Jiu-jitsu is a martial art that benefits from increased flexibility and mobility. Despite this fact, most people neglect to build up the right mobility and flexibility to maximize performance in BJJ. I wanted to get more mobile and flexible so I decided to do some research to find simple ways to become more flexible for jiu-jitsu.
The simplest way to increase flexibility for jiu-jitsu is through using both dynamic stretching and static stretching around your regular training. Perform a dynamic mobility-oriented warm-up prior to BJJ training and incorporate static stretching immediately after training.
In this article, we will explain how to improve your flexibility through stretching. We will also describe the best stretches for jiu-jitsu students.
The most beneficial stretching for jiu-jitsu is a combination of static and dynamic stretching. However, I personally found that incorporating dynamic movements prior to jiu-jitsu gave me the greatest benefit overall and translated best into a quality flexible range of motion during training.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate both dynamic and static stretching into your overall training routine is to incorporate Yoga into it. Check out 10 Ways Yoga Helps With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for more.
Dynamic stretching is the act of improving mobility through a range of movements. This approach activates the group of muscles needed to perform movements, so you should do dynamic stretches before training as a part of a warm-up regimen.
A complete dynamic jiu-jitsu warm-up will incorporate five to ten minutes of low or moderate-intensity exercise that warms up your muscles while taking your body through movements that increase your mobility. This will allow for increased blood flow to the muscles that the athlete will be using and will actively stretch your muscles and tendons through an increased range of motion.
Ideally, these mobility drills will incorporate movements specific to grappling. For jiu-jitsu, most of these movements involve hip mobility. Take a look at the video below for a quick example of what a dynamic hip mobility routine could look like.
On the other hand, static stretching involves holding a pose for a set time. Depending on the muscle’s tightness, this stretching period can range from ten seconds to three minutes. Competitors typically use static stretches to cool down their bodies after a jiu-jitsu session.
Static stretches improve your passive range of motion, meaning when your muscle is stretched out, but not through active use of the muscle. For example, bending over to touch your toes is a passive stretch, while kicking your leg out in front of you is a dynamic stretch.
Many trainers overemphasize static stretching because it is better understood by the general population and is typically easier to implement for most people. Properly implemented static stretching plays a role in decreasing the likelihood of strains and minor injuries.
The best time to do static stretching to enhance flexibility for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is after muscles are warm. Do static stretching after a workout for best results. This won’t always improve movement quality like dynamic stretching would, but it will help to reduce your overall injury risk.
In order to best improve mobility and overall movement quality through a greater range of motion for jiu-jitsu, you need to be performing dynamic mobility drills prior to training.
The National Health Service recommends performing dynamic and static stretches for a total of 30 minutes at least three times per week.
However, when trying to improve your flexibility for BJJ, you should stretch more often. Some experts encourage daily stretching for short intervals until you notice improvements in your movements.
In general, increasing flexibility will help prevent minor injuries and allow you to be more comfortable in certain positions. Increasing mobility through dynamic movements will improve the quality of your jiu-jitsu movements and allow you to flow through positions and techniques more easily.
If you properly develop your mobility and flexibility you are also likely to experience faster than usual recovery times, which could result in your finding more high-quality training hours to improve your BJJ game.
Enhancing your flexibility and mobility opens up a huge potential for improvement in your overall jiu-jitsu movements that really translates into all aspects of your BJJ game.
When I spent time increasing flexibility and mobility I felt it show up in many ways. I’ve listed a few of them below.
- Faster and smoother transitions from position to position
- Better escape options, specifically when using my hips to regain my guard
- Increased comfort in positions where I am dominated
- Enhanced ability to exert top-side pressure since I could more easily adjust the placement of my weight and bring my hips down closer to the mat
Increasing flexibility and mobility does reduce the risk of injury in jiu-jitsu. Flexibility can effectively protect your muscles from damage by allowing them to stretch further without micro-tearing. Increased mobility makes jiu-jitsu movements that you initiate far safer.
Those two benefits make it prudent to practice both dynamic and static stretching.
You can also improve your injury resistance by incorporating strength training since additional muscle mass around your joints helps to protect them.
Will Static Stretching for Flexibility Increase My Mobility in BJJ Techniques?
