4 Simple Stretches to Help Your Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires you to be in a wide range of positions and perform movements not normal in standard human activities. While flexibility is not the most important thing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, having normal or even a little bit of extra range of motion at major joints can certainly be helpful.
There are many different stretches that can benefit your Jiu Jitsu game. Below, we give you a brief explanation and discuss as to the benefits of stretching for BJJ.
The benefits of stretching for Jiu Jitsu
Stretching essentially refers to exercises, both active and passive, that increase your available range of motion at a specific joint. For BJJ, the shoulders, upper back, and hips are arguably the most important joints when it comes to increasing range of motion.
While you do not need gumby-level flexibility for BJJ, if you are like most people, you probably tend to be on the tighter-side when it comes to hips, upper back, and shoulder flexibility. Not only can excessive tightness limit your ability to execute certain Jiu Jitsu techniques, but it also increases injury risk. If you are put in a position of pressure in one of these areas and your muscles are already stretched to the limit, the pressure goes into the joint tissues themselves, potentially risking injury.
Additionally, tightness in the shoulders, back, and hip areas limits your movement during other activities and can cause an overall tight and achy feeling in these areas.
4 Stretches for Better Jiu Jitsu
The following stretches should be performed after warming up before training, after training before you totally cool down, or as a separate recovery session. You should always perform a few minutes of light cardio or movement before doing these stretches, even if you are just doing a stretch or recovery day.
Hip-flexor lunge stretch
This stretch is great for opening your hip flexors and quads, which can easily become tight and overactive during BJJ training. Tight hip flexors can limit the power of your bridges and cause low-back pain due to them pulling on the front of your pelvis.
To perform the hip-flexor lunge stretch:
- Start in a lunge position with your left leg forward. Your right knee should be on the floor with the top of you right foot flat on the floor.
- Reach up with your right arm (the same side as your back leg). Keep your back straight and avoid any major twisting, rounding, low-back arching, or bending to the side with your spine.
- Gently squeeze your right glute and focus on pushing your right hip slightly forward. You should feel a stretch on the front side of the right leg in the area between your hip crease and knee.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 1-3 times on each side.
Lying crossover glute stretch
The crossover glute stretch is a classic stretching technique that improves your hip external rotation. This is crucial for many BJJ techniques, and limited hip external rotation drastically affects your ability to exert pressure with your shins, move dynamically, and even enter many guard positions such as rubber-guard.
To perform this glute crossover stretch:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees up.
- Raise your right leg and cross your right ankle over your left thigh about 4 to 6 inches below your left knee.
- Slowly bring your left knee towards your chest to feel a stretch on your right hip and glute area.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 1-3 times on each side.
The prayer stretch is a great way to loosen up both the shoulders and T-spine by stretching the lats and triceps.
To perform the prayer stretch:
- Begin on your knees in front of a chair.
- Bend forward and place the back of your elbows about 1-inch on the chair. You should have enough room between your head and the chair to drop your head between your arms without hitting the chair.
- Work to keep your palms externally rotated, which roughly looks like you are making a pretend ‘book’ with your hands. Your palms should be facing you with the thumbs pointing out to the sides.
- Sink into the stretch by lowering your head and chest gently towards the floor.
- Hold for 30 second and repeat 1-3 times.
The ‘brettzel’ stretch is a great spinal-twist stretch from the Functional Movement System™ for the upper back, shoulders, and hips.
To perform the brettzel stretch:
- Begin by lying on your back with your legs straight.
- Bend your right knee and cross it over your left leg.
- Bend your left knee and bring your left foot towards the back of your left hip.
- Reach for your left foot with your right hand. Grab the top of your right hamstring with your left hand.
- You should be in a spinal twist with your upper back flat. You will feel a stretch in your legs and through the mid-back.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on both sides for 1-3 sets.
Increased Flexibility = Better Jiu Jitsu
Flexibility is just one component of the physical dexterity development that can help your game. Whether you are a guard-player or smash-passer, having a bit more range of motion through the shoulders, upper back, and hips will open your game and reduce injuries and overall tightness in these areas.
There are many different stretches and other flexibility options such as foam rolling, lacrosse ball work, and dynamic movement.
However, regularly performing these 4 simple stretches for Jiu Jitsu will get you well on your way to improved flexibility and movement.