Will performing a weighted sitout help improve your sitout on the mat? A look at movement specificity for BJJ.

In our last article, we touched on the idea of specificity. Unfortunately, it is sometimes taken too literally. Performing weighted hip escapes, or sitouts with ankle weight may not necessarily have a positive transfer of training effect. This is commonplace inside fitness. Things which sound or look like they make sense, actually don’t.

Let’s first examine why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is different to most other sports; movement diversity. If we look at running, it’s a cyclic exercise. That is, it can be broken down into distinct phases which repeat itself in a cycle. If we move into a slightly more complex sport, like basketball, we still have the running cycle but we now have changing directions; going forward, back, left, right, diagonal, and jumping (and probably a whole bunch of other stuff). Now let’s look at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The movements are endless. You can invert, hip escape, push, pull, change levels, spin, lunge and the list goes on. If we applied movement-specificity literally, you would probably need to bring your sleeping bag with you to the gym. If the believe is that a transfer of training only occurs if there is a direct resemblance of the movement, you would have to perform every movement.

If you aren’t convinced that weighted hip escapes may not help, your defence may sound something like: “I only train the basic movements of Jiu Jitsu because all the complex movements are made up of basic building blocks”. This actually makes sense. When we program a movement it is stored in our brain as a motor program. A motor program allows us to use the backbone of a movement and modify it for different conditions. In practical terms, this would mean if you have a strong lower body from doing weighted lunges, your brain will know how to transfer this into a double leg. This particular feature is known as motor equivalence. Although your logic is now backed by science, you have actually opposed the idea of movement-specificity. You now agree a positive transfer of training effect can take place even if the movements aren’t exact.

There are a few other reasons why the visual appraisal of movement-specificity is flawed; movement mechanics. The angle of resistance determines which muscles are recruited. Let’s taking punching as an example. It’s common for fighters to punch with weights to increase punching speed. Yes, using low loads at high velocities is great to develop speed. But, the angle of resistance for a handweight is vertical. The actual angle of resistance is horizontal. Mechanically, it doesn’t make sense. If you do choose to replicate a sporting movement, this is something that needs to be addressed/considered.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Analsysis
Sometimes it’s best to start with a simple overview before making things complex. We could break down the dominant energy system, how a resistance training program should be periodized to peak for competition, or how the primary training emphasis reflects the training status of the athlete. But sometimes making broad observations is a great starting off point. If we zoom out, and look at the metabolic demands of our sport, we know:
1. You are using all different parts of your body
2. Rounds are anywhere between 6 and 10minutes
3. There are alternating periods of high intensity and moderate intensity
4. You are in direct contact with your opponent most of the time

Although it appears generic, this enough to create a really good Strength and Conditioning Program. We’ll break down each point in a bit more detail and begin to construct the backbone of a very basic, but effective S&C program for BJJ.