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Stretching for BJJ – Flexibility for Beginners to Improve Grappling (Full List of BJJ Stretches)

Why is stretching for BJJ important when it comes to jiu jitsu training?

If you’re new to bjj, your body will be contorted, sometimes forcefully, in a variety of difference positions and shapes.

While stretching and being flexible (just like being strong) is not entirely necessary, both have their clear advantages to bjj and can complement your technique.

Some reasons to implement some bjj stretches::

  • injury prevention
  • aids in warming your body up for movement
  • aids in cooling down after training
  • improves posture
  • decreases muscle tightness
  • increases bloodflow
  • helps reduce soreness

Key Takeaways – Stretching for BJJ

  • Consistently stretching before and after training sessions can help prevent injuries, counteract muscle tightness, and expand your repertoire of BJJ techniques.
  • Dynamic stretching is recommend both before and after bjj training. However, if you prefer static stretching it is recommended not to hold the position for more than 20 seconds if performing before training
  • Static stretching techniques involve taking a muscle to its end range and maintaining the position for an extended period, while dynamic stretching relies on warming up the muscles with active movement througn a range of motion (ie. leg swings, squats, or neck/shoulder rotations)
  • Recommended stretches for improving hip flexibility include hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) and Lunge Hip-Flexor Stretch.
  • Spinal flexibility can be enhanced with exercises such as T-Spine Rotations and Bretzel Stretch for the Thoracic Spine.
  • Incorporating shoulder stretches like Shoulder CARS and Quadrupled Overhead Shoulder Stretch can prevent common shoulder injuries in grapplers.

Stretching Routine for BJJ:

Muscle StrcutureEffective Stretches
ShouldersBanded Stretches
Upper BackPrayer Strectch
Upper Back/ScapulaScapula Pull ups
Lower BackCat/Cow Stretch
Hips90/90 Hip Stretch
GlutesFoam Rolling / Pso Right
QuadsCouch Stretch
HamstringsBent Knee Downward dog

Why Should You Stretch for BJJ

Simply put, stretching for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is crucial for several reasons, the most significant among them being injury prevention.

Regular stretching helps increase the muscle range of motion around the joints, reducing the stress experienced when grappling.

By improving joint flexibility, you can better handle pressure, minimize the risk of strains, and ultimately avoid injuries that disrupt training and performance.

Another key reason to stretch for BJJ is to counteract the tightness brought about by common movement patterns.

I would say from my experience and of that of my closest traning partners the biggest problem areas are:

  • tight hips
  • stiff upper backs

Many practitioners experience tight hips and stiff upper backs as a consequence of repetitive hip-flexion motion in guard playing. By incorporating a targeted stretching routine, the postural imbalances and muscular strains caused by these movements can be alleviated, ensuring healthier muscles and spine.

Finally, stretching enhances your overall BJJ performance by expanding the arsenal of techniques you can execute safely.

Some contemporary grappling styles, such as rubber guard (see below section on stretches for 10th Planet), demand a high degree of hip flexibility for correct positioning and injury prevention. By incorporating proper stretching, you can safely apply these advanced techniques while reducing the risk of pain and injury.

How Do You Know Which Stretches You Should Do?

Before you dive into going through a random assortment of stretches, I recommend you do a movement screening to check out your mobility screening. This way you can focus on areas that are lacking in movement and movibility.

A good starting pointing is the “Functional Movement Screen” (by functionalmovement.com). This is a good way to find out where issues lie then from there you can add specific stretches to pre or post bjj training.

Do You Need to Stretch for BJJ?

Do you actually need to stretch for BJJ? There’s been some arguments that you really don’t need to stretch for bjj.

So no, you don’t need to stretch for BJJ, but stretching can help with injury prevention and recovery.

Stretchting isn’t necessary to be good at jiu jitsu, but just like weight lifting it has some serious benefits for training.

Lastly, most studies that look into the benefits of stretching do no look at the sport of bjj and often examine sports like football or basketball (where you aren’t really pushed to the range of your flexibility like in jiu jitsu).

When Should You Stretch for BJJ?

Generally, it’s recommended to incorporate dynamic stretches as part of a warm-up routine before engaging in BJJ training or competitions.

Dynamic stretching prepares your muscles for the demands of grappling and helps prevent injuries by increasing blood flow and joint mobility.

Static streching is slower and often involves deeper stretching which can help recirculate blood to stiff and tight muslcles after bjj training.

On the other hand, static stretching is best performed after training sessions, when your body is still warm and muscles are more pliable. This allows for a deeper and more effective stretch, reducing muscle tension and soreness, and increasing overall flexibility. Static stretching can also be done on rest days, as part of an active recovery routine, to further enhance flexibility and muscle recovery.

As part of my rest days (which in include no jiu jitsu or weight training whatsoever), I’ll usually go for a light walk and include some stretching.

One advantage of regularly stretching outside of training sessions is that it allows for more focused and uninterrupted time to work on areas that may be tight or underdeveloped.

BJJ Mobility Routine

So what is a simple bjj mobitlity routine for beginners?

