BJJ AB WORKOUT
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has taken over the spotlight as the number one grappling combat in the world. BJJ has quickly built a legacy that was created by the Gracie clan, and has now evolved into becoming a mainstream televised combat art. Through the many innovations in the sport, strength and conditioning has become a pivotal component in building a solid foundation in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skill. There are many different forms of strength and conditioning, as athletes usually spread their time over weight training, BJJ conditioning workouts, core strengthening exercises, and BJJ practise itself.
What This Article Covers:
- Why Is Abdominal Strength Important
- Can BJJ Build Abdominal Strength
- Are Ab Workouts More Important than Cardio Workouts
- How to Minimise Abdominal Injuries
When beginners start a Martial Art like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, they will soon learn just how taxing the combat sport can be. BJJ is a fast paced, and high intensity grappling art that incorporates a series of complex, and dynamic movements. When athletes begin training at a BJJ academy just the site of the warm ups can be enough to scare off the potential student. Traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu warm ups are movements that are designed to mimic specific techniques within the art. Most of these movements utilise serious core strength, as BJJ athletes will soon discover how important it is to have a strong set of abdominal muscles.
WHY IS ABDOMINAL STRENGTH IMPORTANT
Training in a Martial Art like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, truly is for anybody but the seasoned athlete will always rise above ordinary civilians within the art. This is because serious athletes will always go the extra mile as they look to not only learn skills in BJJ, but to become powerful athletes. Once an athlete begins to understand the mechanics of how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu works they will soon forge a pathway forward to becoming a seriously strong competitor. A lot of Jiu Jitsu techniques require an athlete to have strong core muscles, as this means to have power within their abdominal muscles, as well as other important muscle groups like the back and the quadriceps. There are many different maneuvers that require an athlete to use their stomach muscles, as most sweeps, and submissions require an extra push from within the core. This is abundantly clear in trying to invert, which is the start of a berimbolo attack, as athletes need to activate the core muscles to be able to build enough momentum to begin the attack.
CAN BJJ BUILD ABDOMINAL STRENGTH
Athletes that have trained a long time in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu all have incredibly strong core muscles. Even though most athletes do separate abdominal workouts, the fact still remains that BJJ has a significant engagement for core strengthening. Most instructors will utilise core strengthening workouts at the beginning of their warm ups, as this includes different variations of sit ups, and crunches, as well as a plethora of other movements that require an athlete to engage their core. This is only the beginning of the core workout in BJJ, as when it gets down to the actual fight where practitioners partner up and roll with each other, the core strengthening continues. Training partners in a jiu jitsu dojo are usually extremely competitive, so when they begin to battle test the maneuvers they learnt, there will always be strenuous movement involved. This is where athlete's will continue to develop significant abdominal power, and overall core strength. This is why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most formidable combat systems in the world, as the art needs to be respected, and practitioners need to put in extensive work if they want to see results.
BJJ CORE WORKOUT ROUTINES
There are many different ways to work out an athlete's core, to complement their BJJ. Most people don't realise that doing crunches, and making your abs burn isn't necessarily gonna give you a ripped six pack. Athletes need to train in a way that gives them a functional BJJ core, and that can take a lot more work. To build an appropriate core to suit BJJ, athletes need to target specific muscle groups that power the core. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu core workout needs to meet the specific needs of grappling, as athletes should be aiming at using technically proficient movement patterns that will mimic many of the movements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is how athletes will develop a functional core strength that will help them fight more systematically when they are on the mats.
There are many different routines that work for different athletes, but the main focus for BJJ athletes is on intra abdominal pressure, which is basically core tightness. This is an extremely important aspect, as BJJ athletes need to be able to tense their core on impact, and still be able to breathe. This kind of training will help an athlete continue to move dynamically, and systemically. Athletes will also need to work on anti flexion, anti rotation, and anti extension, as all of these elements will make life significantly hard for an opponent to break an athlete's posture, or sweep them. Flexion and extension, will allow an athlete to have significant strength in pulling their opponent, and will have a significant extension, which helps an athlete create space. Working on rotation strength will allow an athlete to hip shrimp more effectively, as this is one of the most important aspects in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fight. Below is a list of some of the more functional core workout movements that are important for BJJ athletes.
