Strength & Conditioning Tips for Grappling

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As athletes, we all want to improve ourselves to be the best that we can be. Other than practicing our sport, we can also improve our abilities through other methods of training. Strength & Conditioning is the physical and physiological development of athletes for sport performance. The aim of S&C is to use exercise prescription to help with injury prevention as well as to improve performance for athletes.

Improve Performance & Prevent Injuries
We improve performance by improving our components of Athletic Performance. This include:

  • Maximal Strength
  • Anaerobic Power
  • Anaerobic Capacity
  • Local Muscular Endurance
  • Aerobic Capacity
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Stability
  • Body Composition

By developing some or all of these qualities (depending on our needs), we can get an edge over our opponent by being stronger, faster or just being able to last longer and push harder. This can also help us reduce the chances of injuries as our body can withstand harder forces and move better (less injuries also equates to less down time and more time spent in training!).


1. Want to get stronger without gaining much weight to stay in your weight class? Focus on strength training! Barbell strength training for lower reps but at a higher intensity (% of your 1 Rep Max) can help you build more maximal strength without muscle gain as you will be focusing on more efficient muscle fibre recruitment. The Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift (in their different variations) are great for building strength.

500Photo by Muscle & Fitness

2. No weights? Calisthenics are great to help you develop full body power and strength. Do this by adjusting the angle, changing the tempo or adding a power component to your exercise. For example, doing a pushup slowly, decline pushup, a clapping pushup. However, your lower body strength might be limited if you do not have access to heavier weights.

Photo by Evolve MMA

3. Work on that grip! Grip fighting is one of the most important parts of grappling. While technique and timing is important, building an iron vice grip can also help improve your game by making it hard for an opponent to break your grip. Do this by adding more pulling movements into your training. Rows, Deadlifts, Pull-ups are all great exercises to start with. Using a towel/Gi to pull can add an even better stimulus.

4. Utilise quadrupedal movements in your training. Grappling is one of the few sports where you might have to move around on all fours for extended periods of time. It can be beneficial to include quadruped styled movements in your training in order to develop better and more efficient movement patterns and the muscles associated with those movement patterns. Some good examples can include Animal Flow styled movements such as the beast crawl or ape walks. Add this in your routine as a warm-up or even into your conditioning circuits!

5. Improve your mobility to stay injury free. Often times in grappling we will find our joints in compromised or overly extended positions. While the best way to stay injury free is to tap early, having better mobility can buy us a little leeway as we have better range of motion. Using a combination of myofascial release and stretching often will lead to healthier joints. I find shoulder mobility especially important for grapplers as our arms can often be at compromised positions, putting a lot of pressure on our shoulder joints.

6. Train explosively if you want to be explosive. If you’re trying to have a more explosive style of fighting. Start including more power based movements into your routine. Olympic lifts, throws, slams can be highly beneficial. If you do not have access to such equipment, even doing your normal exercises more explosively (but under control) can help develop your fast twitch muscle fibres.

7. Running is overrated for conditioning! Conditioning is specific and a more effective way to build fight conditioning would be by sparring more or drilling Grappling based movements. Running can also be quite impactful which can lead to accumulated damage on your feet, ankle and shins. If you do want to do some steady state or HIIT based cardio but can’t spar or drill, a bike, swimming or rowing might be a better idea. Of course, if you feel running is still beneficial for other reasons such as mental endurance, go for it.

8. Don’t just crunch for your abs. Rotate more! Our core muscles are also one of the main movers for rotary movements which are very present in grappling (for instance, in our judo throws). Start to incorporate more transverse plane rotation exercises in order to better strengthen our core muscles for stronger and more explosive twisting power. Woodchops, Side Ball Slams and Renegade Rows are examples of such exercises!


Take your grappling to the next level by adding some strength and conditioning to your training routine. If you’ve already done so, start incorporating these tips to help build you a stronger and powerful grappling body! Take care, train hard and let’s get stronger tomorrow! Oss!

Author: Leon Tan, CSCS

I'm a certified Fitness Coach with a degree in Sports Science. I am passionate in Health, Fitness and helping people become a better version of ourselves.

4 thoughts

  1. Barbell strength training for lower reps but at a higher intensity (% of your 1 Rep Max). What do u mean by that?

    Sometimes when I do bench press, my barbell cannot touch my tips of the chest, is it normal? Any perspective angle to do when I do bench press, is it because of the weight load tooo heavy for me?

    1. Hi Ming Yang! Thanks for the questions.

      1. In Exercise Science terms, Intensity refers to the weight used in reference to the % of your 1 rep max. For example, if your 1 REP MAX is 100kg for the bench press, a high intensity can be 85% – 90%. This means you’re using 85kg – 90kg. If you’re using 60kg, that would be 60% of your 1 Rep Max. When you train at a higher intensity, it develops more Strength.

      Intensity does not mean how ‘hard’ you train in this case.

      2. You should be able to touch your chest with the bench press. If you can’t, it can be one of two reasons. Firstly like you mentioned, it might be because the load is too heavy. However, if the weight seems like to you and you still can’t touch your chest, you might have overly tight shoulders which restricts your Range of Motion.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Thank you. May I know how do I overcome my overly tight shoulder?

    Secondly because I’m skinny fat and I feel that i have a little tummy. So how do I overcome that as well as gaining mass as well?

    Hope one day when the gym re open, I can go find u, and u will be able to help and guide me along. My aim is to gain mass and muscle. I know that u work at FF capital tower. 🙂

Leave a Reply