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.
Many BJJ fighters can defend against a stronger opponent who lies on the top and attempts to finish the bout via TKO.
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!
- Critical BJJ Areas –Wrapping Looks So Easy!
- Types Of Flexibility
- Methods To Improve Flexibility
- Dynamic Stretching For BJJ
- Static Stretches For BJJ
- Shoulder Stretches For Jiu-Jitsu
- Elbow Mobility
- Yoga For BJJ
- Yoga BJJ Exercises–Back Injury Prevention King
- Top 5 yoga back stretching exercises for BJJ
- Best BJJ Stretching For Beginners–Weekly Plan
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?
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.
- 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).
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) May 17, 2019
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.
Just look at this match between Kay Hansen and Magdalena Sormova. Kay had the armbar, but Czech competitor is made of rubber!
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) May 4, 2019
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
- Yoga lowers the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Researchers have found that increased levels of cortisol seriously shortens your life span.
- Yoga will help to prevent back injuries – serious BJJ training might lead to muscle imbalance since most people have a dominant side, and it mostly leads to back issues.
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.
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
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!