Here is a quick table with some common stretchs. If you find a specific area of your body is tighter than others you can implement more stretching and foam rolling in that area:

Muscle StrcutureEffective Stretches
ShouldersBanded Stretches
Upper BackPrayer Strectch
Upper Back/ScapulaScapula Pull ups
Lower BackCat/Cow Stretch
Hips90/90 Hip Stretch
GlutesFoam Rolling / Pso Right
QuadsCouch Stretch
HamstringsBent Knee Downward dog

BJJ Stretches (Key Stretches for BJJ to Consider)

Here are my favorite stretches for jiu jitsu:

Downward Dog
Cobra Pose
Cow Pose
Cat Pose
This is a basic hip flexor stretch that can be best used after bjj training
This is another post training stretch recommendation that stretches both your upper and lower back
This is the last post training stretch that is geared again towards openeing up your hips by spreading your legs and leaning back into the stretch

Even More Stretches for BJJ to Be Aware of:

Pre Training Dynamic Stretches:

Hip CARs

Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) are a fantastic BJJ stretch for increasing hip mobility and preventing injuries and are great for pre training . The exercise targets the hip joint, promoting both internal and external rotation movements.


To perform Hip CARs, begin by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and slightly bend your knees. Lift one knee towards your chest, maintaining control and stability throughout the movement. Rotate the knee outwards, opening the hip joint and keeping the rest of the body stable.


Bridges

Bridges are an essential exercise for BJJ practitioners – these can be done as part of your dynamic or statis stretching routine.

Brdiges target several critical muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. These muscles play a vital role in various movements within the sport such as bridging and shrimping, which are crucial for escaping from bottom positions or creating space between you and your opponent.


To perform a bridge, lie flat on your back with your feet hip-width apart and knees bent. Make sure your arms are positioned alongside your body, with palms facing downward.

Engaging your core, glutes, and hamstrings, lift your hips off the ground until a straight line is formed from your shoulders to knees. Hold this position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your hips back to the ground. Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, aiming for 1-3 sets in total.


Foam Rolling for the Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)

The thoracic spine often experiences stiffness and discomfort due to posture and movement necessary in grappling.

A foam roller is an ideal tool to target this area and alleviate tension.


To start this stretch, lie down on your back and place the foam roller under your upper back. Keep your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and your hands crossed over your chest.

Begin by slowly rolling back and forth on the foam roller, applying gentle pressure on the thoracic spine. Side note: it’s important to avoid rolling directly on the lower back or neck, as this can lead to discomfort or injury. Gradually progress to perform extension and flexion motions by arching your back over the roller and then returning to a neutral position. Repeat this movement 10-15 times, moving up and down the thoracic spine.


Foam rolling can also be used on any other tight muscles/areas. I know I personally like to foam roll my hamstrings and glutes since they often get very tight from jiu jitsu as well.


Lying Spinal Stretch for Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)

Incorporating this stretch into your BJJ routine can lead to greater mobility, reduced discomfort, and enhanced overall athletic performance by releasing tension in the lower back.


To perform the Lying Spinal Stretch, start by lying down flat on the ground with your legs extended straight. Bend one knee and cross it over your opposite leg, striving to keep the movement gentle and controlled. Next, use your opposite hand to apply gentle pressure on the bent knee, inducing a light twist in your spine while the other arm remains extended to the side.

Remember to maintain deep, steady breathing throughout the stretch and keep your shoulders pressed firmly against the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds on each side, completing 1-3 sets for optimal results.

Post Training Statis Stretches

Static Calf Stretch

The Static Calf stretch targets both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, helping to alleviate tightness and improve overall mobility.


To perform this stretch, find a wall or stationary support and place the ball of your foot against it while keeping your heel on the ground. Extend your leg straight behind you and lean slightly forward, applying pressure to the stretched leg—hold this position for approximately 30 seconds for optimal results.


Lying Hamstring Stretch

The Lying Hamstring Stretch is a solid option to include in your post training stretching routin.

It aims to improve flexibility in the hamstrings – a muscle group that is often tight in BJJ athletes.

Tight hamstrings can limit hip mobility and contribute to lower back pain, making this stretch a key component of a comprehensive BJJ stretching routine.


To perform the stretch, start by lying flat on your back with both legs fully extended. Bend one leg and bring it as close to your chest as possible, maintaining a firm grip behind the knee.

Once you have achieved a comfortable position, slowly extend the bent leg upwards until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Keep in mind that the stretch should be felt in the hamstring muscle, not in the back of the knee. Make sure to avoid over-stretching, as this can lead to injury. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.


Lunge Hip-Flexor Stretch

The Lunge Hip-Flexor stretch targets the hip flexor muscles, which are critical for maintaining balance, hip mobility, and strength during BJJ training.


To perform the Lunge Hip-Flexor Stretch, stand tall and take a big step forward with one foot. Lower yourself into a lunge position, keeping your knee behind your toes and ensuring your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Tuck your pelvis under and gently push your hips forward, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor of your back leg.


Crossover Glute Stretch

The Crossover Glute Stretch is an effective exercise to target the muscles in the glutes and lower back, and can be done both pre and post bjj training.


To perform this stretch, begin by lying on your back with both legs fully extended. Bend one knee and cross it over the other leg, placing the foot flat on the ground. Using the opposite hand, gently grab the bent knee and pull it towards the ground, while keeping the other arm extended to the side for stability. Hold this position for 30 seconds, making sure not to force the stretch too far, before switching to the other leg.


Butterfly Stretch (Abdomen, Core, and Back Stretch)

The butterfly stretch is an excellent exercise to target the largest muscle groups and improve flexibility.


Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs bent and the soles of your feet touching. Your knees should be relaxed and pointing out to the sides. Gently hold onto your feet or ankles and keep a straight spine.

As you maintain this position, focus on pressing the knees down towards the floor, feeling a stretch in the inner thighs and groin muscles. Keep in mind that you should not force the movement or bounce, as this can lead to injury. Instead, gently apply pressure and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.

