Strength training & force vectors

Are you truly maximizing the benefits of the time you send doing strength and conditioning training? I see so many "sport specific" strength and conditioning programs, yet I feel that many of them are not truly sport specific. How many of you do additional strength and conditioning to your BJJ training, yet don't see huge leaps in your strength and conditioning?

Each sport a person does requires certain movements. Depending on the type of movement, position of the body, whether or not there resistance, etc.. certain muscles are used in a certain way. When the force vectors on the body change, it changes what muscles are used and how they are used.

Let's say that I was going to have a contest with my friends to see who could do the most push ups. If I were to train for this contest, doing bench press with a weight equal to my body weight would not the most beneficial thing for me to do. The force vectors placed on the body when doing a push up versus bench press are completely different.

I once saw a video clip of someone showing how to increase the squeezing power of pins by hugging a pole with their arms and wrapping their legs around it. This pole was parellel to the ground and pretty high off the ground. The person was hugging the pole so their stomach was facing the ceiling and their back was facing the ground. The force vectors in what he was doing was completely different from pinning a person.

So when someone recommends certain exercises for your BJJ training, look and see if the force vectors are similar to any movement you do in BJJ. I'm not saying that there is absolutely no benefit if the force vectors don't match, but rather that you may not be maximizing the possible benefits for the time you are putting in.

So bolo what would you recommend as a strength training program with appropriate 'force vectors' for bjj?

The answer is more complex than you may think because increasing a person's strength is a highly individualized issue. I believe is it important to look at your personality, situation, and body with a very critical eye. My criticism was many about claims of "sports specific" when the exercises really aren't sports specific.

People tend to focus on strength and conditioning, however, BJJ requires many more attributes besides those two. Balance, coordination, sensativity, body awareness in 3 dimensional space, etc... are all important attributes. Strength in BJJ is useless if you have poor balance.

No one attribute is more important than another. Therefore, I do not believe in sacrificing one attribute for another. For example, one should not increase strength and decrease their flexibility, increase flexiblity and have little strength, increase strength and have no enduranance, or increase any attribute and increase pain. It is possible to increase all attributes without injurying the body and it is important to keep this in mind if you want to continue training well past your "prime" years.

Many of us to strength training to help our BJJ performance, however, you must examine whether strength is truly what is needed to help your game. Since most of us aren't profesional athletes, we can't spend all day training, so we have to make the most our our time and focus on what is most important. For example, I have some students who don't have a great sense of balance. Their games would improve a lot more if they worked on that attribute rather than strength. Some students have poor endurance. Increasing strength would do them very little good if they gas out quickly. Some students are fairly overweight and their games would benefit much more from weight loss than strength training. Some students simply don't have good technique. I have several students who say they were "overpowered" by the larger students. I say to them, "I'm the same weight as you are, but I don't feel overpowered by those guys." Their response is "Well, you have better technique." Then my repsonse is, "Then shouldn't you work on improving your technique then?"

To be continued....

Once again, the type of supplemental "strength" exercise that should be done depends on the individual.

Some individuals are weak because of muscle imbalances. I have a student like this. He is young and does not have any pain, but I've seen his posture and he has some pretty severe imbalances. This student is my weight, however, I feel that he is extremely weak for his size. Increasing his strength would be about restoring muscular balance to his body. Any sort of standard strength training program would only harm his body in the long run.

Some people have not reached this max strength potential because of acute injuries or chronic pain. Once again, standard strengthening exercises will make those people worse in the long run. Increasing that person's strength would first require that they remove the muscular imbalances caused by the injury or imbalances that were causing the chronic pain and allowing the injury to heal.

Along the lines of imbalances, some people have a high center of gravity, some have a low center of gravity, and some are neutral. So the strength train program for each category is going to be different since the goal is to get to or maintain a netural center of gravity.

