my own training. Personally, I think doing lots of training in the Isolation stage (against resistance) without building very precise technical skills creates a game that is more athletic and less technical. It favors those who are strong and speedy over those with good technique. It also shapes your game in that direction. Now, there's nothing inherently WRONG with that. Personally, I would prefer to have a game that was 90% technical and 10% athletic, so I balance my training accordingly.


this is copied from a thread on roy's forum:

"To master one single technique will take the average person four to five years of consistent, focused effort on perfecting that technique! This means, a person must stay focused on this one technique for the entire period of time. No other techniques should be focused on in training. If other techniques are focused on, then that timetable will increase!

How many repetitions should one do? As many as it takes to master it.

How many with a willing partner? 100,000.

How many with a resisting one? 100,000.

What is the relation between those two? Disciplined and focused effort.

Finally, white and blue belts will never master anything. The white belt is a beginner's belt. The blue belt represents a person's exposure to most of the surface topics of BJJ. Rarely can any depth be taught at these levels because students have no reference point to compare it against.

Plus, most white and blue belts think in terms of techniques. And, from a teaching perspective, when a student can only think in technique terms, it is very difficult to get him to think in other terms.

Good training to all of you,

Roy Harris"

also from that same thread:

"The first step in developing a skill is obtaining a high level of confidence with a set of related techniques. In other words, the student should be comfortable and confident with a series of eight to ten techniques that are related to each other. Once they know their mechanics inside and out, forward and backward, they can then begin to focus on putting them together into two and three technique combinations.

After they have put these techniques together into simple combinations, they can begin to experiment with "defined" resistance.

After a student has trained the mechanics, combinations and defined resistance (in the group, private lesson and training partner environments), they can begin to train the physical attirbutes that make up the technique, as well as take a magnifying glass to their current pool of knowledge.

Once the student has accomplished all of the above, they now have a tangible and repeatable skill. This process will take the average student four to five years to accomplish. Then, they can start all over again with a new set of techniques.

Yes, it is a slow process, but so is everything else in life that has quality, substance and meaning!"

...from roy harris

TT - I'll take a shot at your question. I think that if you want to get as many (quality) reps as possible for a single technique, you should do as many as you can before endurance problems start to make your technique less than perfect. If the technique in question starts to get sloppy after 40 reps, stop. Rest and do it again later. I don't think it really matters if "later" means after 5 minutes or after several hours, but that's just an opinion.

You could also practise ANOTHER technique that has a few common movements as the first one, f.ex. going to your knees against a normal side mount AND THEN going to your knees against the modified scarf hold. Or a spinning armlock from the guard AND THEN the flower sweep from the guard. Then your body and your muscle memory get a LITTLE bit of variety.

Just some thoughts.



I think perhaps there is a third option here - say, doing 250 reps at at a time.

Also, I think that 500 reps of anything in one hour will NOT be "focused" reps.  That would be one rep every 7 seconds or so - that sounds like a lot of speed to me.

Per Roy's request, I began doing my 1000 repetitions of elevator sweeps tonight.  I got 200 reps in, in just about one hour (These are just MY reps - my training partner only "received").  I tried hard to stay focused on the sweep, despite wanting to follow up with various submissions that I seemed to just "fall into" along the way.  I performed the mechanics of the sweep just as Roy teaches (done from a basic guard pass), but I tried playing with different angles; "What happens when I pull this direction to offbalance"; "What happens when I change the angle I lift towards with my foot"; "What happens when I move my hips slightly differently in preparation for the sweep"

I tried to mentally "catalogue" the different results, and identify which subtle alterations in my movements actually felt "subtle" in the outcome, versus those that were significant enought to make the sweep feel more "effortless."  I've only done 200 reps (so far), but I can honestly say I already feel like I have a higher level of awareness, my sensitivity to my partners movements while attempting the pass seem already heightened, and I'm sure that once I go "live" with it my timing will follow suit quickly.  (I won't go "live" until my 1000 reps are done, however!!)

I spent an hour on these 200 reps, and it was not easy.  I felt only slightly fatigued physically, but mentally I was WIPED.  Had I not had a class to teach, I would have ideally continued until 250 reps - beyond that, I think me focus would have been too diminished to get much out of it.  However, I don't think I would have gotten nearly as much out of this exercise if I had only done 50 reps at a time, spread out.  I've done that before, and got MUCH more out of it today.

