The crucial body part for any grappler out there are the hips. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, they play an even more important role than in other grappling martial arts. The use of the guard itself is enough to warrant anyone training BJJ to optimize the mobility of their hips. Add to that submission defense,e balance when passing guard and proper weight distribution and pressure and you’ll see that hip movement is essential to Jiu-Jitsu. This is why a big portion of BJJ mobility training needs to focus on the hips.
Whenever you think of a defensive guard player, one thing in particular always springs to mind. It is not just technical ability, timing and body type. It is the mobility and flexibility of their hips. In the last few years, BJJ mobility training is coming to the forefront of strength and conditioning programs. People nowadays know that you do not need to be born with freakish flexibility in order to maximize your range of motion. When it comes to the hips, this is even easier. Unlike the knees, hip mobility and flexibility is very trainable and yields results quickly. All you need is a dedication and the right exercises.
Speaking of dedication, Eddie Bravo is a huge proponent of training hip flexibility constantly. While he spends most of his time on and off the mats in a Lotus position, this doesn’t mean you need to do the same. Quite the contrary, you need careful planning and the correct BJJ mobility exercises in order to achieve flexibility. Going for the toughest Yoga pose straight away will only get you injured. let’s understand a few basic things about the hips before we move on to the exercises.
The Hip Joint
Unlike some of the joints in the human body, the role of the hip joint is primarily to move instead of stabilizing. The hip is a complex joint that has a huge range of motion due to its structure. Stiff hips are a common problem in today’s society, as a result of modern lifestyle. Grapplers are not immune to this so BJJ mobility drills targeting the hips need to be a part of every grappler’s routine.
The hip is made up of an articulation between the thigh bone and the pelvis. The pelvis has a socket in which the head of the femur fits, providing the basis for the mobility of this joint. Adjoining muscles, tendons and ligaments complete the hip joint, making sure it does what it needs to. Hip anatomy is complex and we’re not going to get in depth about it here. What you need to understand is that the hips are part of the core along with abs, lower back, and shoulders. This makes theme extremely important from both a stabilization and a mobility standpoint.
However, selective use of some of these structures over others results in imbalances that are becoming the norm instead of the exception. The good news is that you can reverse the damage and even increase hip flexibility. All you need are the right tools and the correct programming.
The Hips In BJJ
As far as BJJ mobility goes, nothing takes precedence over the hips. Even though guard retention is usually associated with hip mobility let’s talk about guard passing first. Whenever you’re in a position to work against someone in open guard, you hips play a crucial role. Attempting to pass means you’ll need to place your legs in different positions very fast while maintaining pressure. Most of this pressure comes from the hips and their ability to work in a full range of motion.
Furthermore, staying on your feet while an opponent is looking to sweep brings the hips into play from a different perspective. First, they play a crucial role in stabilizing your position so that you can stay on top. Secondly, they need to be flexible enough to adapt to the opponent’s attempts of taking away your balance. AS you can see there is more to hips and BJJ than just guard retention.
Of course, we have to mention both guard retention and recovery when we’re talking about the mobility of the hips. First and foremost, you’d be hard-pressed to be effective from most guard variations out there if you have tight hips. Furthermore, you can forget about preventing passes or escaping bad positions if you can’t move your hips. Everything from guard structure to shrimping and bridging starts with the hips. Actually, without adequate BJJ mobility, you can forget about ever playing inverted guard as well.
BJJ Mobility Drills For The Hips
In order to make sure your hips help instead of hinder your BJJ, you need to show them some love. The goal with a BJJ mobility routine targeting the hips is simplicity. There’s absolutely no need to overcomplicate things when looking to make your hips more flexible. The following nine exercises take no more than 10 minutes which means you can (and should) perform them daily. IN terms of programming, go for 15 reps on the dynamic moves, and hold all the static ones for 15 seconds. Simple is key!
Frog Squats – This exercise targets the hip flexor muscles which are directly responsible for moving the hips. To perform this exercise, place your feet on the ground, with the inside of the foot on the floor. Place your arms in front of you and rock back and forth, going as deep a comfortable.
Glute Stretches – This is an isometric exercise to give the flexors some rest and stretch an opposing muscle. PLace one of your legs in front of you, bent at the knee. This time the outside of the foot should touch the floor. Extend the other leg straight behind you and lean forward as far as you can. Repeat on the other side.
Hip Switches – This is an exercise that BJJ people usually do anyway. All it takes is adding a bit of range of motion to it. Start seating with both your legs bent and on one side of your body. Swing them all the way around and lay them on the floor in the same position. Repeat for 15 times.
Knee Rotations – This is one you know from high school warm-ups. It’s also one you’re probably doing wrong. When you perform this you need to sit and have bot helps bent with feet on the mats. Next, collapse one knee at a time inward, focusing on touching the floor.
Butterfly Stretch – another BJJ classic done incorrectly. Instead of going for short movements that do not extend the range of motion, hold the stretch. Place the soles of your feet together and pull them towards your groin. Now reach towards the floor with your knees and hold the furthest position that you can.
Cossack Lunges – Once again a dynamic exercise. Standing with feet wide apart, go into a lateral lunge and then twist so that you’re facing your bent leg. Put both your arms on the floor and push down with your hips. The goal is to place your elbows on the ground. It may take some time though, so stay where you feel you’re at your maximum.
Standing Knee Rotations – This is pretty much the same as the fourth exercise, only you’re going to be standing. Be careful with this one when you first attempt it. Excessive inward rotation while standing might cause damage to the ligaments in the knee. Make sure the focus is on the hips when performing this and stop if there’s any kind of knee discomfort or pain.
Cobra Stretch – Cap things off with a nice isometric stretch. This is another one you probably know and do on a regular basis. Lay on your belly and extend your legs as far back as you can. Place your arms under your shoulders and push so that your upper body goes up. The goal is to keep both legs on the floor while completely extending your arms. You’ll feel this one in the hips for sure!
Video source: https://youtu.be/h6nln6KJs8g