The Best BJJ Stretches To Boost Your Flexibility And Prevent Injuries

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You can’t be a top-notch grappler with stiff muscles and joints!

Flexibility has always been a secret weapon of BJJ fighters. Even young BJJ belts easily wrap their legs around the opponent’s neck or finish a stronger guy with a triangle choke or Omoplata, because they have incorporated some of the best bjj stretches in their routines.

Let me guess – you’ll say it is impossible that stretches will make a big difference with a heavier opponentdue to the weight difference.

Wrong!

Many BJJ fighters can defend against a stronger opponent who lies on the top and attempts to finish the bout via TKO.

How?

This article will guide you through the ultimate weapon of BJJ–very flexible muscles and joints. It also explains how a superb level of flexibility decreases the level of injuries. 

Actually, elite grapplers are known for very flexible hips and glutes!

Two men practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Critical BJJ Areas –Wrapping Looks So Easy!

Have you ever wondered why a BJJ warrior easily defeats a fighter who wings easy-to-see haymakers in an MMA bout? Because when he gets taken down, jiu-jitsu master easily neutralizes his strikes.

Closing guard blocks punches. BJJ fighters who wrap around their rival like an anaconda efficiently stop his attacks.

How do they do it?

People who train Brazilian jiu-jitsu are known for an amazing level of flexibility. Most of their muscles, especially adductors, glutes, and hamstrings are super-flexible compared to the general population.

In mixed martial arts bout, submission experts aim to take the fight to the ground. They even intentionally pull guard and then try to get the advantage with a sweep or a choke attempt. Experienced guys even go for a Kimura, Omoplata, or pass under the rival’s armpit and attack him off the back.

Here is another advantage of BJJ. It is very hard to finish a fighter with a hyper-extended elbow, or very flexible shoulders. Read this to find out what to do about a hyperextended elbow.

Let’s see what makes a BJJ body different!

BJJ Fighters – Muscles And Joints

In most submissions, BJJ fighter must have flexible adductors and glute muscles to close the guard properly. For example, rubber guard or Gogoplata from the bottom demand great levels of flexibility.

But a submission attempt on the opponent on the top will lengthen your lower back and hamstring muscles too.

You need a good range of motion!

Look at a standing rear-naked choke attempt. Josh Reckenwald locks the opponent wrapping legs around his stomach (adductors + glutes), and stops the blood flow, pushing his right forearm under the chin.

There are various types of flexibility. Each one is important.

Types Of Flexibility

American Council on Exercise (ACE), defines flexibility as “the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses.” It means that each muscle group or joint might have different levels of flexibility or range of motion (ROM).

There are three types of flexibility:

  • Dynamic flexibility (also called kinetic flexibility) is the ability to perform dynamic movements of the muscles bringing your limb through its full range of motion in the joints.
  • Active flexibility is the ability to assume and maintain extended positions using only the tension of your muscles. A good example is lifting the leg and keeping it high with no external support.
  • Passive flexibility refers to the ability to assume extended positions and then maintain them using partner’s weight, the support of your limbs, or some other apparatus (such as a chair). The ability to maintain the position does not solely come from your muscles–there is an external force!

So which one is the most important for a BJJ fighter?

Static flexibility!

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters usually hold a specific position for 10 seconds or more when they want to submit their opponent, unless you go for a leg lock or an armbar.

A good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter must be able to maintain one position for a prolonged time. Sometimes a simple guillotine choke isn’t enough but wrapping legs around opponent’s ribs creates additional pressure.

Hey, flexibility levels are not always the same!

Flexibility is affected by various internal and external (outside of the bone-tendon-ligament-muscle system) factors.

Internal factors:

  • Joint type (some joints are stiff by default);
  • Joint’s internal resistance;
  • Bone structures;
  • Muscle tissue, tendons, and ligament elasticity (tendons limit stretching the most);
  • Previous injury (if you have suffered a serious injury, it might limit the range of movement)
  • Joint temperature (here’s why a good warm-up session is important, muscles and joints will offer a better range of motion when their temperature is 1-2 degrees above normal).