Follow this by leaning forward from your hips, with your chest close to your feet, while keeping the back straight. Hold this position again for 20-30 seconds to accentuate the stretch in the back and core muscles.


Seated Forward Fold (Hamstrings and Lower Back)

The seated forward fold is an effective stretch for the hamstrings and lower back.


To perform this stretch, sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Keeping your back straight and chest lifted, gently reach for your toes, ankles, or shins, depending on your flexibility level.

As you deepen the stretch, make sure to maintain a neutral spine and avoid rounding the back. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, focusing on lengthening the hamstrings and lower back muscles. The seated forward fold helps to increase flexibility and can be performed in 1-3 sets, aiding in BJJ performance and reducing the risk of injury.


Sitting Leg Cradle Stretch

The Sitting Leg Cradle Stretch is an excellent exercise for improving flexibility in the hips, thighs, and lower back, which are all vital muscle groups for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.

This stretch is particularly beneficial for guard players, as it aids in recovery, prevention of injury, and effective guard retention. Being able to open your hips and keep your legs close to your torso are some of the key factors in playing guard


Begin the Sitting Leg Cradle Stretch by sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bend one leg at the knee and place your foot on the opposite thigh, ensuring that your body remains relaxed and stress-free. To intensify the stretch, slowly draw the bent leg’s knee towards your chest, using your hands to support the leg and maintain stability. Make sure that your back remains straight and your breathing is steady throughout the exercise. Hold this position for 30 seconds on each side, repeating the stretch 1-3 times for maximum benefit.


Is Stretching Good for BJJ – Why BJJ Flexibility is Important

Is stretching good for bjj? If you’ve made it this far into the post then you know that the answer is a resounding yes.

Stretching should be incorparted into your regular bjj training if for nothing else for longevitiy.

Jumping into a tough bjj class before stretching or hopping into your car to go home without some quick cool down stretches are both not ideal for you body’s muscle structures.

By not stretching, you may also find you are:

  • more prone to injuries
  • feel more beat up the next day
  • don’t perform as well on the mat

Should I Stretch before bjj?

Should I stretch before bjj? The short answer is yes, but it depends on the type of stretching*

Before bjj training you should include dynamic stretching and avoid static stretching.

Here is a video of a some dynamic movements that you can implement into your pre training mobility routine:

You don’t want to attempt to lengthen a cold muslce.

Additionally, here are some of my favorite dynamic, pre-training stretches:

  • Tippy Bird Hip Stretch
Start
Finish
  • Cat/Camel Stretch
Start
Finish
  • World’s Greatest Stretch
Start
Finish

Should I Stretch after bjj? (Post Jiu Jitsu Streches)

Now should I stretch after bjj?

Again, another resounding yes – after intense bjj training your muscles will be aching and often will have the tendency to become rigid and tight unless loosened up after training.

This is where you can implement less dynamic stretching. Again, yoga movements are often the most helpful.

Post jiu jitsu streches help you body not let those tight areas from training build up and helps recirucluate blood to different parts of the body and mscles.

Here is another video of cool down movements that I have implemented after my own bjj training:

10th Planet Stretching Routine:

Is there a specific 10th Planet Stretching Routine?

Since I am a member of one of the biggest 10th planet gyms maybe I can shed some light on this.

Keep in mind while certain 10th Planet positions and techniques such as rubber guard may seem to require a great deal of flexibility in actuality what you really need is angle.

If you are on your side and on your hip you will find yourself able to get into rubber guard much easier. 

10th planet specific positions and techniques do not necessarily require more flexibility than other common jiu jitsu techniques – again Angle is King


However, if you are looking to increase your mobility and flexibilty especially in your lower back and hip area here are some solid stretches that you can implement:

Butterfly Stretch

Couch Stretch

Frog Stretch

Pigeon Pose

Cradle Stretch

Lunge Stretch

Horse Stance Stretch

Tailor’s Stretch

Do You Need to Be Flexible for Jiu Jitsu?

Being flexible can certainly be an asset in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but it is not a strict requirement for success or participation in the sport. As long as you have a reasonable level of flexibility and range of motion, you should be able to rain jiu jitsu successfully.

With that said, possessing an adequate level of flexibility can help prevent injuries, enhance certain techniques, and improve overall performance.

One advantage of engaging in BJJ training is that it naturally encourages improvements in flexibility over time, as practitioners work through various movement patterns and positions.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that relying solely on BJJ practice might not lead to optimal flexibility since specific muscle groups may still experience tightness. Integrating targeted stretching exercises into your routine can significantly contribute to enhanced flexibility, reducing the risk of injury, and allowing for smoother execution of techniques.

Side note: Flexibility is just one aspect of physical fitness in BJJ. Other critical components include strength, endurance, and technique over everything else.

While having exceptional flexibility may offer certain benefits, neglecting these other areas can hinder overall progression.

Does BJJ Help with Flexibility

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can indeed help practitioners improve their flexibility.

As Jiu-Jitsu relies heavily on leverage, positioning and body control, practitioners often find themselves in a variety of distinct positions that require a certain level of flexibility.

It is recommended to supplement training by incorporating yoga, Pilates, or specific stretching routines to maximize flexibility.

Not all, but some techniques and positions in BJJ demand flexibility in the hips, shoulders, and legs in order to execute them effectively. Gradual exposure to these movements aids in expanding the range of motion and overall flexibility.

