Thanks to Eric Wong for contributing a copy of his hip flexibility PDF resource for our review in writing this article. To learn more about flexibility for BJJ, check out Eric’s 3 biggest tips at our full review post here.
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Banded stretches are another great technique for helping you with your flexibility. A banded stretch is the use of a band around a major muscle group which adds a stretching force to the joint capsule. The joint capsule is one of the soft tissues that can restrict your flexibility. For example you would put a band around your femur to add a stretching force to its joint capsule, this causes the femur to move forward in the joint. The joint capsule can limit your flexibility more so than your muscle can. With using a band to help with your stretching it is adding stress to the joint capsule. Although this can be helpful, you do not want to overdo it. Having too much flexibility in your joint capsule can cause an unstable joint which can lead to injury.
Core stability is also needed for flexibility. The article that is used as a reference for this article had a story about a gentlemen who had a birth mark removed his back that left his right side with a lot of scar tissue. Scar tissue is much different than regular non scarred skin. It is tougher and is not as pliable. Muscles that do not get used become tight, and can become “tonic.” This means that they kick in when they are not the right muscle to be doing that particular activity. This happened to the gentlemen’s hip flexor due to his surgery. His hip flexor was trying to stabilizing his spine, shutting off his other muscles that would normally provide that stabilization.
There are two ways to keep your lumbar spine stabilized. There is a Global stabilization and segmental stabilization. Global stabilization is when the big abdominal muscles contract to keep your spine stabilized. Segmental stabilization is when the little muscles that run in-between the segments of your spine keep lumbar stabilization. This is what is supposed to be doing that job.
The gentlemen in this story, he had global stabilization due to his hip flexor always kicking in, but because of this the segmental stabilization lost its ability to be effective. In order for him to regain doing some of things he used to, he had to “wake up” the segmental stabilization. The best exercise for this is called the 4 point opposites.
To do this exercise you need to get down on all fours. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders and fingers pointing straight ahead. There should be a 90 degree angle at your armpits and hips. Without shifting your body, lift one leg up until it is parallel with the ground. While doing this, raise the opposite arm at a 45 degree angle and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return to the 4 point stance and repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Repeat 3-5 times. This exercise helps with your core stability in both the Global stabilization and the segmental stabilization.
Stretching alone is not the remedy for flexibility problems. It is a little bit of stretching and some strength as well.
Check out this cool video on stretching for BJJ!
Train hard and stay safe!