Home BJJ Training The Best Bodyweight Exercises for BJJ

The Best Bodyweight Exercises for BJJ


Bodyweight exercises for BJJ are a popular and effective way to improve your BJJ strength and conditioning with little to no equipment. The best Jiu Jitsu bodyweight workout includes exercises for the core, lower body, and upper body.

When designing this BJJ bodyweight workout program and choosing the best Jiu Jitsu bodyweight exercises, I focus on fundamental movements that build strength, stability, and mobility throughout your entire body.

You bodyweight workout for BJJ should leave you with enough energy and recovery that does not negatively impact your main Jiu Jitsu training. I prefer to use bodyweight exercises for BJJ as a general BJJ strength and conditioning tool. 

While Jiu Jitsu-specifc bodyweight movements such as shrimps, bridges, and rolls are better than nothing, I prefer ‌building strength with efficient exercises that apply fundamental biomechanical principles for optimal strength and muscle adaptations.

This article covers bodyweight exercises for BJJ with the following points:

  • Core bodyweight exercises for Jiu Jitsu
  • Upper body BJJ bodyweight exercises
  • Lower body Jiu Jitsu bodyweight exercises
  • 2x per week BJJ bodyweight training program

Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to start ‌improving your strength and conditioning for BJJ with bodyweight training.

With that said, let’s dive into my list of the best bodyweight exercises for BJJ!

Side Plank

Elbow Side Plank

The side plank is a core stability bodyweight exercise for BJJ that I use as part of a low back pain prevention routine and warm-up prior to lifting or as a standalone workout.

You can do side planks by using a static hold or by lowering your hip back down and performing repetitions of side bridges.

Note, this choice of exercise is inspired by the “McGill Big 3,” core exercises. Overall I have found this type of isometric core training to be incredibly valuable for reducing the low back pain that is all-too-common in BJJ.

Movement pattern: core lateral stability.

Primary muscles worked (1):

  • Rectus abdominis
  • External oblique
  • Erector spinae
  • Lumbar multifidus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Tensor fasciae latae


Bird-dogs are another amazing core rotational stability exercise great for lower back health and activating your stabilizers before heavier lifts. It also builds shoulder stability due to the posted arm carrying the weight of your upper body.

Again, the isometric stabilization in this exercises helps keep your spine stable. Isolating the arm and leg also helps be able to dissociate the limb movements from the core stability, building better body awareness and health.

Movement pattern: core rotational stability.

Primary muscles worked (2):

  • Kneel on a stable exercise table, mat, or floor.
  • Position the hands directly under the shoulders at shoulder width with the fingers facing forward.
  • Position the knees and feet hip width apart with feet dorsiflexed.
  • Pre-brace the abdominals and core muscles by attempting to contract the muscles and placing the spine in a neutral position, prior to initiating the ascent.

Dead Bugs

Dead bugs are an excellent stabilization exercise for the front of your core. They round out the 3 main core exercises, that I typically include some variation of at the beginning of any BJJ bodyweight workout.

Movement pattern: core stability.

Primary muscles worked (3):

  • Rectus abdominis
  • External obliques
  • Internal obliques

Knees to Chest

Knees to chest is an excellent core bodyweight exercise for BJJ. It trains similar movements to the hip flexion required for closed-guard, butterfly guard, and other guard positions in Jiu Jitsu.

Movement pattern: frontal core strength.

Primary muscles worked:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Multifidus
  • External obliques
  • Internal obliques


Dips are an upper body exercise that use parallel bars, rings, or a bench to hit a variety of muscles in your chest, shoulders, core, and back. These muscles are vital in BJJ for a wide range of techniques, the least of which is basic posting and framing against your opponent.

Note: add weight via weight belt or other methods.

Movement pattern: horizontal pressing (decline angle).

Primary muscles worked:

  • Triceps
  • Anterior deltoid
  • Pec major and minor
  • Rhomboid muscles in the back

Pull Ups

Pull ups and their variations are hands down the best all around upper body exercises in my opinion, especially when it comes to BJJ upper body strength as well as grip strength for Jiu Jitsu.

Pullup exercises target the major pulling muscles in your upper body and offer a variety of grip options to provide varying stimulus. You can also use a thicker bar to add more grip demands.

Some Jiu Jitsu athletes use towel pull ups to train their Gi grips, but I personally find that puts too much strain on my fingers without a ton of extra benefits.

Note: add weight via weight belt or other methods.

Movement pattern: vertical pulling.

Primary muscles worked (4):

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Biceps brachii
  • Posterior deltoid
  • Middle trapezius

Push Ups

Push ups are the classic bodyweight chest exercise that you can do virtually anywhere. In addition to the chest muscles, they hit your shoulders as well as your core stability, all of which is beneficial for BJJ. 

