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Sandbag Training for BJJ Grapplers & Its Benefits

Sandbag Training for BJJ Grapplers & Its Benefits

Matt D’Aquino is a martial artist and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion. He is very passionate about teaching the principles, techniques, and strategies of BJJ. 

D’Aquino expected most of his trainees to be physically fit and able to handle the challenging BJJ training. But to his dismay, when his students began their BJJ training, they had hardly enough stamina to last long training sessions. To be able to perform well in BJJ, a practitioner requires knowledge of grappling, excellent mobility, and a strong defense mechanism.

Using a variety of training equipment will also help you build up strength, power, and stamina. However, most training equipment is expensive and difficult to manage. However, training with a sandbag is a cheap and efficient way to improve your weaknesses and hone your technique.

1. What are the Benefits of Sandbag Training For BJJ?

1.1. Strengthens Forearms for BJJ Grappling

During fights, you might be up against an opponent who is bigger and has stronger arm muscles. Improving your forearm strength will help you to maintain your chokehold longer. Stronger forearm muscles can also help you escape from an opponent’s grips with little effort. After training with sandbags, your grip should become stronger and your fighting capabilities will be excelled.

1.2. Improve Overall Strength For BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has several techniques that require you to move your whole body. To perform well in BJJ, it is necessary to train your limbs, core, joints, etc. Focus on doing exercises that engage and strengthen all major muscles.

1.3. Realistic Fighting Style

Training with a barbell will help improve your muscle strength as long as you consistently train a specific muscle group each day. However, using barbells involves following fixed movements. When training with a sandbag, you have to constantly change your position and try to stabilize the weight. Training with a sandbag is similar to sparring with an opponent because the sandbag is constantly shifting in different directions and can avoid your attacks much like a real opponent.

1.4. Improves Stamina

After doing several BJJ exercises, such as overhead presses, your heart rate will gradually increase and you will last longer during exertion. The longer you train without having to take a break at a steady pace, the better you are going to perform in a tournament.

1.5. Strengthens Midsection and Improves Mobility

To execute BJJ techniques, the core muscles must be strengthened through training. The best core exercises for BJJ fighters are sit-ups, crunches, and planks. During fights, you may have to toss your opponent. Therefore, it is vital to add strengthening exercises to your stretching workouts. A common and easy-to-do exercise like sandbag rotation is the best way to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

2. The Best Sandbag Exercises for BJJ

Experienced BJJ fighters love sandbag exercises because of their versatility. They may find it soothing to grab a sandbag, throw it over one of their shoulders, and try to carry it as far as possible.

Sand Bag is a great training tool because it is almost the same as handling the opponent's weight, which is slippery, and twisting and requires attention, stamina, and focus at the same time. It does make your grip stronger which is ultimately the goal of the grapplers. The stronger the grip the more benefits you will be going to have while fighting on the mat.

2.1. Sandbag Workout Schedule

Day Exercise
1 Front Squat
2 Turkish Get-Ups
3 SandBag plank Pulls
4 Sandbag with bear hug or Monkey grip carry

2.2. Front squats

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Leg Muscles 8-12 3 30 seconds after every rep

Like a bear hug, the sandbag Bear Hug squat is best for core and leg strength. Doing squats with the weight on your shoulders or holding up upfront will benefit you a lot. There are more variations in the squat you can do to increase the leg's strength. For instance, the sumo squats, holding a weight in the middle of your legs. If you squat regularly, it will build your abdominals, back, and legs. The more strong legs you have the more chances are to win over the opponents.

How to do Front Squat?

  • Stand tall and make sure your feet are just wider than your shoulder width, this is the method to hit all the muscles like hamstrings, thighs, and glutes. Don’t try to go too deep if you are a beginner, because doing so may cause pain in your tailbone.
  • Keep your chest up, look straight, and look ahead. Try different variations of squats in order to attack the different muscle groups. For instance, if you are doing the sumo squats, you are targeting the inner thighs.

2.3. Bear Hug Squat

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Leg Muscles 8-12 3 30 seconds after every rep

The bear hug squat is also a great way to build lower body strength. Hold the sandbag, with straight arms, and make sure you are not pushing the sandbag toward your abdominals so that it will not create difficulty in breathing.

The bear hug squat forces your posture to erect, it is also the tool for squatting in the right way. The weight stays more balanced as compared to the barbell, which helps you to squat accurately.

How to do?

  • Hold the sandbag  with both hands as if they are in your lap, the arms should be straight to the shoulders.
  • Keep your feet a little wider than your shoulder, look forward to keeping your head upright position.
  • Bend your knee to 90 degrees, or low if it is possible for you. Keep your back straight position as you are sitting on a chair.
  • Do not lift your knees, keep your feet flat on the surface as your feet need to touch the ground as a whole. It is a better idea to squat by wearing a jogger with a flat shoe surface.
  • You can do 3 to 6 sets with 8 to 12 repetitions.

2.4. Skater Squat

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Leg Muscles 8-12 3 30 seconds after every rep

The skater squats are the most difficult but best to build the lower body strength and hit the thigh muscles. Only professional athletes can do the 10 accurate reps of skater squats.

