Strength vs Flexibility

During a recent Q&A session I was asked if Strength or Flexibility was more important for a Grappler and could you improve both simultaneously…?

I often find this is a common question and a lot of people fall hard into one camp. 

The double leg, smash pass and rip your arm out of the socket guys will say STRENGTH is where its at.


The pull guard, tie up your legs, invert on to your back and choke you out guys will say FLEXIBILITY FTW. 

Ok, so thats a generalisation but you get my point…

Do I have an opinion on which one is more important? 

Well I think it often comes down to two man factors:

1. What type of ‘game’ do you play?

2. Are you glaringly ‘weak’ in one area?


Let’s take point 1

If your main game is to wrestle, pin, control etc and you play a game reliant on physically dominating your opponent, then potentially maximising your strength is a good option. If you have no intention of playing inverted guards, or using particularly dextrous solutions to problems then high level flexibility probably isn’t as critical for you.

On the flip side 

If you do play a game backed up by your ability to invert, bent, twist and flow around your opponent then a good degree of flexibility may well be an asset, whereas a lot of time working on strength may not yield as much to your game. 

Don’t get me wrong

If you lack at least a basic level of strength and flexibility your grappling will suffer, and you will likely struggle to be as complete and competent as you could be. 

This brings me to point 2

If you constantly feel physically dominated by your opponents despite having at least equal or higher skill, then it is likely strength is something you need to focus on. 

An example of this may be that you can constantly get to an armbar position but often struggle to actually straighten your training partners arm into a vulnerable position. 

If we look at a flexibility example, I had a student who detested being rocked up on to their shoulders (think from a double unders pass) – so much so they would tap out or refuse to be there all together. 

This kind of flexibility issue should raise concerns and increasing your general flexibility would be a good choice. 

In general I wouldn’t say one is strictly more important than the other however I bet you have rarely heard anyone come away from a tough match saying; 

“Fuck that guy was so flexible!” 

But I bet you have heard…

“Fuck that guy was so strong!” 

I am betting the answer is Yes, you may have even experienced this yourself. 

So if I was absolutely pushed to work one with more focus I would pick strength but that’s not just because of the above it also will make you more flexible…

What? How? Read on…


This brings us to part 2 of the question – “can you improve both simultaneously?”

The answer is YES – if you train them right.

Training for Strength can and will make you more flexible (if done correctly)

Training for Flexibility will be unlikely to improve your strength by much.

That’s exactly why if I had to choose I would train for strength as a priority and get my free flexibility gains on the side 🙂

You can read more about this concept right here

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