One advantage of engaging in BJJ is its practical and functional approach to movement, which enhances flexibility and assists in building strength and endurance simultaneously. For example, techniques such as the triangle choke, Omoplata, or Spider Guard necessitate hip flexibility to execute them effectively.

Mobility vs Flexibility Explained

Mobility and flexibility are often used interchangeably, but they refer to distinct concepts in the context of physical fitness and athletic performance.

  • Flexibility refers to the passive range of motion in a joint, which is primarily determined by the length and elasticity of the surrounding muscles and connective tissues.
    • A high degree of flexibility allows individuals to achieve greater joint movements without resistance.
  • Mobility is the active ability to move a joint through its full range of motion, considering both flexibility and muscle strength.
    • Having good mobility means that you can control your movements in a stable and coordinated manner throughout the entire range.

When we talk about stretching, it’s primarily focused on improving flexibility by lengthening the muscles and connective tissues. Conversely, mobility drills and exercises aim to increase control, stability, and strength throughout the entire range of motion.

In practice, both mobility and flexibility are interrelated, and addressing one typically has positive effects on the other.

Flexibility: Comparing Dynamic and Static-Active Flexibility

Dynamic and static-active flexibility are essential components of a well-rounded training routine, particularly in martial arts like BJJ. These two types of flexibility differ in terms of their implementation and benefits.

  • Dynamic flexibility refers to the ability to move a muscle or joint through its full range of motion while performing an activity (without holding a position). It emphasizes the muscles’ capacity for contractile force, allowing for more significant control and efficiency during movement.

Again, dynamic stretching can serve as an effective warm-up, helping to prepare the muscles for BJJ training by encouraging blood flow, improving neural activation, and enhancing overall mobility. Examples of dynamic stretching exercises for BJJ include leg swings, arm circles, and hip rotations.

  • Static-active flexibility involves actively maintaining a stretched position for an extended period without the help of external forces.

In contrast to dynamic flexibility, static-active flexibility relies on the tension produced by the agonist and synergist muscles to hold the stretch. This type of flexibility training is more focused on increasing muscle and tendon length, ultimately expanding the range of motion and reducing the risk of injury during BJJ practice.

A combination of both dynamic and static-active stretching is essential for optimal BJJ performance, as each type of flexibility training provides unique benefits.

Dynamic stretching is best utilized during warm-up sessions, while static-active stretching can be incorporated into post-workout or pre-bedtime routines.

What Joints and Muscle Groups Should You Stretch for BJJ?

To optimize your performance and prevent injuries in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), make sure to stretch key joints and muscle groups that are involved in this martial art.

Focusing on the hips, shoulders, spine, neck, and wrists can significantly improve your flexibility, range of motion, and overall functionality.

  • One crucial area to target in BJJ stretching routines is the hip joint.

Flexible hip muscles allow for smoother transitions, more potent submissions, and better guard retention. Stretches that target the hip flexors, abductors, and adductors can help in enhancing your hip mobility and stability.

  • The shoulder joint plays a vital role in different BJJ techniques, such as setting up chokes and executing takedowns.

Stretching the rotator cuff muscles and surrounding tissues prevents shoulder injuries and improves control in various positions.

  • Spinal flexibility is critical for executing technical movements, maintaining proper posture, and preventing injuries.

Make sure to stretch the lumbar and thoracic spine regularly, as these areas are heavily involved in many BJJ techniques.

  • Neck flexibility is essential for preventing serious injuries to the cervical spine and improving overall head movement and control.

Stretching exercises that focus on increasing the neck’s range of motion can be extremely beneficial to BJJ practitioners.

  • The wrists are frequently utilized for gripping and manipulating in BJJ.

Ensuring proper wrist flexibility can help prevent strains and sprains and allow for a more effective grip. Active and passive stretching techniques targeting the wrist flexors and extensors can significantly enhance joint mobility and reduce the risk of injury.

By incorporating stretches that target these key joints and muscle groups, you’ll not only improve your BJJ performance but also minimize the risk of sustaining long-term injuries in your martial arts journey.

1. Neck

One of the most effective neck stretching routines involves Controlled Articular Rotations (CARS).

Start by standing upright with your arms by your side, bracing your entire body by squeezing your glutes, tightening your abs, and pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Slowly rotate your neck, working through its full range of motion. Perform 10-15 repetitions in each direction for 1-3 sets. Side note: Maintaining correct posture while stretching and consistently working on neck flexibility can help prevent injuries and enhance performance in BJJ.


An alternative passive neck stretching technique is the Ear-to-Shoulder stretch. Stand upright and carefully bend your neck, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Reach across the top of your head with the opposite hand, gently pulling your neck. Only apply a small amount of pressure to avoid straining the neck. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. One advantage of this stretch is its ability to target tight neck muscles and alleviate tension from BJJ training.

2. Shoulders

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, healthy shoulder mobility is vital for executing techniques and preventing injuries, particularly in grip-heavy grappling styles. For shoulders, I prefer banded stretching. By using a band, I can do pull aparts to warm up my rear delts and rotator cuffs.

For a another more passive shoulder stretch (that doesn’t require a band), consider the Quadrupled Overhead Shoulder Stretch.

Begin on your hands and knees and raise one arm, placing it on a chair or bench. Lower your torso, allowing your shoulder to stretch overhead. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, repeating 1-3 sets per arm. This exercise targets the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, helping to alleviate tightness and prevent injury.

3. Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)

The thoracic spine is a critical area to focus on for BJJ practitioners, as it plays a significant role in overall spinal health and flexibility. With BJJ often requiring practitioners to maintain a forward-rounded posture, the thoracic spine can become stiff and inflexible over time, causing discomfort and limited mobility. To improve flexibility in this area, there are several stretches that can be incorporated into your training routine.