The Truth is in the Training,

Adam LaClair


Hey bro. I think you're thinkin' along the lines I'm wonderin'.

If one were to do 500 reps of a technique in a day, for example, there are several basic ways to accomplish this (involving round numbers):

1) 500 reps in a row, in one session
2) 250 reps, take a break, 250 reps
3) 5 sets of 100 reps with breaks in between
4) 10 sets of 50 reps
5) 20 sets of 25 reps
6) 50 sets of 10 reps

Personally, I think the first one would overload me mentally. I'm not sure I could maintain my concentration for that long. The last one also sounds like it wouldn't be as beneficial, because the breaks would come too often.

Now what I'm really wondering is, which of the above options would:

A) build muscle memory the most quickly?
B) lend itself the most to discovering new details?
C) create the highest level of awareness to subtle nuances within the technique?

I'm sure that the answer will vary from person to person, but I'm really curious if doing 10 sets of 50 builds muscle memory more effectively than 1 set of 500 or 2 sets of 250. (The problem, of course, is finding a way to prove this one way or the other. I suppose I could do 500 straight reps of one technique and 10x50 of another and see how I feel about them....or for each side of the body....)

Something to think about, though.


I would guess that doing the maximum number of reps you can handle mentally would give you the quickest results.  I suspect that doing it once a day would be more than sufficient, as well.  Once you hit that "mental wall" the first time, I doubt that even after taking a rest period, you are going to get much more from doing another set in the same day.  The mind & body take time to absorb and adapt.  Another session on a DIFFERENT technique?  That might be okay.  But I think one-session-a-day-per-technique is probably the most efficient for most people.

Of course, I have been wrong once or twice in my life, so I could be again.  :-)


P.S. Did you get my email today?

I feel that there is one very important point when you do reps and that is the mental state you are in.

You can do 100 reps without putting your mind in an intense state and then I feel you have nothing.

When I do reps I don´t count but I go for three minute rounds.

When I go for a technique and you feel you muscles burning but you go again and again you are very intense and I feel that "burns" the repetitions in your mind and body.

It is really intense to work every technique for three minutes than switch and let the partner do the same time. Then do another round or a new technique.

I love reps and I think they work great but there is one think I don´t get 100%. Which techniques you should drill. I mean you can´t spent 1 month for one technique when you have 300 or 500 techniques to drill.

Which techniques should be drilled and in which cycles?

First, the basics.

Then, the basics in combinations.

After that, whatever other things fit into "your" game.

Just my opinion.


I don't think that there is any best or most effective way for the development of muscle memory (which in actuality is "neural memory" since every motor command and every movement pattern is rooted in the central nervous system and not the muscles. The muscles are the last component of a linked chain that begins in the central nervous system. How the muscles should move in regards to any movement pattern is because of CNS and how it was condition by repetition etc).

How the body learns a motor or movement pattern varies from person to person and skill to skill. The body really doesn't distinguish between the "way or method" of skill development or motor pattern learning. However the body learns is how it learns. It is all about stimulus and response. The stimulus can vary (for example the number of reps of a given technique) but the result is the same (25 reps of a technique can and will produce the same result as 250 reps. It isn't the actual number that is producing the results but the act of repeating the movement - this is the stimulus and the result is BECAUSE of that stimulus)

In reality there isn't a magic number in terms of reps that the human must do in order that a skill or movement pattern becomes ingrafted into neural memory. Sometimes it may only take a few reps to efficiently learn a skill or movement pattern. Sometimes it takes alot. It varies.

So to answer your question the answer believe it or not depends on you and how well your body response to the degree of the stimulus. If your body isn't responding to a low number reps than you up the level or degree of the stimulus.


I understand that "muscle memory" is a misnomer. I have a rudimentary understanding of how neural and mental actions are improved through repetition.

I also agree that there is no single number that means "you have it." I don't think we're looking for one. I will continue developing all of my techniques by repeating them for the rest of my life.