You can use pushups as a direct chest training exercise with progressions in weight or variations. 

Alternatively, you can use them as a component of your upper body warmup once performing many repetitions becomes easy.

Pushups provide many variation options including:

  • Diamond pushups
  • wide grip push ups
  • Explosive push ups
  • One-arm pushups

Movement pattern: horizontal pressing.

Primary muscles worked (5):

  • Deltoids
  • Pectoralis minor
  • Pectoralis major
  • Serratus anterior
  • Biceps brachii
  • Triceps brachii

Single Leg Floor Bridge

If you want to hit your glutes with minimal-to-no equipment, then the single leg floor bridge is an excellent choice. This variation of the double leg floor bridge adds an additional rotational stability effort while concentrating the force onto one leg.

It’s an excellent bodyweight exercise for BJJ as well, since many escape movements mimic the double and single leg floor bridge.

Primary muscles worked (6):

  • Gluteus maximus (glutes)
  • Erector spinae
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps femoris

Bodyweight Squat

If you struggle with barbell squats or are just starting your BJJ lifting journey, bodyweight squats are an excellent way to train this movement pattern while developing the coordination and strength to begin adding external resistance.

Whether it’s hitting a takedown, transitioning from a crouched position to standing, or maintaining posture when in someone’s guard, the bodyweight squat is incredibly applicable to BJJ training. You cannot afford not to do squats if you are serious about maximizing your BJJ strength.

Movement pattern: squat.

Primary muscles worked (7):

  • Gluteus maximus (glutes)
  • Biceps femoris & semitendinosus (hamstrings)
  • Rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, & vastus medialis (quads)

Bodyweight Lunge

Lunges are a foundational movement for all athletic and day-to-day activities, including movements in BJJ. They are especially relevant to passing guard in BJJ, which requires a unilateral stance. They also help improve your standup grappling and mobility for wrestling shots.

Movement pattern: lunge.

Muscles worked:

  • Gluteus maximus (glutes)
  • Erector spinae
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps femoris

Side Lunge

Side lunges train your outer hips and also help improve groin and hip mobility. You can add weight by holding a dumbbell. I personally find side lunges great for targeting the inner and outer thighs as well is improving general mobility for BJJ.

Muscles worked:

  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Quadriceps
  • Adductors

Twice per Week BJJ Bodyweight Training Program

The following BJJ bodyweight program is split into two separate workouts. One workout focuses on upper body movements while the other targets lower body movements.

Both Jiu Jitsu bodyweight workouts include core training at the beginning. The rep ranges you will use depend on your current strength.

If you are new to bodyweight training for BJJ, several reps of each exercise may be enough.

More advanced athletes may need to perform 20 repetitions per set to‌ stimulate further gains.

Take 30-60 seconds of rest between sets.

You can scale the workout up by performing more total sets, more repetitions per set, or more workouts per week.

BJJ Bodyweight Workout #1 – Upper Body & Core

  • Warmup with 5 minutes of light cardio
  • Side plank 3 x 10-30 second holds each side
  • Bird-dogs – 3×10-15 repetitions each side
  • Dead bugs – 3×10-15 repetitions each side
  • Dips – 3×8-20 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3×8-20 repetitions
  • Push ups – 3×8-20 repetitions

BJJ Bodyweight Workout #2 – Lower Body and Core

  • Warmup with 5 minutes of light cardio
  • Side plank 3 x 10-30 second holds each side
  • Knees to chest – 3×10-15 repetitions each side
  • Single leg glute bridge – 3×10-20 repetitions each side
  • Squats – 3×8-20 repetitions
  • Lunges – 3×8-20 repetitions
  • Side lunges – 3×8-20 repetitions

Best Bodyweight Training for BJJ (video)

For a video breakdown about BJJ bodyweight training, check out this video from BJJStrength.

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Jordan Fernandez, BA, CSCS, CPT. Jordan is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple Belt under Aaron Botello at <a rel="nofollow">Sonoran Brazilian Jiu Jitsu</a>, Certified Personal Trainer through the <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.nasm.org/become-a-personal-trainer">National Academy of Sports Medicine</a>, and recreational BJJ competitor. Jordan serves as a board member for the <a rel="nofollow" href="https://traineracademy.org/cpt/home">Trainer Academy Certified Personal Trainer</a> program, assisting with curriculum development and vetting to ensure certified trainers enter the industry with the requisite knowledge and skills to safely and effectively coach clients towards improved health outcomes. Jordan lives in Tucson Arizona where he coaches clients for strength and fitness and runs <a rel="nofollow">Dynamic SEO</a>, a small digital marketing agency for local businesses.