One effective stretch for the thoracic spine is the seated thoracic twist.

Start by sitting on the ground with both legs extended straight. Bend one knee and cross it over the extended leg, placing your foot flat on the ground. Twist your torso in the direction of the bent knee, using the opposite arm to hug the knee, pulling it closer for a deeper stretch. Keep your spine straight and hold this position for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.

Another beneficial stretch for the thoracic region is using a foam roller or pso-right. Check section above on how to use foam roller for thoracic spine.

Position a foam roller horizontally behind you and lie down with your upper back resting on the roller. Maintain a slight bend in your knees, while placing your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out to the sides. Gently extend your back, allowing the foam roller to apply pressure to the thoracic spine, and hold the extended position for about 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 1-3 times.

Finally, my favorite stretch for the lower back is the cat-camel stretch.

Start on your hands and knees, then arch your back upward while tucking your chin toward your chest. Hold this position for a few seconds before transitioning into the opposite movement – lowering your back towards the ground and lifting your gaze upward. Perform 10-15 repetitions of this stretch, focusing on a thorough range of motion.

4. Wrists

One good stretch for the wrists is the palm-down wrist stretch.


Begin with your arm extended, palm facing down. Gently pull your fingers back using the opposite hand, creating a stretch in the forearm and wrist. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.


For an active wrist stretch, try the wrist circles exercise. Start with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and your palms facing up. Slowly rotate your wrists in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise, for 10-15 repetitions each. This movement not only helps increase wrist flexibility but can also improve overall joint health.


Lastly, the reverse wrist stretch targets the top of the forearm and wrist. Extend your arm with the palm facing up and gently pull your fingers down towards the ground with your opposite hand. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other side. This stretch can help counteract tightness and strain caused by regular gripping in BJJ.

5. Hips

Stretching the hips is essential in improving mobility, retaining guard, executing sweeps, and maintaining overall hip health.

To target the hips effectively, consider incorporating both active and passive stretching techniques.

As mentioned above, active stretching, such as the Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs), focuses on improving mobility and control:

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Slowly raise one knee and rotate it outwards, creating the largest circle possible. Perform 10-15 repetitions on each leg, completing 1-3 sets. The Pigeon Stretch is a passive technique that stretches the hip flexors and external rotators. Begin in a tabletop position and slide one knee forward, placing your foot near the opposite hand. Lower your hips to the ground, keeping your chest lifted. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds, then switch sides, completing 1-3 sets.

6. Ankles

Ankle stretches can also assist in reducing tightness in calves and muscles along the shin.

Active and passive exercises are recommended to enhance ankle mobility and flexibility effectively.

The Active Ankle CARS stretch involves performing controlled circular movements of the ankle joint while keeping the rest of your body stable.

Start by sitting on a chair or elevated surface, with one leg extended. Slowly rotate your ankle in a clockwise direction, making ten full rotations before switching to a counterclockwise rotation. Perform 1-3 sets for each ankle.

For a passive ankle stretch, consider the Dorsiflexion Stretch with a Resistance Band (or calve wall stretch)

Wrap a looped resistance band around the ball of your foot, holding the band firmly. As you push your foot forward into the band, make sure to maintain tension without overstraining. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds per side, completing 1-3 sets.

Should BJJ Be Painful?

In an ideal BJJ practice, pain should not be a constant companion. However, discomfort and muscle soreness may inevitably arise due to the nature of the sport.

It’s essential to recognize the difference between pain caused by muscle fatigue and pain stemming from an injury. The former is a normal aspect of training, while the latter warrants attention and proper care.

Certain degrees of discomfort may be felt during sparring sessions or strenuous drilling, and this is part of the training process. Discomfort can be a signal to consider stretching, improving technique, and understanding joint and muscular health. The more you train and understand your body, the better equipped you will be to manage discomfort and reduce the risk of significant pain or injury.

A big advantage of incorporating a well-rounded stretching routine is reduced pain and soreness, leading to better performance during training and competition.

As a BJJ practitioner, you should prioritize both stretching and strength conditioning to

  • optimize your training
  • decrease injury risk
  • enjoy a pain-free grappling experience with longevity in mind

What Are Some Commons Causes of Pain in BJJ and How BJJ Stretches Can Help

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, pain and discomfort may arise from a variety of factors, including

  • muscle strain
  • joint stress
  • tendon inflammation

1. One primary cause of pain in BJJ is the force and pressure experienced during grappling techniques. These forces can place significant strain on muscles and joints and can lead to injury if not adequately addressed. Practicing BJJ stretches can help reduce pain by improving flexibility, promoting blood flow, and enhancing overall muscular function.

2. Another common cause of pain in BJJ practitioners is the repetitive nature of specific movements and techniques.

Frequent drilling and the execution of the same moves can cause wear and tear on joints, muscles, and tendons, leading to imbalances, inflammationm and discomfort.

Incorporating BJJ stretches into your routine can help counteract this issue by providing a balance between strength and flexibility, making sure your muscles and joints are better prepared to handle the stresses of repetitive movements.

3. Lastly, poor posture and imbalances in muscle groups can cause pain and discomfort in BJJ practitioners.

BJJ athletes often spend considerable time in flexed positions, which can lead to tight muscles in the chest, upper back, and hip flexors. A comprehensive BJJ stretching routine can address these imbalances, targeting tight muscle groups and promoting proper posture alignment, reducing pain and discomfort experienced during training.