Some people simply have a lack of general athleticism. Rather than standard strength training, that person may want to look into activities that will help increase multiple attributes at the same time. This is actually something that I find in many people. These "average" people have a 9 - 5 desk job and haven't done many sports since high school.

Then there are those who have no pain, are athletic, and have highly functional bodies. Those people can do do things that the people in the other categories shouldn't do.

To be continued later....

Thoroughly enjoying your explanations! Thanks!

Just found your Q&A forum - I own stacks of yours and Harris' dvds. I've really enjoyed going back thru all your threads and reading what I've missed.

Press on!

"look and see if the force vectors are similar to any movement you do in BJJ. I'm not saying that there is absolutely no benefit if the force vectors don't match, but rather that you may not be maximizing the possible benefits for the time you are putting in."


I'm somewhat confused. I would have assumed a general multivariant strength and conditionong program would be recomended over a sport specific program; get the vectors not to match. I would assume the BJJ movements are worked enough when training bjj and to continue to train the bjj muscles/movements/vectors would be conducive to imbalance.


You are confusing 2 different issues. The main initial point was addressing the marketing of sport specific S&C programs. People in BJJ are suckers for "Strength for BJJ", "Stretching for BJJ", "Conditioning for BJJ", "Kettlebells for BJJ, etc... Yet when you look at the program offered, there isn't anything that makes them special for BJJ.

The second issue that I began to touch on was more along the lines of what attributes people may need to improve their BJJ games. Most of the time, what is marketed and what you think you may need, is often not what you actually need. My point is that each person's needs are slightly different based on their situation and having a better understanding what what you truly need will lead you to a better understanding what supplemental activities/exercises you should participate in.


You're right in principle. Some of what you're saying is based on assumptions and myths about strength coaches and strength programs.

First off there is no such thing as a sports specific exercise or program. If a person wants to be sports specifc then they need only to play the sport their involved in. There are sports general movements. Sport general movements are movements which are common in many sports. For example jumping or better said the jumping motion (triple extension: hip extension, knee extension, plantar flexion) is common in alot of sports. One can develop the general motion and then progress to a more specific motion, which incidently is the naturally way to learn physical things. One always wants to move from simple to complex, easy to hard, general to specific.

Secondly a good Strength and Conditioning, who has been trained in human anatomy, physiology and biomechanics, should know how to develop their athlete or client. The need to do an assessment BEFORE creating and implimenting a program for their athlete/client. What you said about strength in regards to the needs of the athlete/client is true. Some athletes/client don't need a certain type of strength or an excess of strength for their sport/activity. A good Strength and Conditioning coach knows this and will tell their athlete/client.

Thirdly, your right about the force vectors principle BUT there is more to figuring it out then what you're saying. You delving into biomechanics. And truth be told some people just don't have the knowledge or background to correctly critique or assess certain things like force vectors etc.

I know that a lot of what I am saying requires knowledge and background in areas that many people are not familiar with. Many people in the BJJ community naturally think they are in the category of "athletic and highly functional", but most are not.

I am only speaking principles rather than specifics because each person's body and situation is different. What is appropriate for one person is most likely not appropriate for another. If I look at all my BJJ students, I would recommend different things for each of them. Only 1 or 2 could do everything that I am doing.

You are totally right about sport specific is about playing your sport. I believe that one of the best ways to increase strength for BJJ is to simply roll with bigger and stronger guys. If you consistantly roll with someone who is bigger and stronger, people your own weight are going to feel a lot lighter.

In the past, we talked about the decathalon competitor as the model for the well rounded athlete with attributes that tranferred to numerous other sports. I have taken that idea (along with other principles) and completely changed the way I work out. I used to do weights and kettlebells, but now I do walking, swimming, running, rock climbing, yoga, gymnastics, and obstacle course work. The effect on my body from this change has been incredible. By the way, don't get me wrong and think that I am saying that weight and kettlebell training is not beneficial. It can be beneficial if it is appropriate for your body's situation and your personality. For me, it is more along the lines of my personality as it is simply something that I don't have much interest in anymore.


