Submission Pro Tour Sacramento Open Recap

In case you have not been following my Instagram feed, it has been a few days since I competed in the Submission Pro Tour Sacramento Open. It was a very well run event and all the staff, refs, promoters and competitors were very friendly and helpfull. Now onto my reflection of the event.

I am very satisfied and happy with my performance. I was able to take home a third place finish, with two matches in total. My bracket was awfully small for my weight class. I competed in the 181 pound class and assumed it would be stacked, although there were only five competitors total in that division. Due to the odd number of competitors, I was the first match of the tournament and the winner of the first match would move onto the semi finals with the rest of the competitors. My first match was a tough one. My opponent came out strong and aggressive right off the whistle. He was quick to establish grips and attempt to pull guard. I was able to stay out of his guard and upon standing back up, attempt a guard pull of my own (I will create a more in depth breakdown video of each match for my YouTube channel). My opponent was aggressive throughout switching to different attacks one after another. At one point he had a kimura grip on my left arm looking for a submission. I had a strong grip on my l’appelle preventing my shoulder to be compromised. He proceeded to yank on the grips he had in order to break my grip and isolate my arm. It was at this point I realized he was exerting himself. The match was five minutes long and resulted in no submissions, leading to over time. I was able to make it to the end of the third overtime. I knew I was down on the time carbs and needed to accumulate a significant amount of riding time to lock in a guaranteed win. At this point my grip was fatiguing and instead of clinging onto his collars for positional control, I switched to classic collegiate leg riding techniques that learned in high school. I kept both hooks in and used a power half series that I was particularly fond of in high school. My opponent did a very good job defending the few submission attempts I went for. After about three minutes of riding time, I saw an opening for an armbar attempt. I did not have good enough control once my hips were set and my opponent was able to slip his head and arm out. After the officials calculated the total riding time, I was awarded the win based off of overall riding time.


After this match my grip was pretty shot. My forearms were so pumped! I felt more pumped in my forearms after that match than I ever have during a killer arm workout. I ate a banana to get some quick energy back before my next match which was about ten minutes after my first match. My second opponent was coming in fresh and ready for action. He came out strong just like my first opponent. Although he did not have as much control over the positions and left openings for me to scramble, he did have me in danger of a sneaky Ezekiel choke from mount. Like my first match, no submissions during regulation resulted in the need for overtime. I chose the back just like I had in my first match and made the mistake of not being aggressive off the whistle and looking for an escape. I remained calm and collected, but was not as active during the first overtime round and gave up about a minute of overtime for my opponent. I was unable to have prolonged control of my opponent like I did in the first match. At the end of three overtime rounds, my opponent had longer riding time locked in than I did. He was earned his raised hand by the ref and moved on to the finals leaving me in third place.

My experience at the Submission Pro Tour was a great one. All week and during the weekend I was working on homework and other academic responsibilities. This pressure to complete all my assignments on time throughout the week of the tournament and even the morning of allowed me to use the tournament as a break from the noise. I went to have fun and learn. Even though this is the lowest placing I have earned since beginning my competitive grappling journey, I am most satisfied with this result. The competition was game, I saw major improvements in my own jiu jitsu skills, and learned what I need to work on next. One of the biggest improvements I believe I made in preparation for this event was my submission defense and ability to stay calm and collected. I have been competing in grappling related sports since 2011 and have had my fair share of matches where I went out too hard in the beginning and or panicked when I was in bad position. This event I was able to relax throughout each match and remain cognitive throughout. Something I need to work on for my next competition is my grip endurance. The strength is there, but the ability to last several matches unfortunately is not. I also need to work my escapes from bad positions as well as my ability to capitalize in scrambles to obtain dominant positions. I am not sure if I will compete again during 2017, but I am looking forward to improving and bringing heat in 2018.

For more information on my grappling journey and training, follow me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage). For more information on personalized training programs, and customized nutrition guides for any grappling oriented sport, email me at


My Three Favorite Back Exercises for Grapplers

The following are my three personal favorite exercises to strengthen and develop the back for grappling athletes. Let me make clear that these exercises are my favorite. This does not mean they are the only exercises I do for back. I utilize many different exercises for back (a full list of exercises will be at the end of the article), but of all of them, these are my favorites and why.

