If you’ve ever rolled with a flexible person, then chances are you understand the benefits of being flexible in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Flexibility is a great thing to have overall, it helps you kick higher in Muay Thai and also prevents a majority of muscle injuries that will happen from your body being tight. I highly recommend anyone who is a serious BJJ practitioner to take flexibility seriously, because it can change your game for the better.
In this article, I’ll go over my favorite ways to improve your flexibility for Jiu Jitsu. That said, I’m a blue belt at best in stretching. The best resource online by far is Yoga for BJJ. They have a ton of videos that are neatly organized into courses like their “10 Video Beginner Program” and my personal favorite “Yoga for Rocks.”
I personally struggle with flexibility in my hips which makes it harder for me to kick high. It’s easy to understand the pain it is to stretch, however it’s one of the most important things you can do for your body before and after a workout. Getting flexible for Jiu Jitsu or any other martial art is only as hard as you make it to be. All it takes is a little consistency and some time out of your day. There are many ways to stretch at home and there are many ways to improve your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at home!
There are many ways to become more flexible, stretching isn’t the only way believe it or not. Throughout my time in Asia I found that yoga can be an amazing way to become much more flexible, with many other benefits coming from yoga postures. Flexibility is a window of opportunity that opens up even more enhancements such as strength and coordination. Do not underestimate what a few minutes of stretching or yoga each day can do to your Jiu Jitsu game.
Stretching is the number one thing you can do for flexibility. I hate stretching as much as the next guy, however I realize how important it is to stretch throughout the day. Stretching will evolve your Jiu Jitsu game for the better. A good rule of thumb to follow is: stretch twice a day to maintain your flexibility, stretch three times a day to enhance your flexibility.
Regularly stretching can lead to increased flexibility which is super helpful in training. Not only does stretching reduce potential injuries, but it also helps speed up recovery time from injuries and sore muscles. We are going to go over some of the best stretches for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The Butterfly stretch is the first stretch I learned and the stretch that I start every workout with. It’s a great stretch for increasing flexibility in the hips which will allow you much more movement. I recommend to do 2 sets of butterfly stretches for 20 seconds each. The butterfly is a stretch you can accomplish multiple times a day because it’s simple to do. When you become more flexible I highly recommend starting to put your knees closer to the ground while in the butterfly stretch. This is one of the best stretches you can do for BJJ and other martial arts.
King Arthur Stretch
The King Arthur stretch isn’t for the weak of heart. This stretch will be painful and difficult at first, however once you master it you’ll truly be a “King”. This stretch is specifically amazing for Jiu Jitsu because it involves both your upper and lower body. This will be one of those stretches that will prevent injuries in the future, specifically in your back. I recommend doing this twice a day for 30 seconds each side. The King Arthur is one of the best stretches you can do for Jiu Jitsu.
The Cossack squat is another stretch that is amazing for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because it incorporates real-life movement which strengthens certain areas of the body that are normally weak. The Cossack is amazing for your back as well as knee and ankle health. I highly recommend incorporating this stretch into your daily stretches, whether it’s after a weight lifting session or after a roll. Once you become more proficient with this stretch you can start using a kettlebell or dumbbell to increase the difficulty. The cossack squat isn’t just a a good stretch for Jiu Jitsu, it’s also a great strength and conditioning exercise.
Lying Spinal Twist
Finally a pose that will feel good! In all seriousness, this is a great pose for not only your back and spine, but for your hips as well. This stretch incorporates both upper and lower body which is super important for Jiu Jitsu. This is a much more calming stretch, however it’s still an advanced stretch that should be taken seriously. The spinal twist should be done twice a day and consistently throughout the week. The lying spinal twist isn’t just a good back stretch for BJJ, it can also help you control your breathing which is super useful.
Yoga is a commonly used generic term for a collection of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines which originated in India. It is an extremely complex and diverse system which embraces many different aspects of the human experience. Yoga can be a huge advantage in helping your overall flexibility and your Jiu Jitsu rolls. I personally do yoga for the relaxation benefits of it, however flexibility is an acquired skill from yoga.
Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (downward facing dog)
One of the most common yoga postures to learn is the Adho Muka Svanasana, or better known as “the downward facing dog”. This posture can be practiced by any beginner that wants to explore all its benefits. You should include this posture as a part of daily yoga practice. It’s a standing pose and mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body. I personally love this pose because it helps my breathing control. The downward facing dog is one of the best yoga postures you can do for BJJ.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)
The Warrior 1 is an amazing yoga pose which fully stretches out your body and allows you to find an inner strength you never knew you had. When I first started yoga, I couldn’t believe how much simple “stretches” and poses could make my body feel so awake and alive. I know as Jiu Jitsu practitioners, you look at these simple poses and most likely shrug them off wondering how they could ever enhance your BJJ. I promise you that after one week of consistently doing yoga, you will see a dramatic change in your game. The Warrior 1 is a true martial arts yoga pose.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
The Virabhadrasana, or better known as “the warrior pose 2”, is an amazing posture that you’ve probably seen once or twice. This is the next step after “the warrior pose”, and it incorporates some of the same techniques. Named for a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, this version of warrior pose increases stamina. I highly recommend practicing this pose daily for enhanced muscle growth and breathing control. The Warrior 2 is an amazing pose for BJJ and for all sorts of Martial Arts.
Why is Yoga good for Jiu Jitsu?
It almost seems as if the arts of both yoga and Jiu Jitsu were designed to complement each other. There are so many similarities between the two of them that it can’t be a coincidence they both work so well together. Yoga has enhanced my Jiu Jitsu game in more ways than one. Not only has yoga made me much more flexible, but it also has helped me stay relaxed while rolling with someone much more advanced than me.
Although you can get away without being flexible in jiu jitsu, it’s an attribute that has obvious benefits. The greater range of motion that you have in your joints, the greater control you will have. You have much more options in certain positions if you’re flexible when compared to not being flexible. In fact, some parts of Jiu Jitsu will be completely inaccessible until you develop the required flexibility, rubber guard being a prime example.
One of my first Jiu Jitsu instructors used to say “the best thing a fighter can have is inner balance”. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but over the years I started to understand just how important balance is for Jiu Jitsu. Yoga is absolutely amazing when developing an “inner balance”. Not only has yoga helped me to find my inner balance, but it also helped me find inner peace. I enjoy yoga not only for the physical side of things, but also the mental improvements.
Believe it or not, yoga is absolutely amazing for core strength. Having good core strength is a huge advantage when training Jiu Jitsu. Over the past couple of decades, the phrase “core strength” has become popular in all sorts of sports, especially in combat sports such as BJJ. Having a good core is almost a necessity for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as it helps you in a lot of situations that you wouldn’t of even thought about. Yoga is absolutely amazing for core strength and it’s another reason I highly recommend doing yoga a few times a week at minimum.
Controlling your Breathing
Controlling your breathing is absolutely necessary when training Jiu Jitsu. Being able to control your breathing and control your body is such an advantage against someone who is untrained in breath control. Your body is the ultimate tool in which you can use to your advantage in Jiu Jitsu. BJJ was made to help the smaller man conquer the bigger man through technique, same can be used from body control and breathing. I highly recommend yoga for this exact reason, being able to control your body is one of the most unappreciated arts in life.
Yoga for BJJ
As I mentioned earlier, the best resource online when it comes to yoga geared toward Jiu Jitsu is Yoga for BJJ. Whether you’re a newb, or a yoga black belt, they have courses for you:
If you are looking for a seriously well thought out program for Jiu Jitsu athletes, check them out.
My final thoughts are that stretching and yoga can be a huge benefit to anyone who studies Jiu Jitsu. Having the ability to become more flexible is one that you shouldn’t take for granted. I know they just seem like simple stretches or poses, but they have the chance of dramatically changing your body, physically and mentally (even spiritually). I even recommend daily stretching and yoga postures for people who do any type of combat sport or martial art!