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I want to eventually start competing in BJJ competitions in the lightweight division (<70kg) and I'm about 67kg (10%bf) at the moment. I'm going to continue weight training until I reach 70kg and then my intention is to stop going to the gym and rely on bodyweight exercises (plyometric push-ups, jump squats, pull-ups) to improve my strength without gaining muscle.

So my question is, as long as I don't eat more calories than I burn off in a day consistently, I shouldn't gain muscle and go over the weight limit... right?

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It might help if you write out abbreviations in your questions. It could keep people from answering, that don't know that you are talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And people that might give a good answer don't necessarily have to be proficient in this topic. –  Baarn Nov 4 '12 at 10:14
    
Get your body fat to 7% so you can gain more muscle! Or even better, don't limit yourself and put on 10kg of muscle and compete in the next category ;). –  Mike S Nov 9 '12 at 5:00
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Getting stronger without gaining muscle is purely based on working the neural adaptation process (90+% training, low reps, high rest). To maintain strength/power in the weight room lift 1 x a week at 90%+ on a major full body lift like a power clean or back squat. –  Andreas Nov 9 '12 at 14:58
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3 Answers

Switching from weight training to no weight training will mean you'll get weaker. Why not try lifting less frequently--maybe once a week--for less than 5 reps per set, for strength and power instead of size? If you're training BJJ all the time and not eating like a maniac, that shouldn't put weight on you. When I do judo twice a week or BJJ several times a week, it's hard to gain weight (even though I want to!) while lifting two or three times a week (with sets being 3 or 5 reps) and eating fairly hard. My concern is that switching from lifting to bodyweight exercises will very likely make you somewhat weaker.

But yes, your plan will work in the sense that lifting and eating your way up to a weight, then stopping the lifting and increased eating, should make sure you stay in your weight class. But that doesn't mean it's simply because you ate less calories than you burned off. As discussed in a few answers to this question, our bodies don't "burn calories", we digest food.

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My BJJ coach commented once how strong I was when wrestling. This surprised me because I'd never stand a chance in arm wrestle, could hardly smith machine more than the bar itself and bench hardly anything. I mentioned this to him and he mentioned that it's not about individual muscle strength, nor even compound muscle strength in one direction, but about how quickly you can switch the direction of force appropriate to a relatively moving opponent. I'm not talking the 'use the opponent's force' stuff, but engaging the appropriate muscles in an optimized sequence as you try to keep your opponent from escaping as you improve your position.

So developing the right type of strength I think is important when you have to fit in a weight division.

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One of the first rule of training periodisation is that to maintain your gains during a recovery phase, you need to keep the intensity level high. So you can reduce the frequency or the overall load but keep the intensity high during your workout. Keeping your strength training workout once a week will allow you to maintain your strength level without building additionnal muscle mass, especially if you don't eat more than you need to.

I suppose you want to get stronger to get better results in your competition. Another important training principle is specificity. That's why I would say that bodyweight exercises like plyometrics and calisthenics would be great to add 2 or 3 times a week as they will get you stronger and more powerful for your sport. Bodyweight exercises are more similar to the movement pattern you use in BJJ than the bench press or biceps curl are. Those exercises might not improve your 1RM on the bench, but you'll be "stronger" in movement that are meaningful to your needs. Developing strength is also about the neuro-muscular connection so try to be as specific as you can when choosing your exercises.

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