Static stretching for flexibility will not increase your mobility directly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If you want to be smoother and more mobile, you need to do dynamic stretching through mobility drilling. If you want high-quality mobile movements you need to train mobility.
Mobility is the ability to control your muscles while in a stretched position at their farthest range of motion. Flexibility is a simple passive range of motion.
Jiu-jitsu uses your whole body, so you need to work on flexibility and mobility for your whole body while focusing on problem areas that come up in your training. The most common problem areas are hips, shoulders, back, neck, wrists, ankles, and groin.
These are the most used areas during the sport. Therefore, they require the most attention during your stretching sessions. Keep in mind that you should tune your stretching and mobility routine to your body.
We will explain some specific stretches that you can do for each of these areas below.
Your hips play a significant role in most leg movements and rotational movements during jiu-jitsu. It is therefore a common area to experience flare-ups and overtraining. Increasing both flexibility and mobility in this area is important to have a healthy body while doing BJJ.
Everyone’s hips are different, and some stretches may be challenging. If stretching your hips causes you pain, you should hold static stretches in their least painful position and gradually progress to the full pose over time.
Regarding dynamic stretching motions, do not force your hips past their limits. You will know when your body is ready to stretch further.
One simple stretch to perform the frog stretch for your hips:
- Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders, with your knees below your hips.
- Extend your right knee further to the right side. Do the same with your left knee. Try to avoid pain, and do not force your body to stretch farther than it wants to.
- Turn your feet outwards. Flex your ankles so that your inner foot is touching the floor.
- Slowly lower to your forearms with palms flat on the ground. Alternatively, you can clasp your hands together or support yourself on your elbows.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds.
- Return to holding yourself up on your hands.
- Repeat this motion for 5-10 repetitions.
The frog stretch targets your:
- Hip flexors
- Inner thighs
Performing this stretch regularly will enhance strength and flexibility in the areas mentioned above while preparing your muscles for training. Other stretches that jiu-jitsu students can do to stretch their hips include:
Your shoulder joint is a frequent hot spot that shows up for most athletes at some point during their training careers, so this area should definitely get some attention with stretching and mobility.
The shoulder joint has a huge natural range of motion, however, jiu-jitsu has a tendency to overdevelop a specific rolled forward shoulder range of motion.
This overdevelopment is also made worse by the fact that many people work desk jobs where shoulders are rolled forward over a keyboard and most popular resistance training programs emphasize that same range of motion through exercises like the bench press. Keeping your shoulder mobile and unlocked in this environment is something challenging but always important.
Generally, when doing the basic stretching of your shoulders, you should hold each pose for at least thirty seconds and repeat them three times.
The cross-arm stretch targets your shoulders and other upper arm muscles. To correctly perform this stretch:
- Extend your right arm across to the left side of your body. Try to keep your arm at chest level.
- Use your left hand to hold your other arm in its position.
- Pull your right arm with your left hand. The pulling stretches out your shoulder.
- Hold this position for thirty seconds to one minute.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Do this stretch for 3 – 5 reps after training.
This exercise is a static position; therefore, you should not perform this move before a jiu-jitsu session.
The quadruped shoulder stretch is highly recommended if your goal is to enhance your shoulders’ range of motion. Do the following steps to complete this dynamic stretch safely:
- Get on your hands and knees. It is okay to add a pad underneath your knees to reduce pain if needed.
- Push into the ground with your hands while keeping your elbows straight.
- Make a counterclockwise circle with your shoulders. Maintain straight elbows throughout this entire movement.
- Do five circles. Afterward, make five circles in a clockwise direction with both shoulders.
- Rotate each shoulder individually for five to ten reps.
You can perform this exercise before training if your shoulders are tight.
Your back is important for supporting jiu-jitsu movements and plays a huge role in your ability to maintain good posture, which is essential in BJJ training. Additionally, a more limber back will allow you to more safely incorporate inversions and more flexible guards like rubber guard.
Jiu-Jitsu is strenuous on your back muscles since it is responsible for the vast majority of maintaining posture in jiu-jitsu which is an active endeavor in most rolls.
To elongate your back muscles safely:
- Begin by lying on your stomach on a flat surface with your chin and toes lying flat.
- Raise your hands next to your face with your palms facing the ground. Ensure that your elbows are close to your body.
- Slowly push up with your arms until they are straight. Keep your knees and toes on the ground.
- Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Bend your elbows slowly to return to your original position.
- Repeat this 5 – 10 times.
This stretch targets the lumbar region of the spine, allowing for more spinal flexion during training.
The child’s pose targets your lower back and can relieve pain after sessions. To do this pose:
- Start on your hands and knees. It is best to bring your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
- Push your hips back on your feet. If you are experiencing knee issues, place a rolled towel in the crease of your knees.
- Use your arms to push yourself further backward. Keep your eyes looking forward or place your head on the floor.
- Hold this position for at least thirty seconds. You can stay in this position for up to three minutes if you prefer.
It may be difficult for you to reach your heels with your butt if this is your first time trying the position. Instead of forcing the pose, allow your body to hold a stretch with the least amount of strain. Eventually, you will be able to reach your heels.
With everyone going after your neck in jiu-jitsu for chokes you are bound to end up with tweaks every so often. If you notice continuous stiffness in your neck, take some time off for recovery. If you have acute pain, don’t train and seek medical help if needed before practicing jiu-jitsu. You cannot perform well in jiu-jitsu with a stiff neck, so try to protect it with preventative care.
The side head tilt or “ear to shoulder” exercise is one of the most straightforward ways to relieve tension in your neck, and there are ways to enhance the intensity of this stretch. Jiu-jitsu trainers should take the following steps to stretch their neck muscles fully:
- Look straight ahead.
- Tilt your head towards your left shoulder using your neck. Avoid bringing the shoulder up to meet your ear.
- Use your left hand to apply gentle pressure to your head for a deeper stretch. This step is optional.
- Extend your right arm at a 45° angle away from your body.
- Flex your right wrist until your fingers are pointing up at the ceiling. If this is too intense, move on to the next step.
- Stay in this position for thirty seconds to one minute.
- Gently release your neck and return to the starting position.
- Do the same steps on the other side.
If you have a tendency toward straining your wrists, you might find it helpful to do some simple routines to keep the joints in good working order. If you are actively injured do not stretch the injury site as it can make things worse. Give it some recovery time and seek medical help if it does not get any better with time off.
To correctly perform the forearm stretch:
- Begin in a four-legged position on your hands and knees.
- Rotate your wrists until your fingers point toward your knees.
- Press into the ground while moving your backside toward your heels. Keep your elbows locked outward.
- Move in and out of the position ten times.
- Rest your buttocks on your heels or as far as they can comfortably go. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
You will feel a stretch in your wrists and forearms as you move backward. Notably, this stretch should not be painful. If you experience pain, adjust to a less extended position and hold that instead.
With continued practice, you will be able to reach the full range of motion without any pain.
For this motion, you must start with your hands in a fist. The fist should be loosely made and free of tension. To do a dynamic wrist stretch:
- Rotate your wrists clockwise. Start with small circles.
- Increase the size of the circles after five to ten rotations. Repeat the larger circles five times.
- Rotate your wrists counterclockwise in small circles. Do this for ten to fifteen reps.
- Make larger circles with your fists, if comfortable.
This simple dynamic stretch will improve your wrist’s mobility and warm up the area before a training session.
Unless you are overtrained and frequently injured getting more jiu-jitsu training is better than specifically working flexibility instead. Incorporating mobility drills and a short stretching routine after class gives you the best time versus benefit ratio.
It is my belief that if you are training responsibly (without ego and not training at full intensity at all times) and are still getting frequently injured most of the time it is because you are not warming up sufficiently or you are not recovering sufficiently.
You do not need to be extremely flexible to excel at the sport. Although improved flexibility helps in many ways, training your movements and improving your techniques give you the most mileage overall in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
These skills require more than daily stretching and can only be gained with regular practice. Making the mistake of prioritizing flexibility could be your downfall.
Building up adequate flexibility and mobility for your personal jiu-jitsu game can enhance your movement quality to keep your body healthy and injury-free.
Doing dynamic stretching and static stretching are both useful in different ways, and pairing a short routine for each type of stretching around your workouts or training times can give you many benefits that will help you down the line for just a little extra time cost.
I would encourage any BJJ athlete to pair stretching and mobility into their routines to keep their bodies going strong as they progress in their jiu-jitsu journey.
For more check out 3 Reasons Strength Training Is Essential for BJJ.