External factors:

  • The temperature of the area where BJJ training takes place (a warmer hall leads to better flexibility);
  • The time of the day (people are mostly more flexible in the evening and afternoon than the morning);
  • Age (kids are usually more flexible than adults, middle-aged, or elderly people);
  • Gender (females are usually more flexible than males);
  • Training commitment (if fighter 1 trains once a week, while fighter 2 pays attention to his flexibility sessions every day, fighter 2 will progress faster);
  • Equipment or clothing restriction (you’re no dummy, so there is no need to compare jeans with trousers or gi).

Even a stiff like you can become more flexible!

Wow! Really?

Just give yourself a chance! Good training methods can turn you from a stiff fighter to a man who does a rubber guard easily.

Methods To Improve Flexibility

Passing a flexible fighters guard can be so frustrating.

Don’t despair!

Flexibility can be attained by training.

Don’t hate flexible guys, become one yourself!

There are three stretching methods to boost your flexibility to the next level:

Static stretching. It means lengthening the targeted muscle to the endpoint and holding the position for 15-60 seconds.

Instructions: For example, standing hamstring stretch. Wrap your arms around backs of your legs keeping your knees extended and hold the position.

Dynamic stretching. This means moving in and out of the position which lengthens your muscle. It is often made of light bouncing movements. Some experts use the term “ballistic stretching”.

Instructions: Leg lifts might be a good example. Swing one leg out to the side, lifting it in the air as high as possible, then swing it back towards your body in front of your other leg.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). A more advanced form of flexibility training, which involves both stretching and contracting of the muscle group being targeted. It is an outstanding method to improve your range of motion.

There are many types of PNF stretching – Facilitated stretching, Contract-Relax (CR) or Hold-Relax, Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR). Contract-Relax-Antagonist-Contract (CRAC) is yet another variation.

Instructions: There are conflicting responses to “how long should I contract the muscle group” and “how long should I rest for between each stretch,”, but the method is pretty much similar:

  • Prepare muscle group that you stretch. For example, if you stretch hamstring, extend your leg and let your partner grab your heel.
  • The individual then contracts the stretched muscle group for 6-8 seconds while your training partner applies a sufficient force of resistance to inhibit the movement.
  • Relax the contracted muscle group for 10-30 seconds. Then allow the working muscle 20-30 seconds to recover. Repeat the whole process for 2-5 times.

Flexibility improves!

But what is the outcome of all this stretching?

You can create plastic or elastic changes in your muscles. Elastic changes last shorter. To create them, you must hold the stretch for at least 20-30 seconds.

On the other hand, plastic changes last for a long time. You can cause plastic changes if you hold the position for 60 seconds, as often as possible, and stretch with a partner or an apparatus.

Bouncing is beneficial if done properly!

Dynamic Stretching For BJJ

We recommend you to apply dynamic stretches as a part of your warm-up routine. It increases the body temperature well and prepares you for the great challenges ahead of you.

If you want to maximize benefits you get, do the following dynamic stretching routine a few times per day.

Do the first session before breakfast, as a heavy meal might slow down your blood flow and cause digestion issues.

Start your routine slowly and increase the range of motion and the speed of movement as you warm up and progress into your stretching workout.

Outside-Inside Swing

Reasons for doing this exercise:

Almost every sweep or transition from the bottom contains this movement. You should feel the stretch in your adductors, hips, and glutes.

Instructions:

  • Put your swinging (right) leg behind your leading (left) leg.
  • Bring your leg up keeping your right knee slightly bent. Then take it across to the left until you feel the stretch.
  • Pull your right arm backward and rotate your left arm to your left.
  • Return to the starting position, perform the desired number of repetitions, then do the same movement pattern for the opposite leg.