How to Get in Shape for BJJ

A common question that continues to come up on forums and sites like reddit is “How Do You Get in Shape for BJJ?”.

In all honesty, the answer that many of those people don’t want to here is simply – just train BJJ

I get it, jumping into jiu jitsu without an athletic background or without being in the best of shape is an extremely daunting task, but you can get in shape while training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

If you want to lose wait you should:

  • train BJJ
  • consider other training in addition to bjj like:
    • swimming
    • running
    • bikeriding
    • weightlifiting
  • and finally, make sure your diet is in check

If you still prefer to try to lose some weight before signing up for jiu jitsu here are some other options:

  1. Start Training BJJ: (Once more) the first and foremost recommendation is to start training BJJ. As numerous practitioners point out, regardless of your initial fitness level, you’ll face challenges when you start. This is normal and part of the process. However, regular rolling (BJJ sparring) will naturally enhance your stamina and fitness level over time.
  2. Diet and Nutrition: The second most important factor is nutrition. Practitioners who have seen significant improvements in their BJJ performance and overall health attribute these changes to eating cleaner, home-prepared meals with low carbs, low sugar, and almost no processed foods. A high-protein diet consisting of lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables is often recommended for those training in BJJ.
  3. Supplementary Exercises: While BJJ itself provides a robust workout, additional physical activities can help improve your performance and speed up your fitness journey. For example, swimming, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT) swimming circuits, can enhance your recovery time and breath regulation, both vital for BJJ.
  4. Strength Training: Incorporating strength training in your routine can also prove beneficial. Tools like kettlebells can provide a great workout at home, focusing on core and grip strength. Furthermore, HIIT and plyometrics can supplement your BJJ training by boosting your cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.
  5. Mindset and Habit Building: BJJ is not just about physical strength; it’s also about mental resilience. Building good habits and a healthy mindset is crucial. This might include adopting a regular exercise routine, maintaining a balanced diet, and having a positive self-perception.
  6. Flexibility and Mobility: Stretching and mobility exercises should be incorporated into your routine to prevent injuries and improve your performance on the mat. Dynamic stretching before workouts and static stretching afterward can significantly increase your flexibility over time.
  7. Embracing the BJJ Flow: BJJ is unique, teaching you to use your body in ways that many other sports don’t. As you continue your journey, you will learn to ‘flow,’ moving with purpose and reacting instinctively to your opponent’s actions. This flow can be physically demanding, but as your fitness improves, you’ll find it becomes more manageable and enjoyable.

BJJ Strength and Conditioning Program

Here is a link to my personal weightlifting program that I do in conjuction with bjj.

Next, here are some exercises to consider if you are attempting to design your own program.

(I strongly recommend checking out other resources on weightlifting before diving into creating your own program)

Upper Body: Back, Chest, and Shoulders

  1. Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups: These exercises primarily target the latissimus dorsi and biceps but also work the rhomboids and the muscles in the forearm for better grip strength. Using a towel or old gi wrapped around the bar can further increase the grip challenge.
  2. Rows (Barbell/Dumbbell/Cable): Rows are excellent for targeting your back muscles, primarily the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. They also engage your biceps and forearms, providing additional grip strength work.
  3. Push-Ups/Bench Press: Push-ups or bench press primarily target your pecs, triceps, and shoulders. Variations like the close-grip bench press can be added to emphasize tricep work, important for arm control in BJJ.
  4. Overhead Press: Overhead press develops your shoulders, triceps, and upper back muscles. This exercise will improve your pushing strength, important for many positions in BJJ.

Lower Body: Glutes, Quads, and Hamstrings

  1. Squats (Back/Front/Bodyweight): Squats work your entire lower body, with emphasis on quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They also engage your core, providing stabilization.
  2. Deadlifts: Deadlifts primarily target your posterior chain, including your glutes and hamstrings, and also strengthen your back and grip.
  3. Hip Thrusts/Bridges: These exercises are excellent for strengthening the hip extension, critical for many BJJ techniques. They primarily target the glutes and hamstrings.
  4. Lunges: Lunges work your entire lower body and improve single-leg strength and balance, important for many standing BJJ techniques.

Core: Abs, Obliques, Transverse Abdominis

  1. Planks (Standard/Side): Planks target your entire core and help develop the isometric strength necessary for BJJ. Side planks specifically target your obliques.
  2. Russian Twists: Russian twists target your obliques and transverse abdominis and help improve rotational strength, important for many guard pass techniques.
  3. Hanging Leg Raises: Hanging leg raises primarily target your lower abs and hip flexors but also challenge your grip and upper body strength.
  4. Ab Wheel Rollouts: Ab wheel rollouts are an excellent exercise for your abs, but also work your back and shoulder stability.

Related: Click here to see our guide on bjj strength training and getting in shape for BJJ

Considerations for BJJ and Weightlifting

BJJ and weightlifting can be a challenging task but when done properly, it can significantly enhance your performance, strength, and overall fitness.

However, your body will likely be very physically and mentally tasked when perform both forms of exercise. So be aware of your recovery, progress, and weekly training session programming.

The two disciplines complement each other: BJJ improves your flexibility, agility, and endurance while weightlifting helps develop your strength, power, and muscle mass.