I am a firm believer in the well rounded athlete principle/concept. I think I told you before but that was the "secret" of the Soviet athletes. Contrary to common belief, especially here in the United States, the athletes of the old Soviet Union were actively encouraged to participate in different sports in order to become, not only excellent athletes in their own sport but to become very good athletes in general.

Specialization is something that is relatively new idea. It is something that is encouraged here in the U.S but it produces injury prone, muscle imbalanced, one dimensional, quickly burned out athletes. Like I said in other countries, particularly those influenced by the old Soviet sports system didn't believe in specialization. Heck, there was a time here in the United States where athletes followed Decathalon competitor model. Even the coaches were involved in many sports/activities. It wasn't uncommon that the high school football coach was also the basketball coach, track coach, baseball coach etc.

Anyway I too follow the decathlon competitor model. I like running and walking. I like biking. I also like basketball, it is probably my favorite team sport. I do some gymnastic but not nearly on the level of others. I love jump roping which is a sport/activity in and of itself. Believe it or not I am kind interested in dancing.


"but now I do walking, swimming, running, rock climbing, yoga, gymnastics, and obstacle course work"

Do you feel this type of training prepares your body for lifting an external load off the floor (like your child)? Or lifting something over your head to put it on a shelf?

By the way, besides my regular MBF program, I do have an MBF program that has weights and kettlebells. Though I don't do it often, I have to get back into doing the strengthing exercises that once a week. With all that I do, my MBF therapy program is at the core. It is the only exercise program that I do 7 days a week.

But to answer your question, yes I have found that my ability to move an external load has increased simply because I have strengthened my full body lever system. I have especially found that I am able to lift things at odd angles without worrying about hurting my back. Could I increase my ability to lift an external load by doing more kettlebells and weights? Yes. However, there are many odd angles in which you need to lift things in regular life that just can't be immitated by weight training. In addition, the shape, size, and where you hold objects in regular life are not often the same as a dumbell or kettlebell. I also believe that it is more important to initially be able to handle your own body weight because you have do deal with that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I believe there are certain natural basic movements that all people should be able to do- walk, run, swim, crawl, jump, climb, and swing. These natural movements are things that children can do without need any or much instruction. If a person can't do these basic things easily and without pain, their body is not at a functional level were they should even be concerned about lifting big weights.

I have stopped doing yoga and, unfortunately, I had to stop doing the gymnastics because the place cancelled the class on the only night I could go. I made the decision to stop doing yoga and I haven't looked for another place for gymnastics because I found that both activities were causing certain problems for my body. I had to use my MBF program to wipe out problems those activities were causing my body, so I came to the realization that if I wanted to get my body to a certain point, I need to do all the things that would help to get it there and needed to stop or decrease all the things that hindered it from getting there.

As simple as that logic may sound, it does amaze me how so many people want to continue things that they know are harmful for their bodies. It definitely does show that psychology plays a big part in a person's health.

I am curious about what was bothering you with yoga?

I found that yoga was altering my posture in a negative way. So in other words, it was enhacing certain muscular imbalances that I had. I also realized that my lack of flexibility in certain areas were due to my postural dysfunctions and that establishing muscle balance in my body would automatically increase my flexiblity. Children are a great example of this. You see that children are very flexible, but yet they do no stretching at all.

With the gymanstics, I found that the fact that both of my shoulders are elevated caused problems for me, especially with handstands and similar types of movements.

I plan on increasing the function of my body so in the future I can do both of those activities if I want to without it causing problems.

I'm not saying that yoga or gymnastics is bad for you. It can be very good for you if it is suitable for you body AND it is not the only activity that you do.

Personally, when it comes to physical activity, I believe people should first develop survival movements and attributes, then general athletic attributes and movements, and then lastly, more "advanced" forms of body movement. I find that most people tend to no longer possess basic survival attributes.