Tips:

  • You must kick the leg up to the side, not in front of you.
  • You can kick with your leg extended, but this is not a BJJ move. Do stretches that will improve your martial art.
  • Don’t be stiff, relax.
Sitting Front Bend

Sporty attractive young woman practicing yoga, sitting in Seated forward bend exercise, paschimottanasana pose, working out, wearing sportswear, outdoor full length, street background

Reasons for doing this exercise:

When you end up in the full guard, you must decrease the distance between your and opponent’s bodies for a successful transition attempt.

Instructions:

  • Spread your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees bent. Cross your fingers at the back of your head. Make sure your elbows touch the lateral sides of your head.
  • Bend your body towards the ground and try to touch the ground with your elbows.
  • Return to the starting position.

Tips:

  • Don’t keep your legs too, you must feel a moderate stretch in your adductors.
Standing rotation

Reasons for doing this exercise:

Single collar clinch, under-hooks, transitions, sweeps.

Instructions:

  • Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, arms lined with your shoulders, look forward.
  • Twist slowly to the sides keeping your legs stationary, looking in the direction where you twist.

Tips:

  • Keep your spine and neck flat.
  • Don’t flail your arms wildly across, this motion must be gentle.
  • Perform it on slow or moderate speed, otherwise, you risk a lower back injury.

Swings are awesome, but static drills have a better influence on your range of motion (ROM).

Static Stretches For BJJ

Static stretches are based on isometric contractions. It means generating the force without the change in muscle length.

In BJJ, static stretching means reaching the maximum range of motion and maintaining the position for more than 30 seconds. It is one of the fastest ways to increase your flexibility.

Note: Stretch to the point of mild-moderate discomfort and hold the position.

Don’t be a sissy!

You can do that!

Please don’t bounce or experiment. Static stretching is awesome but it can be dangerous too. You can hurt yourself easily.

Here is the set of specific BJJ oriented static stretching exercises.

Butterfly stretch

Reasons to do this exercise:

Full guard from the bottom, spider guard, worm guard, butterfly guard.

Instructions:

  • Sit on the ground and bring your heels together. Grasp your feet, pulling them as close to your groin as you can.
  • Put the elbows on the inner part of your thighs. Push your knees towards the floor.
  • Hold the position for the desired number of seconds.

Tips:

  • Keep your spine and head flat.
  • Optionally, you can push your elbows down with your forearms.
Kneeling adductor stretch

Reasons to do this exercise:

Working off the top, transition to side mount, side control, or half-guard, or north-south position.

Instructions:

  • Kneel down. Your toes are pointed to the sides. Put your elbows on the floor, keeping your spine flat.
  • Spread knees as wide as possible.

Tips:

  • Lower your chest towards the ground or extend your arms forward to increase difficulty.
  • Your spine and hips must remain flat all the time.
Lying Glute Stretch

Reasons to do this exercise:

Improve your sweeps and transitions.

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Bend your right knee, grab it with your left arm, and pull it towards the floor across your body.
  • Hold when you reach maximum amplitude.
  • Return to the starting position and perform the same movement pattern for the opposite side.

Tips:

  • Keep your spine, elbows, and head flat on the floor all the time.
  • Don’t bounce.
Prone Figure Four Glute Stretch

Reasons to do this exercise:

Get better at controlling the opponent

Instructions:

  • Bend your right leg. Its foot should point to the left (opposite) side. Cross your left leg over the front part of your right leg. Keep your right foot on the floor.
  • Bend torso forward. Try to put your head on your right knee.
  • Hold for the desired number of seconds, then perform the same movement pattern for the opposite side.

Tips:

  • Your torso must be above your right foot all the time.

 

Upper body flexibility is important for top-notch grapplers too! Flexible shoulders and elbows might save you from a submission loss!

Shoulder Stretches For Jiu-Jitsu

A good BJJ practitioner must have flexible shoulders, otherwise slipping out of anaconda choke or armbar might be impossible.

Look at this miracle!

Christian Lee survived Shinya Aoki’s submission attempt to win ONE FC Lightweight title!

But how?!

The secret answer is–amazing shoulder flexibility!