Here are some key considerations when combining BJJ training with weightlifting:

  1. Understand Your Goals: The first step is to define your training goals. Are you looking to increase your strength for competition in BJJ, or is your aim to maintain fitness and overall health? Or perhaps you want to build a physique for aesthetic reasons? The answers to these questions will influence your weightlifting program. If you’re mainly focused on improving your BJJ performance, you might focus more on functional strength training and less on aesthetic bodybuilding-style training.
  2. Prioritize Recovery: Both BJJ and weightlifting are physically demanding and require adequate rest and recovery to avoid overtraining. This means sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and possibly incorporating practices like yoga or meditation for stress management. Overtraining can lead to injuries and diminished performance, so it’s essential to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.
  3. Balance Your Training: It’s important to strike a balance between your BJJ training and weightlifting. Training BJJ multiple times a day and then hitting the gym for weightlifting can lead to overtraining and injuries. A balanced approach might involve weightlifting 2-3 times a week on non-BJJ days or before your BJJ training depending on your energy levels and recovery.
  4. Functional Strength Training: When it comes to weightlifting for BJJ, the focus should be on functional strength training. This means exercises that improve your strength, flexibility, and coordination simultaneously and are more likely to transfer over to improved performance in BJJ. Movements like deadlifts, squats, kettlebell swings, or Olympic lifts can be particularly beneficial.
  5. Core and Grip Strength: Core strength is paramount in BJJ for maintaining control and stability. Weightlifting exercises like planks, farmer’s walks, or Turkish get-ups can help develop a strong core. Grip strength is also crucial in BJJ for maintaining holds and submissions. Deadlifts, pull-ups, and specialized grip exercises can aid in enhancing grip strength.
  6. Consider a Professional: If you’re new to weightlifting, it’s recommended to seek advice from a certified personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach. They can guide you in developing a program tailored to your specific needs and ensure that you’re performing exercises correctly and safely.

What Does the Science Say about Stretching?

While stretching has been studied pretty heavily in terms of other types of sport performance very little strecthing research has been done that specifically pertains to Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Therefore, I have pulled some data in regards to the overall benefits of stretching:

“Stretching interventions with 3- to 8-week duration do not seem to change either the muscle or the tendon properties, although it increases the extensibility and tolerance to a greater tensile force. Adaptations to chronic stretching protocols shorter than 8 weeks seem to mostly occur at a sensory level.” (Harvey et al. 2017)

Next on stretching to reduce soreness – a compilation of studies by Herbert et all, 2011

They found that “The pooled estimate showed that pre‐exercise stretching reduced soreness at one day after exercise”

While it is generally agreed upon that stretching can help tolernace when forced to extend to a full range of motion and that it can help reduce soreness, it is likely that more research would need to be done on stretching benefits specifically for bjj.

Best Stretching Routine for You – Conclusion

Hopefully, this best shed some light on finding the best stretching routine for you.

Again, some excellent bjj stretches are: 1. Glute bridges 2. Cat/Camel 3. Downward dog 4. Prayer Stretch 5. Lunge Hip-Flexor Stretch

I recommend going through this post and watching portions of these videos and choosing stretches that help loosen up areas that you notice are particular tight after jiu jitsu.

For many the most common tight areas after bjj training are:

  1. hips
  2. upper back
  3. lower back

By implementing a dynamic flow routine before training and a nice cool down routine after training you will notice yourself feeling less stiff the next morning, recovering better, and hopefully avoiding injuires.

Thanks for reading all and see you on the mat – Zack

Other Frequently Asked Questions Related to BJJ Stretching

What Type of Stretches Are Best Before Training BJJ?

Active and dynamic stretches are best before training BJJ, as they help to prepare the muscles for the intense movements and strain endured during grappling sessions.

A few examples of active stretches suitable for BJJ include

  • leg swings
  • scapular push-ups
  • arm circles
  • Hip CARs

On the other hand, incorporating some light passive stretches, like the seated hamstring stretch, can help release muscle tension and improve flexibility if used conservatively before training, keeping in mind not to overstretch or apply too much pressure, which could potentially limit the effectiveness of your workout.


What’s the Best Post-Training Stretching Routine

The ideal post-training stretching routine for BJJ practitioners should target all major muscle groups and incorporate both static and dynamic stretches.

Static stretching helps improve flexibility and joint range of motion, allowing for better movement during training sessions. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, promotes muscular activation, preparing the body for the high-intensity demands of sparring and competition.

Examples of such static stretches include

  • standing calve stretch
  • lunge stretch
  • lying hamstring stretch

Side note: It’s crucial to prioritize stretching tight or overworked muscles that are specific to your BJJ game. If a particular position or technique is causing prolonged muscle tension or soreness, make sure to incorporate stretches that target those specific areas during your post-training routine.


Are There Any Unique or Advanced Stretches That BJJ Practitioners Should Consider?

BJJ practitioners may consider incorporating unique or advanced stretches like the Bretzel, Pigeon Pose, and the Bridge to address targeted areas of flexibility and mobility that are crucial for grappling.

  • The Bretzel stretches the thoracic spine and hips
  • The Pigeon Pose targets the hips and glutes
  • The Bridge stretch increases shoulder and thoracic mobility, as well as lumbar extension

When implementing these advanced stretches, always make sure to maintain proper form and technique to avoid injury and to achieve the intended benefits. Additionally, it is essential to progress at a comfortable pace when incorporating advanced stretches into the routine, making sure not to compromise safety or muscle integrity.


How Often Should a BJJ Practitioner Stretch?

A well-rounded stretching routine should include both active and passive stretching techniques, practiced daily or several times per week (usually before and after class and maybe on a rest day).

