BJJ mobility is a highly underrated area of grappling conditioning. Even more so, it is not really appreciated in all athletic disciplines. Despite the recent rise in awareness about mobility training, it’s inherent lack among high performing athletes is baffling. In terms of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where not only competition but everything done in training put the body under immense stress, mobility should be the number one priority outside of class. However, BJJ mobility doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, which results in an increase of musculoskeletal injuries among grapplers.
Training mobility is a low as it gets on every grappler’s checklist. People usually associate BJJ mobility training with stretching or warm up-like exercises and are easily thrown off. This is understandable, as warm ups and cool downs are the most despised portions of any grappling class. Most people like to roll, drill or even practice techniques way more than making sure their bodies work properly. In all fairness, BJJ mobility training isn’t the most entertaining thing to do. However, there’s a way to incorporate it into our weekly routines and we must do so for our own benefit.
Personally, I’m not really a big fan of doing long mobility workouts either. The true reason is somewhere between I haven’t enough time and I’m too lazy to do it now. For most people involved in grappling, this seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Luckily there’s a really easy way to rectify this. First, we’ll look at which injuries are statistically most common in BJJ. Then we’ll offer short and precise BJJ mobility exercises that address those areas in particular. The goal of our quest today is to create a short and effective BJJ mobility routine we can do at least a couple of times weekly.
Leg locks require certain dexterity in grapplers. So do guard passes. So, when you combine both in a great attacking system, you’re going to need all the flexibility and mobility possible. Craig Jones takes care of the technical part of the puzzle in his “How To pass Guards Quickly And Easily” DVD. The part about mobility is covered in this article.
The Preventative And Restorative Effect of Mobility Training
So, why exactly do we need mobility training in the first place? Will it ensure that we remain injury free while rolling like savages on the mats? And, is there any way of doing it effectively without spending hours on the foam roller? Let’ see if we can answer these common questions one by one.
First, mobility training has the task of helping the body achieve or retain a maximal range of motion. Brazilian Jiu-JItsu takes a real toll on the body, whether you compete or not. The joints are put under a lot of strain, scar tissue slowly builds up and the range of motion decreases. Furthermore, the nature of the art is such that it doesn’t involve the use of all muscles equally. This lead to inevitable imbalances in the body which over time get worse. Add to that the modern lifestyle based around a seated position and you have a recipe for disaster. Yet somehow, we all choose to skip taking the cure.
IN terms of injury prevention there’s no way that you’ll stay injury free when you train grappling. This is a fact of life for grapplers. At a certain point in time, you’ll be nursing an injury or 10, and there’s no way to prevent them completely. However, you’ll get fewer injuries or you’ll mitigate the effects of those you get by incorporating BJJ mobility drills into your routine.
Finally, the most important answer is yes, there is a way to train effectively. This is not a shortcut and going for a longer routine is going to yield more results. However, focusing on the most common problem areas for grappler is a great start and can be done quickly. Another approach is to focus on an area that’s problematic for you.
BJJ Related Injuries
In terms of BJJ related injuries, it is hard to pick a starting point. There are some BJJ injuries I’ve seen that are probably not even in most medical books. However, there are certain areas of our bodies that get beaten, crushed and twisted more than others.
First and foremost, I’ll begin with something that ails me in particular. Furthermore, it is a crucial body part which can cause serious consequences when injured. I’m talking about the neck. As a “proud” hernia representative I can tell you that you do not want to have a neck hernia or injury. The unique aspect of fighting off the back is the main culprit behind the frequency of this injury among grapplers. BJJ mobility drills to keep your neck healthy in the face of everyday abuse are as crucial as mobility training can get. Whatever you do, make sure you keep the neck and surrounding muscles happy and in shape. You’ll thank me later.
Next, it’s the shoulders. They are usually a body part that is the focus of injuries in most competitive sports. Modern lifestyle is largely responsible for the stiffness and imbalance in our shoulders. Add to that the constant push-pull motion while rolling along with submissions and you have a problem. Improving the range of motion in our shoulder can improve both daily lie and ou time on the mats.
Finally, in light of the modern leg lock heavy game, there are the ankles. They already take enough beating from standup training. Now, with the whole leg lock frenzy, they’re pushed over the limit and result in painful injuries that require a lot of time to heal. Even worse, once they heal the effect the normal range of motion causing even more trouble down the road.
BJJ Mobility Drills For More Limber Grapplers
The above list is by far not the most comprehensive one, but it does focus on the most common culprits. This gives us the opportunity to identify the areas our BJJ mobility routine should address. Without any further ado, let’s jump straight into some neck, ankle, and shoulder loosening BJJ mobility drills.
Twisting Side Rolls To Granby
The twisting side roll is a great exercise to help you with neck stiffness, muscle pain or similar issues. For this very basic exercise, you start on all fours. Once there, place one elbow on the ground and put the other one behind your back. Make sure you retract the shoulder blade for maximal effect. The point is to twist your torso all the way toward that side, aiming to look at the ceiling.
Basic rules are to hit each exercise at least 3-5 times, or focus only on one but go for at least 5 sets of it.
This exercise has both a dynamic and static component to it. Hit ten reps of twisting on one side first and then use the hand you have on the mat to guide you into a Granby roll. Instead of finishing the roll stay on your shoulders for about 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Kneeling Lunge To Pigeon
This BJJ mobility exercise has the ankles in its sights. To perform it, simply kneel on one knee while keeping the opposite foot on the ground. Once in position flex the glutes and rock forward and back for ten reps. On the last repetition, hold the position for 15 seconds once more.
Next, release the stretch and bend your front leg in front of you. Your shin should be on the ground, foot towards one side and the knee on the other. Pull your second leg so that your both your legs are in an S-like position. Hit 10 reps again, finishing with a 15-second hold. Finally, transition straight into a deep squat and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Make sure both your feet are firmly on the ground when you squat.
Sit Through Frog Stretches
Finally, it’s time to address the shoulders. This exercise is going to require some space to move. AS far as a sit out goes, you probably already have them down from all those BJJ drills you do daily. For those new to the game, you start on all fours, use an opposite side leg and arm to balance and shoot your leg through, opening up your torso. For this exercise though, instead of going back, you’ll continue the motion.
You’ll place the extended leg’s knee on the ground and pivot so that you end in the frog position. Instead of going for your regular frog stretch, extended forward, placing both your elbow points on the ground, either side of your head. Put your palms together and pull them backward, over your head. Hold for 15 seconds. This is one rep, and you want to do 10 on each side.
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