Jigaro Kano spoke of judo as the ideal exercise. If you’re doing it to that end, grappling will hit every muscle group. Even the so-called “vanity” muscles like the biceps are vital tools in grappling. On Fitocracy there was a discussion about how to start training eight weeks out from a tournament. I’m by no means an elite grappler. If you want to know what an elite grappler does, find one and ask.
I don’t like to work out supplemental exercises more than 30 minutes at a time and I don’t like to do it more than 3 times per week. I just don’t see the point in spending two hours twice per week on your legs. It seems wasteful. I’d rather be grappling. In fact, what the hell can you do that takes two goddamn hours for your legs?
I’m not going to pretend that I magically know how many sets/reps to do of each. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some kind of an expert on this. If you have a better idea, toss it out. After the cut are a couple of workout options I think are pretty good. There’s a lot of stuff you can add on if you have the time – rows, Olympic lifts, gymnastics, etc. The amount of shit you can do to get stronger is almost unlimited. I don’t have a lot of time when I work out, but feel all of these are key, so this is really a skeleton. One of the most important things to realize is that if you’re ground fighting as is, you probably have a good core. Investing a lot of time into doing a full core workout is a waste. Pick one or two of your favorite core exercises and just do that. Shrimping, drills, and other exercises will handle your core. Let’s not forget the miles and miles you’ll be running for cardio (unless you’re doing kickboxing because you’re lazy and hate to run – THIS GUY, the point is, your core is going to get hit hard elsewhere – don’t waste valuable time on it here).
Weights are an option:
Ab wheel roll-out
Weights aren’t an option:
Hip Toss Drill (with partner)
Ab wheel roll-out
Ring pull-ups (or Gi Pull-ups)
Hip Toss Drill – I’ve described this one a lot of places. It’s one of my favorites. Grab a partner your size or bigger, have them jump guard, swing their legs over to one side and sit into it, use your hip to pop them up and swing their legs over to your other hip and sit into it, repeat ad nauseam. This is a killer for your upper legs, core, and lower back. It directly applies to hip tosses and the kind of strength you need to muscle a throw.
Bridges – There’s a progression. Start with the basic forward/reverse bridges you learned in grappling class. If you didn’t learn them, switch to a better instructor. The goal is going to be to remove your hands, then to do these against a wall as headstand bridges, and then to go back to square one (with hands and whatnot), but a partner sitting in mount or on your back. They should lean back to resist the bridge. Your neck is going to get super strong. You’ll appreciate this the next time you get spiked on your head by that dick in class who can’t control his throws.
Pull-ups – You can find good progressions for pull-ups on line if you can’t do them. I think ring pull-ups are harder than gi pull-ups, but the gi works your grip more.
Hand gripper – This isn’t that lame-ass 5-lb. gripper you can get at the local sporting goods store. Get a heavy gripper. GNC sells them for $40 for a set of six (50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300). Heavy Grips I’m told are pretty good too. If you can afford it, Captains of Crush are an industry standard. Do them with your workout for best results (between two grip intensive exercises is optimal from what I understand).
Ab wheel – Yes, I bought into it. Once you try it you’ll realize just how hard it is. As stated above, core work is pointless beyond one or two exercises to help strengthen it. You should pick the one or two exercises that are hardest for you to do, but that you can actually manage. Trying to pick dragon flags as a beginner is probably going to end with you going nowhere or hating your life. The other thing to keep in mind is picking exercises that hit as much as possible – a dragon flag or an ab wheel is going to do top to bottom but neglect the sides – an oblique exercise such as oblique crunches or wrestler’s twists is a good second, but it’s stupid to do dragon flags and the ab wheel as my two.
Box jumps – How dare I even suggest these as an alternate to the squat. You’re not going to get the sheer brutal strength that the squat would give you. Here’s a secret though: NO BODY WEIGHT EXERCISE CAN EXCEED LIFTING YOUR BODY WEIGHT. If you can squat your body weight you’re as strong as pistol squats can physically make you. The box jump at least works explosive power which you’re going to need for throws and to use your legs to push someone off of you. Learning to jump higher will also help if you’re planning on doing/learning flying attacks.
Rings – Now that I have rings to play on I hate everything else. If you have them use them, if you don’t, do the obvious analogous exercise sequence. I definitely see why people suggest gymnastics for upper body work, especially for getting stronger for grappling. It’s core and the whole upper body all in one shot. I even use the rings to stretch and build static strength by holding different positions/grips.
Grappling – If all else fails, just remember, wrestling will make you stronger. These exercises are meant to supplement grappling, not replace it, and you should never under any circumstance skip a class to do them. Given the choice between wrestling someone 1-2 weight classes higher and lifting, you should wrestle. You’ll get a lot more out of it. Grappling will give you both strength and technique.