Active stretches and mobility exercises, including controlled articular rotations, can be performed daily as a morning wake-up routine, before BJJ training, or on non-training days. Passive stretches should be incorporated after training sessions, when the muscles are still warm, or as part of a pre-bedtime wind-down routine.


What Is a Good Pre-Competition Warm Up Stretching Routine?

A good pre-competition stretching routine should, of course, involve active, dynamic stretches as well as cardio based movements to help elevate your heart rate.

A routine that I use for my competitions is:

  • leg swings
  • arm circles
  • neck CARS
  • body weight squats/lunges
  • light sprints

What Does Deep Stretching Mean?

Deep stretching refers to an approach in which an individual holds a stretching position for an extended period, typically ranging from 30 seconds up to several minutes.

This technique focuses on lengthening the muscle fibers and connective tissues within a particular muscle group, going beyond the initial, more superficial level of flexibility.

The primary objective of deep stretching is to enhance one’s range of motion, promote muscle and joint health, and improve overall flexibility.

One advantage of deep stretching is that it targets not only the muscle bellies but also the surrounding fascial tissues and tendons, which, when adequately stretched and maintained, can significantly contribute to overall flexibility and injury prevention.


What Is Deep Stretching Good for? What Is It Bad for?

Deep stretching is beneficial in numerous ways, including boosting flexibility, improving blood circulation, releasing muscle tension, and promoting relaxation.

By increasing overall flexibility, individuals can experience improved performance in athletic activities, reduced risk of injury, and enhanced joint mobility. Enhanced blood circulation resulting from deep stretching promotes better muscle recovery and nutrient transport, contributing to overall muscle health. As muscle tension is released through deep stretching, individuals may enjoy reduced stress and improved mental and emotional well-being.

On the other hand, deep stretching can be disadvantageous if performed incorrectly or without appropriate caution. For instance, overstretching or stretching to the point of intense pain can potentially lead to injury or exacerbate existing injuries.

To avoid this, stretching should be conducted within an individual’s comfort range, gradually increasing the depth and duration of the stretch as flexibility improves. It is essential to listen closely to one’s body and make modifications as necessary, ensuring the proper balance between challenge and comfort. Furthermore, deep stretching may not be suitable for everyone, particularly for individuals with specific medical conditions or joint hypermobility.


What Is a Leg Cradle Stretch?

The leg cradle strecth can be done standing or sitting (but is most often done while standing. Here is a quick video on how to properly to the leg cradle stretch.

It helps stretch your leg and hip flexors while also working on your blanace and core strength (if done standing).


Does Yoga for BJJ Help?

Yes, yoga for bjj can definitely help your training. It does have a myriad of benefits listed below. However, the one thing I would warn against is over training. Even though yoga may not be as taxing as other forms of exercise when your body is over worked you are more prone to injuries and sickness.

So if you do plan to incorporate yoga to complement your bjj training, I would do a light form of yoga on a rest day (and avoid other more intense forms of yoga like hot yoga).

Again, yes, regular yoga practice can provide substantial benefits for those training in BJJ, as it enhances these key physical attributes while also fostering mindfulness and relaxation.

Here’s how yoga can support your BJJ journey:

1. Flexibility: Flexibility is a strong theme in this post and if you don’t know by now, it is crucial in BJJ to protect your joints and achieve higher kicks and better mobility.
Many BJJ positions require deep stretches that can lead to injuries if your body is unprepared. Yoga prepares your body for such movements by improving your flexibility through sustained poses. By training your body to maintain these poses, yoga can help you safely transition into and out of challenging BJJ positions, reducing the risk of ligament, muscle, and tendon injuries.

2. Balance and Stability: A solid BJJ practice requires good balance to keep you upright and prevent you from getting pinned or caught in holds. Yoga enhances balance and stability through standing poses and exercises that involve balancing on one foot. These poses train your body to remain grounded and stable, improving your ability to maintain control during BJJ matches.

3. Strength: BJJ requires strength, particularly in your core and limb muscles. Yoga aids in building this strength by requiring you to hold poses and maintain proper stances, which increases muscle tone and control. This consistent strength training provided by yoga can help improve your BJJ performance by ensuring you’re physically equipped to engage with your opponent.

4. Endurance: BJJ sparring matches demand endurance. Many yoga poses enhance endurance by combining breath work and mindfulness, which can lower your heart rate and improve focus. This increased stamina is invaluable in BJJ, helping you keep up with your opponent and continue sparring for extended periods.

5. Breath Control: Proper breathing is essential in BJJ, as holding your breath can hamper your movements and reactions. Yoga offers a range of breathing exercises that teach you to breathe with your diaphragm, promoting better breath control. This mastery of breath control can be a game-changer in BJJ, allowing you to move more fluidly and maintain your stamina during matches.

Better Body and Spatial Awareness: Yoga cultivates a deep understanding of your body and its movement through space, a concept known as proprioception. It gives you a clear sense of your limb length, muscle tightness or looseness, and how your body moves.
This enhanced body and spatial awareness is especially beneficial in BJJ, where visual cues can be limited during ground fighting. Understanding your body’s position without relying on sight can provide a significant advantage, enabling you to better navigate around your opponent and react to their movements.


References

  1. Harvey LA, Katalinic OM, Herbert RD, Moseley AM, Lannin NA, Schurr K. Stretch for the treatment and prevention of contractures. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007455. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007455.pub3. Accessed 12 September 2023.
  2. Herbert RD, de Noronha M, Kamper SJ. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD004577. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004577.pub3. Accessed 12 September 2023.

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