Balancing Tactical Athlete and BJJ Strength and Conditioning


By Charles Bausman


In comparison to the professions and events MTI traditionally designs programming for, we were challenged to strike a balance between keeping tactical athletes fit and prepared for the demands of the profession, along with the physical demands of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) in our latest Tactical BJJ Action Hero Training Packet.

To compound this challenge, we understand training time is limited for individual athletes. The tactical professions are generally physically demanding on a day-to-day basis, and each BJJ session will generally involve at least a few rounds of moderate to high-intensity sparring, therefore training intensity and frequency needed to be carefully balanced. 

As a professional firefighter with five years of BJJ training (as well as a husband and dad), I’m acutely aware of the difficulties of balancing both professional and sports training in a limited amount of time.

As with all our programming, we first needed to conduct a thorough needs analysis for BJJ, which will guide the nature of the programming as its balanced with the demands of the tactical professions. 


BJJ Fitness Demands Prioritized

BJJ is a year-round endeavor similar to the tactical profession demands … there is no off-season and in-season to periodize programming around. This calls for a balanced approach, where we don’t specifically focus on a single physical attribute, such as a heavily strength-focused 7-week cycle a football player might complete in the off-season. Instead, we take the long approach, building our fitness base with equal parts Strength and Conditioning. 


Physical Attributes

  • Strength 
    • Brute Strength mixed with Working Strength – BJJ/Grappling is primarily a Brute Strength oriented endeavor utilized repeatedly through sport-specific technique. Total body, powerful rotational, and anti-rotational movements are common in every ‘rolling’ session. 
    • Relative Strength – Same as tactical athletes, developing strength without additional bodyweight is a key advantage to grappling sports
    • Unilateral Strength emphasis – The irregular, off-balance movements put brief but excessive loading on individual limbs and joints. Unilateral strength development is key to injury prevention and durability
  • Full Chassis Integrity + Neck Strengthening – Chassis Integrity mixing standing, seated, knees on the ground, and semi-supine positions. Neck strengthening integrated as a means for injury prevention.
  • Grip Strength (Crush, Support, Pinch) – Different varieties of grips are utilized between Gi and No-Gi techniques, involving all of the major three actions of the grip. Strong grips, strong arms, and a strong back are significant advantages.
  • Short Duration Work Capacity (5-10 min w/repeats). Training rounds are generally 5-6 minutes, with 1-2 minutes of rest before another round. Competition matches are generally 5-10 minutes dependent on belt level. Work Capacity priority is lower on this list as every BJJ/Grappling practice involves multiple rounds of sparring, aka plenty of conditioning, is accomplished on the mats.
  • Aerobic Endurance – Moderate duration, moderate-intensity endurance training compared for maintenance of tactical requirements, as well as to improve overall aerobic capacity and recovery between matches/rounds.

Based on the needs analysis and the requirement of keeping training sessions between 30-45 minutes, we can begin to construct a framework of what the programming will look like within a 5x session period. For example, below is a breakdown of Casey Ryback, the first training plan in the Tactical BJJ Action Hero Training Packet


Casey Ryback

  • Strength Focus – 2x Sessions… Working Strength via modified TLU Progression
  • Work Capacity – 2x Sessions… Repeat 10-minute efforts utilizing primarily sandbag movements focused on rapidly and efficiently moving an irregular external load across different movement planes
  • Chassis Integrity – 4x Sessions … Anti Rotational, Rotational, Total Body, Low Back Extension, and Grip Strength in varying positions from the ground, kneeling, and standing positions based on BJJ demands. We can multi-task with Chassis Integrity using it as an effective warm up as well while meeting our demand for focused trunk strength training.
  • Endurance – 1x Session… maintenance focused on specific tactical athlete demands with separate options for each profession (Military, Fire, Law Enforcement). Law Enforcement shortens endurance work for upper body hypertrophy. 
  • BJJ Focus – This cycle primary BJJ focus is developing Grip Strength, which we integrated into Chassis Integrity circuits for most efficient use of time. 


Weekly Breakdown


Figuring out a Training Schedule

Our training plans are nearly always constructed around a weekly schedule, such as Monday through Friday or Saturday. These plans forced us to be a bit creative, as it needed to work in conjunction with BJJ training, with schedules that will vary from athlete to athlete. 

Instead, we made the plans ‘ self-paced’, meaning you should not necessarily complete the programming Monday through Friday. In order to prevent overtraining, we recommend the following schedule based on your BJJ training frequency.

  • Train BJJ 1-2x/week —-> Complete 3-4x training plan sessions/week
  • Train BJJ 3-4x/week —-> Complete 2-3x training plan sessions/week
  • Train BJJ 5-6x/week —-> Complete 2x training plan sessions/week

Training sessions should still be completed sequentially. See below for a week’s example for someone who trains BJJ 3x/week:

This self-determined training schedule requires self-awareness from the athlete. If you feel like you’re approaching a state of overtraining or overreaching, it’s time to take a break. 

We’re confident this training packet will fill a gap for athletes looking to balance tactical professional fitness with BJJ fitness in a time-efficient manner.


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