Important Shoulder Flexibility Drills

Two very important drills for you to practice are sitting shoulder stretch and sitting medial deltoid stretch.

Sitting shoulder stretch

Reasons to do this exercise:

Improve your anterior shoulder flexibility.

Instructions:

  • Sit and recline on the floor with your palms down.
  • Put your palms around 25-30 cm behind your feet. Fingers are pointed away from your body.
  • Lean back as far as possible extending your legs forward and hold the position.

Tips:

  • Do not bounce.
Sitting Medial Deltoid Stretch

You will need a chair for this one.

Reasons to do this exercise:

Imrpove your armbar and hammer lock defense.

Instructions:

  • Sit down keeping both arms straight on the edge of the seat, rotating hands and shoulders to the outside.
  • Lean towards one side. You should feel your deltoid muscles flatten. If you feel the stretch in the middle of your shoulder, the technique is good.
  • Hold the position.

Tips:

  • Rotate your hands more to the outside if you can’t feel the stretch.
  • This exercise stretches the middle part of your shoulder. Do you feel the anterior or posterior area? Something is wrong!

Elbow Mobility

Just look at this match between Kay Hansen and Magdalena Sormova. Kay had the armbar, but Czech competitor is made of rubber!

The talented American prospect nearly finished Sormova but hyper-extended elbow saved her from the defeat because the bell forced Hansen to release the submission.

Sormova’s elbow is super-flexible!

Don’t worry, you can also work on to increase your elbow mobility.

Check these 5 wonderful exercises below. Repeat this routine every day, it won’t take you more than 4-5 minutes, but from now on, your opponents will have a hard time finishing you with an armbar.

Yogis are the most flexible people in the world. Yoga training sessions are a great way to put your flexibility to the top level.

Yoga For BJJ

Yoga is one of the most popular methods to boost your martial art skills to the next level.

Yoga for BJJ has many great effects:

  • Improves your strength–BJJ moves and transitions will build a high level of core muscles;
  • Improves flexibility;
  • Helps you breathe better–the most often mistakes made by beginners are shallow breathing and breath holding. Watch the master Rickson Gracie talk about how to breathe in and out properly.

 

  • Yoga helps you warm-up

  • Yoga helps you to cool down

Let’s make your back healthy and painless again!

Yoga BJJ Exercises–Back Injury Prevention King

Back pain issues in BJJ happen because of rounded back and poor posture. When the fighter on the top is trying to pass spider, worm, or butterfly guard, his back is curved. If he trains seriously, these moves are repeated every day.

Say goodbye to back pain!

Top 5 yoga back stretching exercises for BJJ

Read this article if you want to learn more beneficial yoga poses for BJJ.

Plough Pose

Reasons to do this exercise:

Improved open guard, and decreased lower back pain from all those BJJ drills.

Instructions:

  • Lay flat on your back.
  • Slowly roll on your upper back and throw legs over your head. Try to touch the floor with your toes.
  • Cross your fingers and stretch your arms pushing them away from your buttocks and parallel to the floor.
  • Hold the position and breathe properly.

Tips:

  • Do not bend your legs and arms.
  • Do not move your torso or head to the sides.
Knees To Chest Pose

Reasons to do this exercise:

Excellent lower back releaser, it also improves your spider and worm guard.

Instructions:

  • Lay flat on your back and put your feet together.
  • Drive your knees towards your chest, pulling them in keeping your hands on the upper third of your shins.
  • Hold the position and breathe.

Tips:

  • Rock backward and forward for a back massage.
  • Optionally, you can cross your arms and pull your legs with your forearms.
Two Knee Spinal Twist

Reasons to do this exercise:

Excellent stretch for hips, lower and upper back, and shoulders. Positive effect on sweeps.

Instructions:

  • Lay flat on your back, keeping your arms outstretched in T-position, head on the floor, palms down. Keep your feet and knees together.
  • Slowly bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. Inhale. Your feet should be slightly higher than your knees.
  • Lower your knees to one side, turning your head and face the other way.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the same movement pattern to the other side.

