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For every individual who wants to participate in any martial arts discipline, having a strong core is essential. However, it becomes more necessary for BJJ in Gi and No Gi practitioners. The core is responsible for mobility and producing power. A strong core can help in minimizing the risks of injuries and reduce the stress on the body while practicing and tournament fights.
Therefore, if you want to participate in BJJ, you are required to have superior fitness to give impactful performances on the mats. To help you have a strong core and improve your game, in this post, we will be discussing the need for strong core and super effective core strengthening exercises.
1. What is Core?
Before digging in-depth about the need for a stronger core and going for strengthening exercises, it is a must to know what the core is. The core is a group of muscles that include the lumbar spine, the quadratus lumborum, muscles of the abdominal wall, and back extensors. The core is responsible for stiffening to protect the body and transferring the force from the lower part of the body to the upper part of the body while performing athletic activities.
2. How Much Core Strength is Important for a BJJ Practitioner?
Core strength is of great importance for BJJ practitioners. For every BJJ movement, the core provides stability. For example, when you try an armbar or go for finishing a triangle choke, the midsection of your body helps you transfer the force from other parts to the required area to finish a submission. Strengthening the core is not just important for BJJ but also for all other kinds of sports and fitness activities.
According to the latest study, it has been realized that people have limited knowledge about the importance of a strong core, which is why average jiu-jitsu athletes go for just a few sets of core exercises. Doing a few sets of sit-ups and crunches in a week is not going to help you in getting a strong core for fearless movements.
Though some people say that to get better at jiu-jitsu, do only jiu-jitsu, this is the fallacy for practitioners who want to attain their BJJ goals faster. Also, you cannot ignore the role of strength in getting better at jiu-jitsu as to perform different BJJ techniques, you need to use force.
3. Core Movements to Add in Your BJJ Workout
Though you can find a range of workouts for strengthening the core and improving stability, as you want to improve your jiu-jitsu, you should be incorporating jiu-jitsu movements in your core strengthening workouts. You should be incorporating exercises based on the following movements.
- Isometric Movements: These are movements that you should be able to hold for a longer time. Planks and yoga exercises can help you in this regard.
- Contraction Movements: These are the movements that involve contract muscles specifically the midsection. You can do regular crunches for contracting your abdominal muscles.
- Fast Twitch Movements: These movements push your muscles fibers abruptly and are performed speedily. Burpees and power clean are the perfect examples of fast-twitch movements.
Besides caring for these movements, you should be focusing on the core strength exercises for abrupt gains.
4. Best Core Strengthening Exercises for BJJ
To develop an advantageous BJJ core strengthening workout, you should be incorporating exercises that involve all of the core muscles. If you left out some of the core muscles, your body would not be able to work as it should be. Therefore, you should be focusing on all core areas.
To help you attain your core strengthening goals, here are some of the best BJJ core strengthening exercises for you that you can do anywhere.
If you are looking for one of the most extensive and effective exercises to strengthen your core, you cannot ignore burpees as a part of your workout. As mentioned above, burpees involve fast-twitch muscles. This exercise not only strengthens your core but also increases your explosiveness and endurance.
Burpees are one of the full-body exercises that work your quads, abs, arms, chest, hamstrings, and lower back. In other words, it involves all of the core muscles and is useful for strengthening your jiu-jitsu defense.
Here is how you should be performing burpees rightly;
- Get in a squat position while keeping your knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and back straight.
- Lower down your hands to the ground in your front so they are inside your feet.
- Keeping weight on your hands, kick your feet back to get in a pushup position.
- Do one pushup while keeping your body properly straight from head to heels.
- Perform a frog kick by jumping and bringing your feet to the starting position.
- Stand and jump quickly while reaching your arms above your head.
- As soon as you land back and get into a squat position, go for another burpee.
Planks are a classic exercise. They involve isometric movement and are helpful in stabilizing muscles around your core. These muscles include obliques, abs, and lower back. That is the reason, you should be adding this exercise into your core strengthening workout if it is not added already.
Apart from core strength, you can use this exercise for improving your rolling capability which is of great importance to succeed in BJJ.
Here is how you should be performing planks to maximize your gains;
- Get on your toes and forearms while facing down to get into the plank position.
- Now neutralize the spine and neck by looking at a point on the ground a foot beyond your hands and while doing so, your head should be aligned with your back.
- If you are a beginner, hold in that position for 20 seconds. If you are working out for some time, you can hold it for 60 to 90 seconds.
4.3. Leg Lift Hip Raises
Leg lift hip raises are one of the perfect examples of contracting movements that not only strengthen your core but also improve your BJJ skills. This exercise is incredible for working on multiple core muscle groups and contracting abdominal muscle fibers. In BJJ, mastering this technique can help you break an opponent's posture from your closed guard by leg lifting.
The right way to perform this exercise is as below;
- Start from lying back on a flat bench with bent arms to grip the top of the bench. You should be gripping the bench by your ears while keeping your elbows tight.
- Contract your core and lift your legs upwards. While doing so, your hips should be raised up and off the bench.
- Now lower down your legs to the initial position slowly.
- You can do 3 sets of this exercise comprising 10 - 12 reps followed by a half-minute rest between each set.
4.4. Curl Up
Curl ups are one of the essential parts of most core strengthening workouts. This exercise is more focused on the abdominal muscles and is helpful for stabilizing the pelvis structure. And also beneficial for coping with back pain and improving endurance.
Here is how you should be performing curl-ups;
- Start from lying on your back on a mat while keeping one leg straight and the other bent. Besides doing so, also bend your elbow and place your hands with palms down under your lower back while keeping your elbows relaxed against the floor.
- Make use of your abdominal muscles for lifting shoulders, chest, and head off the floor while exhaling.
- Remain in that position for 5 seconds and get back into the starting position.
- Rest for two seconds before going for the next rep.
- Repeat this exercise 5 times and switch to the other leg.
Birddog is another important exercise to incorporate in your BJJ workouts for core strength. This exercise is focused on hips, core, and back muscles and improves stability, relieves back pain, and encourages a neutral spine. It is also helpful for BJJ practitioners in improving their posture and increasing their range of motion.
To gain the maximum benefits with this simple exercise, you should be doing it in this way;
- Start by placing your knees and hands on the ground to get in a tabletop position.
- Besides doing so, you should also be maintaining a neutral spine through engaging abdominal muscles and drawing your shoulder blades together.
- Raise your right arm and left leg at the same time while keeping your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground.
- Hold in this position for a brief period of time and then lower back your arm and leg to the initial position.
- Now change your leg and arm for completing a round of this exercise.
- You should be doing 2-3 sets of Bird Dog with 8-12 reps.
4.6. Ab Rollers
Ab rollers are a comprehensive sort of core exercise that you should add to your training routine. This exercise is helpful in working both isometric and contracting muscles. According to a study conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy, California State University-Sacramento, among the list of best-performing core exercises, ab wheel rollout was among the top ones.
To perform it, you will need an ab wheel and a mat or soft pad for your knees. You can do this exercise in the following steps;
- Get in a kneeling position with the ab wheel in front of you on the floor.
- Extend your arms and roll the wheel forward slowly until your body becomes horizontal to the ground while keeping your core muscles tightened.
- Now squeeze your core muscles tightly but without back arching and roll your body back to the starting position.
- Repeat. As this exercise is intensive you should be doing sets according to your experience. For beginners 8 to 10 reps, for intermediate 12-15 reps, and for advanced 20-30 reps in a set would be the best strategy to increase the core strength.
The following table can help you design a comprehensive BJJ core strength workout with the help of the above-explained exercises.
|Core Strength Workout Plan
|No. of Sets
|20 seconds for beginners/60-90 seconds for long time trainees per rep, 10 to 12 reps
|10 Seconds Between Reps
|Leg Lift Hip Raises