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The upa or bridge, when properly executed, is an awesome way of disrupting an opponents balance, setting them up for a sweep and helping to secure a sweep. However, in my experience of practicing BJJ and watching boatloads of submission grappling and MMA videos, it is highly underused.
Whenever I remember to use it in practice it always surprises me how effective it is. I also know that at certain points in grappling, and I suspect in MMA, conditioning affects its use. The more tired a person is, the less likely it will be used. I have often noticed that many people can only upa or bridge a few times when another human being is on top of them, then their attempts fizzle out. This is fine in grappling class because you can always work for another position. However, in MMA we have seen people get smashed even when a couple of upas could either prolong or prevent the inevitable ‘beatdown.”
So my question is how can one train to execute multiple upas or bridges when they are under pressure? When training I am sure most of us can hammer out 30 to 100 bridges in warm-ups without breaking a sweat. But when we have a fully resisting opponent of the same weight or higher on top of us, it’s not so easy.
As an experiment, I grabbed my 65 lb heavy bag and held it perpendicular to my body, with it resting on my stomach. I then began bridging backward. I reached 30 reps and then I began to feel fatigue. My lower back muscles began to tire and just about gave out as I reached 40 reps. Although my legs could have continued for a little while longer, my back muscles would not allow it. So perhaps deadlifts and more squats would help.
By itself, 40 bridges with a 65lb heavy bag may (or may not) seem sufficient for grappling. However, I wrestle guys who often weigh well over 200 pounds. It is easy to see that after grappling for a few minutes and then trying to defend against a mount those 40 reps of 65lbs wouldn’t stand for much.
So how do you guys train so you can pull off that upa or bridge when you are at your weakest?