Pull Ups:

Franco Pull Up

The pull up is the king and staple of old school body weight wrestling training. Not only does is help establish grip strength (which is a crucial component of wrestling and jiujitsu), it requires you to be strong with your own bodyweight. This is very important when you are competing with other athletes who are competing at the same weight as you. The exercise is simple. Hang on the bar with both arms lock out, then pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Then lower yourself ALL the way down. There’s one correct pull up. Pull ups help develop the lats which make up the major vertical pulling muscles in your back. I know what you’re thinking, “When am I ever going to do a pull up in competition?” How about a snap down in wrestling? Since last i checked there was no “snap down” machine at the gym, pull ups are the next best developer of the muscles used to pull things down, and or close into your body. You can add these at the end of your workout, or if you have a pull up bar set up in your home, every time you walk by you can bust out 5-10 pull ups.

Sample Pull Up Finisher:

5 sets of sub max reps (if you can do 10 max, only do 7-8)


franco deadlift

If the squat is the greatest strength building exercise, deadlifts come in a close second. Deadlifts assist in strengthening your posterior chain (the chain of muscles running from the base of your neck, down to the bottom of your hamstrings). A strong posterior chain, traditionally means a safe back. When you’re in your wrestling stance, or in constant flexion having someone in your guard, or being in someone’s guard, having a strong posterior chain will protect your back. Deadlifts are also a great measure of strength. For grappling athletes, if you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight, and your opponent can only deadlift 1.5x his bodyweight, you are superiorly stronger. With all the lifting, throwing, and tossing in wrestling, the deadlift will help you handle your opponents with ease all while still being able to protect your spine. Take folkstyle wrestling for example. Say you start on top in referee’s position and your opponent is quick to stand up. If you want to pick him up and return him back to the mat, you need to lift him off balance and off the ground. The deadlift in all variations is just that movement. The practice of picking up objects (barbells, DB’s KB’s, atlas stones, sandbags, etc.) off the ground.

Sample Deadlift Workout:

One of the easiest ways to incorporate deadlifts into your strength training is a simple, 5×5 set up. Starting at one day a week, do five sets of five reps for deadlift and try to make each rep with perfect form, slowly adding weight each week. This works with both sumo and conventional stance.

Bent Over Barbell Rows:

Franco Bent Over Row

I should preface this by saying, any horizontal rowing motion is a fantastic exercise for the back in regards to grappling. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be the bent over row. The bent over row not only focuses on strengthening the muscles of your back responsible for pulling things to you in a horizontal plane, but also requires you to stay tight and in good position. This activates the muscles of the lower back isometrically (staying in a static position), and works the rowing muscles of the upper back, both eccentrically (lowering of the weight) and concentrically (actually lifting of the weight). Bent over Rows can be used with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sand bags, etc. You can ever do them on a elevated surface to let the weights down even lower to get a stretch in the muscles during the eccentric portion of the lift. Not only is this exercise for back development, but also helps eliminate imbalances in the back. I see a lot of people do a lot of vertical pulling (pull ups, lat pull downs, etc.), and not enough horizontal pulling exercises. Imbalances in the body lead to injury and time away from rolling.

Sample Bent Over Row Workout:

Any Chest Exercise: 4×6-8

Bent Over DB Row: 4×6-8

This can be thrown in at the beginning of a chest and back workout.

You can also apply the 5×5 method to the bent over Row to focus more on developing strength in the mid and upper back.

Current List of Back Exercises I’m Using Right Now:

Pull Ups (Use many different grips)

Deadlifts (Conventional and Sumo stance)


Bent Over Rows (DB, KB, and Barbell Variations)

Banded Reverse Hypers

GHR (Weighted and Bodyweight)

45 Degree Back Extensions (Weighted and Bodyweight)

Seated Rows

1 Arm DB Rows

RDLs (DB’s, KB’s & Barbell Variations)