They are hard to do but they are the most effective ones and are similar to the deadlifts. It is one of the best unilateral exercises that improve the glute muscles as well as strengthen hamstrings that improve your overall BJJ performance.

How to do the Skater Squat?

  • Doing the Skater Squat is easy, bend your knee backward, put pressure on one leg, and do 8 to 10 reps, you can keep shifting the weight to the other side and train one leg after the other.
  •  You do not need to lift too heavy as you are already training one leg after the other.
  • Avoid shaking your knee to the left or right as this may cause knee pain.
  • Remember to train your legs once a week, and avoid running after leg day.

2.5. Suitcase Squats

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Leg Muscles 8-10 3 30 seconds after every rep

The suitcase squats are the best exercise for those who are suffering from asymmetrical imbalances or noticeable hip impingement. The bag weight distribution is equal to both legs. It is considered the anti- lateral flexion king. It helps to identify the weak areas in the lower body.

The suitcase squat can be a difficult exercise to perform, this exercise will make you sweat a lot while putting more weight on your shoulder but if you lift more weight beyond your capacity, you are going to get into trouble.

Plus, it is helpful if you are just a beginner, this is a beginner-friendly exercise.

Suitcase Squats are best to build the quads, you can improve your stamina by narrowing the stance.

How to do the Suitcase Squats?

  • Hold your sandbag over your shoulder firmly.
  • Squat down until your hips are below the knee level.
  • Lift up and stand in the starting position.
  • Set a limit that allows you to do 8 to 10 reps.

2.6. Turkish Get-Up

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Shoulder, Hips, core 5-6 reps per side 2-4 30 second rest after every rep

Sandbag get-up is a free weight training exercise that targets the shoulders, quads, core, and hamstring muscles. There are several Sandbag Turkish exercises that you need to do while you are on the mat.

This is a great exercise among all the sandbag variations. The sandbag Turkish get-up is a great alternative to the conventional Turkish Kettlebell or dumbbell get-up. Because, in this exercise, your shoulder mobility is limited to perform the exercises with intensity.

Another challenging thing in the exercise is it requires you to control  your movements which is necessary while you are on the mat and fighting with your opponent.

How to Do the Turkish Get up

  • Lie down on the mat in such a position that your arm should be around the sandbag and
  • Gold your food near your toe and try to lift up  by putting weight to your left  with the sandbag over your right shoulder.
  • Lift your body up with the free hand to stand in the luge position.
  • Stand tall and reverse all the processes to go into that position where to start off. And again continue that process with the opposite side.

2.7. Sandbag Plank Pulls

Targeted Muscle Reps Sets Rest time
Abs, gluteus muscles 10 3 30 seconds after every rep

The plank is the most effective exercise to develop the core muscles. If you are doing just planks with body weight, it is not an easy job. It is very difficult to hold in a plank position for one minute but as time goes on, you need to get out of the comfort zone to build more muscles, core strength, and overall stamina.

The sandbag is a great tool to add more width, maintain balance and maintain tension while you are dragging the weight. This exercise is the best tool that improves stamina, and stability at the same time

How to do Plank Pulls?

  • Start from the push-up positions not in the plank position, keep your one arm straight and drag the sandbag to the right side and then drag the sandbag to the left side using your arms.
  • You can also drag the sandbag from your core to your shoulder because doing it in such a way will target the lower abs as well.
  • Repeat the same action until you are done with your sets.

2.8. Sandbag Bear Hug Carry

Muscles worked Reps Sets Rest time
Biceps, shoulders, forearms, quads, glutes, Calves, Hamstrings 8-12 3 30 second after every rep

The sandbag bear hug carry is the smartest way to teach yourself how to tightly grab an opponent when your other arm is not free to move. This technique is also useful if your body is positioned above or below the opponent and one hand is gripping either above or below the opponent.

When holding a weight with a monkey grip, your movements become limited but will help you defeat an opponent in the long run.

There are several ways to practice with a sandbag. For instance, you can start lifting while in the upright position, then practice techniques on the ground when your back can handle the extra weight without getting injured.

How To do bear hug carry?

  • Start slowly while lifting a sandbag. It is better to sit with the legs open at a wide angle to prevent any knee injury.
  • Make sure you are in the right posture, grip the bag firmly, and look straight ahead while standing upright.
  • The starting goal should be to walk at least 20 to 40 meters and repeat at least two to three times. After a week or so, the goal should be to increase the walking distance.

3. Conclusion

Overall, it requires strength training, and mobility to be the best BJJ fighter, you have to pay attention to core training as well as BJJ training. When you have strengthened your basics, you are going to perform well during the fight. However, you can increase the stamina of your body through different sports and gym equipment, which will contribute much in order to prepare your body for BJJ. There are several types of sandbag training that are the perfect fit for BJJ fighters.

Plus, an appropriate and balanced diet is indispensable for quick best preparation and recovery. Food is like fuel to your body, the more blanched diet and rests you are going to give your body, the sooner it will be received from fatigue to practice for the next day–While you are training with the sandbag, make sure you take a day off before doing any other exercises.

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