With that said, I wholeheartedly disagree with several things you've written. For example:

"In reality there isn't a magic number in terms of reps that the human must do in order that a skill or movement pattern becomes ingrafted into neural memory."

Studies disagree with what you've said here. I read one study (I would cite sources if I had remembered to clip them) that showed that performance of an action under stress varied strongly based on the number of repetitions. People who had performed only a few hundred repetitions often had trouble reproducing the action under stress, or reverted to jerky, gross-motor-movements. Athletes who had performed hundreds of thousands or even millions of reps performed BETTER under stress (because the action was so ingrained).

Furthermore, all of our experience disagrees with the point you are making (that the number of reps doesn't matter). There IS a substantial difference between your level of skill with a technique you have done 25 times and with a technique you have done 250 times.

However, these issues are not what's up for debate. Those of us who are discussing this issue already agree that high numbers of reps are necessary. What we are discussing is how many sets one needs to break a given number of reps into for the most benefit.


TT, you said there is no sense of debating this issue with you. What you stated really doesn't go against what I stated. I said it is the "degree" of the stimulus which affects the result. What is high, in terms of numbers, my actually be overkill for someone else, what is low may actually be high, what is high maybe low. Yes I know there is a distinct difference between 25 reps and 250 reps. My point was not the comparsion between the two numbers but rather to make a statement that the amount a person needs to do to obtain a specific result, in this case skill development, varies from person to person and is purely based on how much of a stimulus the person gets from the amount of repetitions they do.

It is the stimulus that makes the difference and not the number in and of itself.

Some people don't need to do as many reps as others. Some need to do more than others. What may be low number of reps to one person may be just right for another AND what maybe high for one may not nearly be
enough. It all depends on how their bodies respond to the stimulus. It is the same with prescription medicine doses. Some need a higher dose to obtain a certain result where as others need alot less.

I understand that this thread is geared toward those who believe high reps are necessary. I agree that high reps are necessary. I more than simply agree with this notion I actually DO high reps of various motor skills. And I do them in a variety of ways. I break them down in small intervals. I do them all at once. I do them in conjunction to a set period of time. I do them in alot of different ways. I do them in different ways because of the stimulus. If the stimulus is weak or not enough then the result will be weak. Sometimes doing a mass number is actually a weak stimulus. Sometimes I have to do more, sometimes less, sometimes I actually have to do one aspect of the technique more.
How I do them though is based on how my body response to them. And I always do them with the thought of making a strong stimulus.

But all of this was a sidetrack to my main point which was how you break down however many reps you decide to do is your decision. There isn't a one best way. It all depends on how YOUR body response to it. All the ways you listed are good. Don't pick one way over the other BUT rather vary it day by day, week by week. One day or week do a mass number. The next day or week break it down. My point was you have to decide for yourself and which ever one you decide I'm sure will be right for you.

Here's the bottom line for doing repetitions:

Just do 'em!

Those who have listened to what I have said about reps have
benefited greatly! AND, they have all discovered the same things I
discovered. AND, they have all walked the same path I've walked.
Why? Because I told them to walk this path? No. Because once they
had put in "X" number of disciplined and focused reps, their
newfound experience led them to the next and most logical path.

Yes, the journey will be difficult. So what! Get over it and just do
the reps!

Yes, the journey will be boring. Whoever told you that "developing
a repeatable skill was going to be fun" lied to you. It is not fun.

Yes, there will be times when you will feel like sparring instead of
doing reps (because it is more fun to spar than to focus)....but
don't give in! Stay focused. Stay on course!

Yes, there will be times when you will feel like talking instead of
doing reps (because it is more fun to talk about focus than to
actually focus)....but don't do it!

Here's something I don't want you to forget:

1. Developing a repeatable skill is REALLY HARD WORK!

2. Developing a repeatable skill is not something a person
accomplishes in a few months! Rather, it is something gained over
years of dedication!

So, are you gonna discipline yourself to do those reps? You don't
hve to answer the question for me. You will have to assnwer the
question for yourself.

Good reps to all of you,

Roy Harris


I guess that in essence was the point I was trying to make. Maybe I didn't articulate that point very well. But what I was trying to say to TT was do the reps any way that he can do them to get them done. Do them all at once, do them in intervals, break them down, whatever way...just do them.