Four Movements for Stronger Grappling

Four Movements for Stronger Grappling


Adam benShea

Once you start training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, or any time type of grappling, you start looking for ways to improve. You want to get better, faster. This can lead to alkaline rich diets, endless hours of YouTube technique videos, and, even, sporting the newest version of compression tights. In the midst of these many options for grappling improvement, you start wondering about sport specific workouts.

The search for functional training can lead any number of places. As a means to steer you away from the musclehead mirror gazing narcissist mindlessly curling dumbbells while handing out “bro science” advice like a pumped up proselytizer, these four exercises provide an approachable starting point for increased grappling strength and conditioning.

Upper Body

Pull-ups provide one of the most applicable upper body movements for increasing grappling strength. Pull-ups are valuable because they mimic the common movements of grabbing, pulling, and squeezing. Pull-ups have two additional benefits. First, they require you to move your own bodyweight, a functional component to any combat sport; be it grappling, boxing, or MMA. Second, they can be performed with a wide variety of grips to replicate different positions in grappling. You can even throw an old gi over a bar, for pull-ups that strengthen your grip for chokes and throws.

Lower Body

Lunges have direct transference to grappling because they are similar to the movement of shooting a range of takedowns (from double legs to fireman carries). Moreover, the nature of lunges is such that they require you to practice good takedown form by changing elevations with your legs, not your back.       

Total Body

The deadlift is one of the best all around power movements, perhaps it is the best. The value of the deadlift for grappling include a more powerful hip extension for finishing submission and sweep attempts and a stronger lower back for takedown completion and defense.


The rowing machine continues to decorate many home gyms without its owner realizing its incredible benefits. For grappling, the rowing machine is great because it offers hip explosion, dynamic pulling, and strong extension. For a conditioning workout, mimic the grappling pace of extended moderate output followed by short explosive bursts. You can do this in a fifteen minute workout by alternating between ten moderate pulls and five hard pulls.

Alright, so if you’re now jacked up and ready to hit the gym to put these movements into practice, that is great. However, remember: inspiration is fine, but it doesn’t always last. Instead, turn to steady consistency and watch your gains grow.

Martial training is not like a Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach. It is not about one week of frenzied activity. It is a life pursuit. Train for life. 

Adam benShea, PhD, is a third degree black belt BJJ instructor at Paragon. He teaches at Cal Poly and is the coauthor of the Amazon bestselling Jailhouse Strong series. His book, Grapple Strong, can be purchased here: