Which Muscle Do BJJ Fighters Use the Most?

Which Muscle Do BJJ Fighters Use the Most?

BJJ is a form of martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting by polishing your skills through different techniques. BJJ training works on your biceps, triceps, and shoulders; these muscles are used almost all the time. However, the core muscles which include bundles of muscles are the most important. Let’s look at how core muscles help you with BJJ techniques

1. Why Is Muscular Strength Important?

BJJ involves intensive training, sparring, and rolling involving different muscles.

  • It improves your overall health
  • It helps you to perform tough training
  • It helps your body perform in ways that produce power without gassing you out
  • It Burns your calories and helps in weight loss
  • Improves your body posture and reduces the back pain
  • Improve the flexibility, stability, and balance

2. Which Muscles Are Most Used by the BJJ Fighters?

The most used muscles in the BJJ are core muscles, abs muscles, and hip muscles because these muscles are engaged while initiating submission attacks, bridging, shrimping, and passing the guards. The forearm muscles are more focused for the gi grapplers, while for the non-gi, the legs are more involved. Some other muscles are used for smaller movements, but these are still essential.

  • Biceps and lats are necessary for pulling movements
  • Hip adductors are essential for the legs as they help to move the inward movement of the legs.

3. Core Muscles

The core is an umbrella term involving abdominal wall muscles, the lumbar spine, back extensors, and the quadratus lumborum. Core muscles perform many functions and while training for jiu-jitsu, practitioners train these muscles to perform at their peak. The most important use of core muscles for BJJ fighters are:

  • Stiffen the body and save the internal organs
  • Controls the pelvic-lumbar movements
  • Ensures increased mobility of the trunk and spine
  • Balances the upper part of the body over the lower part

4. Core Strength for the BJJ Fighters

The core links your upper body to your lower body. It is a medium for transferring strength from the lower body to the upper part and vice versa. A strong core will maintain your stability and balance of the body. It keeps your good posture by protecting the spine. Having a string is necessary for the BJJ athletes as it protects them from severe injuries and gives the athletes relief from back pain.

In grappling sports like BJJ, athletes must move speedily from one side to another and change directions. If your core muscles are not strong, you may lose your balance, and your speed will also be affected. Having a solid core is essential in BJJ and every grappling sport and martial arts.

5. Basic Core Movements

Although there is a wide range of exercises to strengthen your core, if you are a beginner, you should search for the basic practices that involve these muscle movements.

Fast Twitch Moves involve suddenly pushing the muscle's fibers, and these moves are performed rapidly. The best examples of these moves are power cleans and burpees.

Contraction Movements involve those exercises in your BJJ workouts that allow muscle contraction, particularly related to the abdomen part of your body. For example, you can perform routine crunches for your abdominal muscles.

Linear Movements you should practice these moves for longer times as they are simple, like yoga and planks.

6. List of BJJ Core Muscles

The Core muscles is a broad term. Those muscles that are mostly used in BJJ practices are

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Transverse Abdominis
  • External Obliques
  • Internal Obliques
  • Multifidus Muscles
  • Erector spinae
  • Serratus Anterior

6.1. Rectus Abdominis

It is a muscle that moves sideways from bottom to top. These rectus muscles are trunk front muscles, also called six-pack abs. These muscles begin from your pelvis and end at your sternum. Linea Alba divides the rectus abdominis vertically, while four groups of connective tissue spare the rectus abdominis horizontally. This separation divides it into different muscle parts known as six-packs.  

The Function of Rectus Abdominis

Whenever your body bends or curves, the rectus abdominis muscles are involved. It helps stabilize your trunk when you exercise, like planks or push-ups.

6.2. Transverse Abdominis

It is an extensive muscle located down the internal obliques. This muscle is also known as a natural weight belt because this muscle moves close to your waist. The primary role is to stabilize your neck while practicing BJJ. These muscles are derived from the connective tissues of your middle torso and expand to your lower back side.

The Function of Transverse Abdominis

This muscle protects and suppresses your spine during the BJJ techniques, stabilizes your body, and prevents your internal organs from any damage. These are used in BJJ techniques like heavy squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts. In these exercises, the transverse abdominal muscles make you focus on a stable center point.

6.3. External Obliques

These are the muscles that move across your abdomen horizontally. They originate from the eighth lower rib and move down to the pelvis. These are derived at oblique angles; that is why they are termed external obliques.

The Function of External Obliques

They are involved in the movement and rotation of the trunk and sidewards flexion of the trunk. The bilateral contraction of the abdomen occurs because of the movement of external obliques.

6.4. Internal Obliques

To the name, these muscles are located inside the external obliques. These are derived from the hip bone and move across the bottom three ribs.

The Function of Internal Obliques

The external and internal obliques maintain your rotation movement and support your bending movement while rotating your trunk.

6.5. Multifidus Muscles

It includes the bundle of muscles connected from the back of the spine. These run from the center of your pelvis to your neck.

The Function of Multifidus Muscles

These muscles are involved in balancing and supporting the whole vertebrae. However, it focuses explicitly more on the lumbar region.

6.6. Erector Spinae

It includes the groups of extensive muscles derived from the sides of the spine, specifically from the cervical neck to the lumbar area. 

The Function of Erector Spinae

These muscles and back extensors help you in squatting and lifting practices. It strengthens your core by supporting and stabilizing your spine.

6.7. Serratus Anterior

Many people don't know about this, and this muscle's importance is usually neglected. It is present above your external obliques and flows down the rib cage.  

The Function of Serratus Anterior

Stabilizing your scapula depends on the serratus anterior and it helps in your upward movements.

7. What Are the Core Strengthening Exercises for BJJ Fighters?

To develop your core, you have to include some exercise in your BJJ routine that involves strengthening core muscles. Some of the core muscle strengthening exercises are:

7.1. Bird dog

It is also called Quadruped and involves using spinal extensors, rectus abdominis, and overall core to retain the spine in standard shape. At the same time, you are in a four-point position. It targets the areas of the abdomen, lower back, and gluteal and thigh muscles.

Your natural body angle prevents your body from moving to one side, and you will struggle with your stability for some time, but then you will stabilize yourself using your legs and arms. Moreover, your abdomen with your pelvis will not let you fall throughout the exercise.

The other essential muscles that play a role in stabilizing the movement are:

  • The triceps of the upper arm
  • The hamstrings of the thigh
  • Hip piriformis and obturator externus
  • The other gluteal muscles (medius and minimus)
  • The chest muscles of the pectoralis and serratus
Bird dog
Photo credit: @popsugar

How to Do the Bird Dog?

  • Find enough room and simultaneously move your one leg and arm to the same side.
  • Bend on the mat with your knees that should be hip apart.
  • Your hands should be on the ground, supporting your abdomen at a shoulder-width distance.
  • Move your one arm and one leg in a straight line, your hip will be up from the ground.
  • Remain in this posture for a few seconds and return to your normal position. Ensure your abs are working throughout this posture; this will reduce any motion in your hips that can disturb your balance.
  • Do the same practice on your other side.
  • Doing this exercise at least five to ten times would be best.  

Importance of Bird Dog

This exercise is essential for the grapplers to face the challenges that hit the balance and stability. The bird dog exercise helps you overcome continuously moving hurdles and strengthens your core. It keeps you secure on the ground, no matter which position you are in. 

7.2. Side Plank

Side plank works by using your rotation and bending side-by-side muscles that prevent you from falling on the ground while being in a side plank position. However, the other core muscles also support and protect you. The side plank exercise is ideal for maintaining and balancing your shoulder.

Side Plank
Photo credit: @freepik

How to do a Side Prank?

  • Lie on one side by extending your legs, and your feet should be on top of each other.
  • Put one hand on the mat to balance your body. Your forearm should be directed away from you.
  • Your hand should touch the surface of the mat.
  • Your hips will be off the mat, your elbows will support your body, and you should maintain your posture straight from your head to your lower ankles.
  • Depending on your body fitness, you can do a side prank; however, you should do the posture for 15 to 60 seconds.
  • After doing this on one side, change your body side.

Importance of Side Plank

This exercise focuses more on your balance while practicing grappling. Moreover, this exercise is ideal for hip movements as it involves rotating and bending. These can be used in different BJJ techniques like sweeps and takedowns, it will also increase muscle strength.

Note: If you are suffering from any severe shoulder, arm, or other injury or have core pain, avoid this exercise.

7.3. The Roll-Up

It is a Pilate exercise and is ideal for building muscle tone and strength. It targets the abdominal muscles, and you can also do the roll-ups instead of crunches. Your rectus and abdominal muscles and the rotational movements help keep your spine up and endure gravity on the way back down. Your abdominal muscles also play an essential role in stabilizing your body.

The Roll-Up
Photo credit: @pilatesanytime

How to do Pilates Roll-Up?

  • You will have to be on your mat only. Lie down with your back touching the mat, and your legs should be straight.
  • Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your hips distance apart.
  • Move your arms and take a deep breath so your chin touches the chest.
  • Lift your spin and reach your toes with your head tucked. The legs remain straight through the exercise providing energy reaching out of heels.
  • Practice this exercise almost six times.

Importance of the Roll-Up

The role focuses on how you stabilize your spine with strength and control. However, you have to perform this exercise by maintaining your breath. This makes this exercise perfect for improving your guard work. After practicing rolling up, you will have the command on your rival posture, and you can use the sweeps and submissions more effectively.

7.4. Sit Through

It is weight exercise and a perfect option for everyday routine. In this exercise, your back muscles help to maintain your body posture. The rectus and abdominal muscles, along with rotating muscles, maintain your spine posture while rotating. All these muscles work together to control the balance, maintain excellent core strength, and also help to bear some breathing challenges as this move increases the breathing rate. It targets the triceps, obliques, lower abs, transverse abs, and synergist muscles.

Sit Through
Photo credit: @steemit

How to Sit Through?

  • Start by putting both hands on the mat, knees up, and toes tucked on the mat.
  • Your knees should be almost 3 inches above the matt floor.
  • Move your right foot and sweep it while not moving your right hand and left foot
  • Sweep your foot left side of the mat, as you will rotate your body in that direction
  • You have to raise your left hand when you are sweeping your right foot
  • Return to your normal position and start practicing from the other side

Importance of the Sit-Through

It is a core exercise used in all forms of martial arts. It improves your control of grappling and strengthens your core muscles. It sharpens your skills and mind so that you actively defend against the opponent's attack. It also improves your breathing and maintains your breathing patterns.

7.5. Standing Superman

It is one of the perfect exercises for core strengthening and utilizes the iliocostalis, spinalis, and longissimus muscles responsible for your back extension. The other muscles involved in this exercise are the glutes, abdominal muscles, hamstrings, upper back, and shoulders.

Standing Superman
Photo credit: @popsugar

How to do Standing Superman?

  • Stand straight with your hips and feet distance apart
  • Curve your both knees a little, then raise your leg backward
  • Raise your left arm
  • Bend your trunk till it becomes aligned with the mat
  • You can remain in this position for 3 to 5 seconds
  • Repeat the same steps from the opposite side

Importance of the Standing Superman

It supports your spinal cord and strengthens the spine muscles. Moreover, it also maintains your body posture and prevents you from injury.

8. Conclusion

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced BJJ fighter, strength, and conditioning are required to enhance your skills. As a BJJ fighter, you should focus more on your body and muscle growth, as every single technique uses your body muscles. No matter how fluid your moves might have become if you don't focus on strengthening the core muscles, it will be ineffective. Take a proper diet and make a good routine including all those exercises mentioned above because muscles are built by effort, not by excuses.

Photo credit: @rodolfovieira89

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