BJJ: Start Your Training Right

BJJ: Start Your Training Right

Hello everybody, my name is Dr. Josh Hammaker, PT, DPT. I am a physical therapist at Full Range Physical Therapy in West Chester and I am a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (I am pictured on the right). This will be the first of a series of blog posts related to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and injury management. My hope is that through these blog posts, I can combine my 20 years of grappling experience through wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with my background as a physical therapist to provide helpful information on improving your health while performing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

For the first post of this series, I will discuss the importance of performing exercises before training or activity to improve your mobility and flexibility.  In BJJ, you can often find yourself in awkward positions that place stress on your body. One of the best ways we can decrease this stress and help reduce the risk of injury is by emphasizing mobility and flexibility improvements prior to starting class, practice, competition, or any other activity related to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Below you will find 5 examples of exercises geared towards improving your mobility. Keep in mind, this list is by no means a be all end all for improving your flexibility, however it can be a great starting point for your journey to prevent injury.

  1. Thread the Needle– YouTube Video: For this stretch, you are going to want to get into a quadruped position (on your hands and knees). With your right arm, you want to “thread”/bring your arm underneath you through the gap in between your left arm and leg. Hold this position for approximately 3-5 seconds. Then bring your arm back through the gap and reach upwards as if trying to reach for the ceiling. Repeat for 5-10 repetitions and perform. Make sure to switch to the left side and repeat everything you just did.
  2. Child’s Pose to Cobra– YouTube Video: You are going to be returning to quadruped for this next exercise. The first position you are going to be starting in is the child’s pose position. This will require you to sit back on your heels from the quadruped position while maintaining contact of your hands on the mats. Now reach out with your hands as far as you can so that you feel a stretch in your low to mid back. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. From this position, you are going to bring your body forward so you are lying flat on the mat. Once flat, push up with both hands to arch your back while maintaining contact with your hips and the mat. Once in this position, hold for 5-10 seconds and return to child’s pose position. Repeat this motion 5 times each position.
  3. The World’s Greatest Stretch– YouTube Video: The video I have attached above will go into much more detail than I will provide here, however I will do my best to provide the basics on completing the stretch. You will want to start in a right half kneeling position (right leg bent in front of you, while leaning on your left leg). Bring your right hand down so that it is touching the inside of your right foot. From here, raise your left arm and bring it backwards as far as you are able to rotate comfortably. Make sure to keep eye contact with your left hand as you move. When in position, hold for 5-10 seconds and return to your starting position. You will want to repeat this for 5-10 repetitions, and then perform it on the left side as well.
  4. Hip Mobilization- YouTube Video: This next stretch is a favorite of mine for improving your hip mobility, which can be especially helpful in helping to scramble out of positions. For this position, you will start in a quadruped position. Place your right foot over your left ankle so that you make a configuration that resembles the number 4. Once in this position, lean backwards in a similar manner to child’s pose, but emphasize moving to the right so as to further mobilize the right hip joint. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and return to your starting position. You will then want to repeat this exercise for your left hip as well.
  5. Upper Trap Stretch- YouTube Video: Now it’s time to address those neck muscles, specifically your trapezius. For this stretch, you are going to want to bend your head to the right side as though you are trying to bring your right ear to your right shoulder. Once you have gotten to a position where you feel a stretch along the left side of your neck, hold this position for 15 seconds and then return to your starting position. Repeat for 5 repetitions and then perform this exercise for the left side.

Having a routine prior to practice that is geared towards improving your flexibility and mobility should be an essential part of your routine. Improving these aspects of your health will not only reduce your risk of injure, but also improve your ability to perform maneuvers such as the berimbolo, inversion, triangles, and numerous other techniques. I hope that you found this blog helpful, and please feel free to reach out to me via email at or phone at 610-241-2685 if you would like more information.  Want to schedule a visit, go to!

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