How To Train Like The GOAT: Gordon Ryan’s Workout And Training Routines

How To Train Like The GOAT: Gordon Ryan’s Workout And Training Routines

Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts with the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, and more, Evolve MMA is the best gym to learn BJJ in Singapore.

When you talk about aesthetics, it is hard to deny that BJJ world champions are some of the best-looking athletes in the world. As Georges St. Pierre said, if you look good, you feel good; when you feel good, you do good. But it is more than just looking good if you think about it – Having a strong physique means you can perform well to the best of your abilities. Today, we will talk about the No-Gi GOAT Gordon Ryan‘s workout and training routines.

Workout For Jiu-Jitsu

It is not a secret that championship-level athletes like Gordon Ryan train hard every day. His day consists of a strength and conditioning session on top of two sessions of Jiu-Jitsu training. 

First, we must understand that training for Jiu-Jitsu has specific nuances. As Gordon states, he does not focus on having tree trunk legs, which can be detrimental for Jiu-Jitsu. Large legs can make it challenging to perform certain techniques, such as locking in the triangle against big opponents, slipping out of leg locks, and pummeling.

In Jiu-Jitsu, there are lots of pulling and pushing motions involved. Therefore, working our upper body, particularly the backshoulders and triceps, is essential. Grappling combines aerobic (sustained, low-intensity activities) and anaerobic (short bursts of intense movement) activity. If you have no prior strength and conditioning program, it is best to first build your fundamental strength with exercises like the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Pick a proven program and work your way up. The 5×5 template is a great starting point, all things considered.

The Gordon Ryan Workout

Now, what does the Gordon Ryan workout routine look like? It mainly consists of drop sets, which means that you have to perform a set starting with a heavy weight that you can handle (typically around the 6-8 rep range), followed by another set right after as you gradually lighten the load in which every set that you perform must be done until failure. Time under tension (elongating the amount of time of the exercise) is another way he performs his sets. An example of this is holding the descent when doing the hammer curl. Also, Gordon likes to do supersets, working the same muscles with different exercises one after another.

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Types Of Workouts

Gordon works on his pulling strength by performing dumbbell rows and pull-ups. As mentioned above, you can perform these exercises using various methods, like the 5×5, drop sets, supersets, or time under tension (TUT). Here’s a breakdown:

5×5 –Work with a weight you can handle for only five repetitions. This typically is about 85% of the maximum weight you can lift with the exercise. Do this for 5 sets.

Drop Set – Work on a weight you can handle for 6-8 repetitions. Lighten the load after and follow with another set that you can perform for an 8-10 rep range. Lower the weight again and follow with a set and weight you can lift for about 12-15 reps.

Supersets – Super setting means doing a series of exercises one after another. An example would be performing the barbell row and doing dumbbell shrugs afterward. After the shrugs, go to the pull-up station and perform pull-ups.

Time Under Tension – TUT may differ with each exercise. Using the pull-up as an example, you can apply TUT in the eccentric (lengthening) motion, which means slowly bringing yourself down after bringing your chest up.

Besides dumbbell rows and pull-ups, Gordon likes to work on his forearms and biceps using the classic hammer and bicep curls. Isometric strength training (tightening/contraction) is beneficial in Jiu-Jitsu, especially when using techniques like the rear naked choke, applying the head and arm control from the guard, or clubbing their head for collar ties both in the standup and on the ground. Typically, or as Gordon performs it, curls for grappling are done using drop sets and supersets, with TUT focusing on hypertrophy with around the 10-20 rep range or even more.

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Shoulder, Triceps & Chest Exercises

Next, Gordon trains his shoulder, triceps, and chest to build his pushing strength by performing the bench press (barbell and dumbbell variation), shoulder press, push-ups, and triceps extension. 

Bench Press – the bench press is preferably performed inclined or on a flat bench. To build strength, you can start with the 5×5. A drop set approach is also a great way to do this exercise, though the max repetition should only be around twelve. Likewise, Gordon also supersets the inclined dumbbell bench press with push-ups.

Shoulder Press – the shoulder press can be approached like the bench press. It is advisable to perform this exercise standing, to also work on your core, or seated with a pair of dumbbells as Gordon does.

Triceps Extension – the triceps extension can be done with a curl bar, dumbbell, or a cable machine. Gordon is mostly seen doing the triceps extension with a dumbbell or cable machine. Like how you approach the curls, you should aim for hypertrophy with this exercise.

Building your pushing strength is critical for grappling as well, as it comes in handy when escaping bad positions (using frames) or going for takedowns. Also, remember to work your core with exercises like hanging leg raises or windshield wipers to build strong washboard abs like Gordon.

The No-Gi GOAT’s Training Routine

Ultimately, there is no better way to get better at Jiu-Jitsu than to train more Jiu-Jitsu. Now, let’s talk about the GOAT’s BJJ training routine. According to Gordon, he trains Jiu-Jitsu about 2-3 times a day, and each session lasts about two hours. Gordon, under John Danaher, approaches training differently as they perform a lot of positional drilling and make adjustments based on the ruleset he is competing under.

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John Danaher believes that the best way to improve is to have your techniques tested under pressure. Thus, John Danaher prefers the team, especially competitors, to take no breaks between rounds when live sparring. Positional drilling is when they start rounds in a bad position, like bottom mountside controlback mount, or even near submissions. Most of the time, especially when rolling with less skilled training partners, Gordon intentionally handicaps himself to work more on his technique and confidence.

As competitive as he is by nature, Gordon takes no prisoners. Gordon takes troubleshooting to a different level. When he gets caught with an unfamiliar technique, he is relentless until he finds a solution to avoid getting caught by the same technique again.

To become good at BJJ, you must train in every aspect of your game, from standing to ground. However, remember that BJJ takes a different approach to standup when compared to other grappling arts like Wrestling and Judo. To be the best, you have to train with the best. A secret to his success is that Gordon is ready to grapple against anyone at any time.

Gordon also trains with the World’s Strongest Man champions like Hafthror Bjornsson and Brian Shaw, who stand 6ft 9 and 6ft 8 and weigh about 350lbs (180kg) and 450lbs (200kg), respectively. It is interesting how Gordon covers the considerable size and strength difference with skills alone.


To be great at something takes countless hours of hard work, discipline, and consistency. Gordon Ryan is a testament to this, and his success in submission grappling is a feat that very few will ever reach. We hope that this breakdown will help elevate your grappling to new and greater heights.