Tips:

  • Keep your core muscles engaged through the whole process.
  • Do not lift your spine off the floor.
Camel Pose

Reasons to do this exercise:

Great drill to open chest and shoulders while extending the spine. This drill reduces BJJ upper back pain. It also relaxes your latissimus dorsi muscle.

Instructions:

  • Kneel keeping your knees hip-width apart. Put your hands on the lateral parts of your pelvis, palms pointed downward.
  • Extend your spine and push your chest forward. Lean your head towards your feet at the same time, and put your hands on your heels.
  • Maintain the position and breathe.

Tips:

  • You can put your arms on the back of your pelvis too.
  • You are allowed to rotate your torso if you’re not a flexible guy.
Downward Facing Dog Pose

Reasons to do this exercise:

It stretches your upper back, hamstrings, shoulders, and calves. Positive effect on open guard defense. But this is also a superb drill to make BJJ mid back pain go away!

Instructions:

  • Start in a turtle position. Your hands and knees are on the ground.
  • Relaxing your upper back, stretch your elbows and rotate them internally.
  • Lift your knees off the floor, pushing your pelvis towards the sky. Exhale and strengthen your legs but don’t lock your knees.
  • Keep your body in the “A” frame as long as possible. Breathe.

Tips:

  • Try to distribute your weight evenly through the palms.
  • Try to align your ears with the upper arms.
  • Your head is relaxed, but do not let it dangle. Look straight ahead and keep your neck lined with your spine.

Congrats!

You know the best BJJ stretches for beginners. Now let’s fit it into a weekly routine.

Best BJJ Stretching For Beginners–Weekly Plan

Perform these stretching routines three times per week for a good result.

If you are a beginner, you can even turn your weekly plan into daily stretches. We recommend you to stretch every day for the first 2-3 months of your training.

Bad flexibility + great technique = average grappler

Good flexibility + solid technique = dangerous grappler

Good flexibility + great technique = submission expert

Monday
Warm up properly before you start with dynamic stretches. No rest between the sets.
  • Outside-Inside Swing, 20 repetitions each side, 5 sets
  • Sitting Front Bend, 20 repetitions each side, 5 sets
  • Standing rotation, 20 repetitions each side, 5 sets
  • Butterfly stretch, hold for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
  • Kneeling adductor stretch, hold for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
  • Prone Figure Four Glute Stretch, hold 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
  • Lying Glute Stretch, hold 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
Wednesday
Shoulder and elbow day (repeat this routine three times, hold each position for at least 30 seconds)
  • Sitting shoulder stretch, hold for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
  • Sitting Medial Deltoid Stretch, hold for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds rest, 5 sets
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgJgyYjOdMc
Friday
Yoga day
It’s time to neutralize back pain, don’t you think so? Say goodbye to spine issues and rejuvenate your body!
  • Downward Facing Dog Pose, hold for 1 minute, 3 sets, rest for 60 seconds between the sets
  • Camel Pose, hold for 1 minute, 3 sets, rest for 60 seconds between the sets
  • Two Knee Spinal Twist, hold the position for 1 minute, 3 sets, rest for 60 seconds between the sets
  • Knees To Chest Pose, hold the position for 1 minute, 3 sets, rest for 60 seconds between the sets
  • Plough Pose, hold the position for 1 minute, 5 sets, rest for 60 seconds between the sets
  • Note: If your time allows you to stretch every day, work Monday routine on Monday, Wednesday on Tuesday, Friday on Wednesday and so on.
  • The importance of BJJ stretches for beginners summarized.

Technique expert will have a hard time winning the competition if he lacks in flexibility. Practicing the best BJJ stretches for beginners are vital for those who want to progress and become better grapplers. A very flexible fighter with average technique can win the bout too!

Make the pain go away!

BJJ stretches, especially yoga exercises, neutralize the back pain. Follow these routines and you’ll be able to sit equally comfortably at your desk as well as roll on the mat.

Share your favorite BJJ stretching routines with us and please keep us posted about your progress in the comments section below!

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