Athletes will learn how to use the exercise called deadbugs, which is an extremely common and popular form of core strengthening exercise. Athletes will be laying down on the floor with both of their legs up in the air bent to a 90 degree angle, as both of the athlete's arms are up pointing towards the ceiling. At the same time the athlete will extend one of their legs pointing their toes outwards, while extending their opposite arm straight backwards towards their head. After bringing their arm and leg back to the starting position, they will then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. It is extremely important for the athlete to keep their lower back firmly on the ground, as you use your abdominal muscles to pull towards the floor.
Another good core workout exercise that seems to be rare, is called the pallof press. In this exercise an athlete uses a cable machine, and stands side on with their shoulder facing the cable. The opposite arm grabs the cable and pulls to the centre of the athlete's chest, where they will engage their close arm grabbing the cable with two hands. It is important to note that at this point the athlete must keep their shoulders and core completely still, as they begin to press their arms forward, which takes the cable in a sideways motion. The cable will naturally want to pull the athlete back, due to the heavy weight on the cable machine, but an athlete must activate their core and keep pressing forward, and pulling backwards at a steady and balanced pace. This exercise can also be done sitting down, or with a resistance band.
Gymnasts are well known for their extremely strong core muscles, as a lot of exercises they do can be replicated to work for BJJ. A popular exercise known as hanging leg raises is synonymous with working the rectus abdominis muscle. This kind of exercise will help an athlete strengthen their guard, as well as improve on their pulling power. The exercise is quite simple as all an athlete needs to do is grab hold of a chin up bar, and hold on really tightly. The athlete's arms should be slightly wider than their shoulder width, as they hang their body completely straight. As the athlete engages their core, they will simply lift their knees up towards their chest, and then extend them back down again into the hanging position. Repeating this process several times is a really good core exercise.
Developing rotational strength is extremely important in BJJ, as most opponents will try to turn an athlete away from their base. A good exercise to counter this is a rotational pull used on a cable machine. Athletes must keep their feet straight at a shoulder width apart, as they grab the cable with two hands at their chest level. Keeping their arms straight, and their legs slightly bent, their abdominal and glute muscles tightened, as they tuck in their chin, the athlete will pull the cable sideways, as they rotate their body twisting away from the machine's weight stack, and pivoting on their back foot. This type of movement can help an athlete tremendously with rotational core strength, and is an absolute must for all BJJ athletes.
ARE AB WORKOUTS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CARDIO WORKOUTS
Both of these workouts are extremely important, as athletes need to work extensively on their cardio for BJJ, and they should also be strengthening their abdominal muscles. In the grand scheme of things, cardio workouts are probably more important than ab workouts. Working out an athlete's abdominal muscles will only strengthen those muscles, they don't actually burn the fat away from their core. The abdominal area is usually covered in fat, and ab workouts will only burn a few calories at a time. Cardio workouts have proven to burn a lot more calories, as long as an athlete trains at a high intensity. Training the aerobic and anaerobic systems through the use of explosive movements will always lead to weight loss, as this will give an athlete the opportunity to strip fat away from their core, so they can begin strengthening their abdominal muscles. Even though cardio workouts may trump abdominal workouts in terms of priority, both of these aspects should be trained by an athlete that has every intention of training for bjj competition. Athletes should be looking for every advantage they can to get ahead of the pack, this includes putting extensive work into core strength workouts, weight training, cardio workouts, and multiple hours on the BJJ mats.
HOW TO MINIMISE ABDOMINAL INJURIES
The most important aspect of injury prevention is stretching. Learning how to stretch all of the muscle groups can be challenging at times, as athletes don't always have the time they need to limber up. One of the fundamental musts of BJJ stretching is to execute it before and after exercise, as the warm down can be just as important as the warm up. Athletes should never attempt a static stretch without first getting some movement, and blood flow through the body. If a student static stretches without warming up their body, then they put themselves at significant risk of injury. Dynamic stretches should be the first stretch that an athlete does, as these stretches are designed to warm up the body through movement based stretching. Another component that can help an athlete prevent injury is; when they are training they should not over exert their core, as all athletes should know their limitations. Apart from stretching, another good way to prevent injury is to be thorough with an athlete's conditioning. If an athlete can strengthen all of their muscles periodically, then their risk of injury is minimised.
WORKOUT ROUTINES: THE BALANCING ACT
Practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu often struggle with combining all of the elements within the Martial Art. Trying to find time to squeeze in cardio workouts, weightlifting and bjj training, can be extremely difficult in the modern era. These days athletes have busy lives, as most people work 9 to 5 jobs, have families, or are trying to harness some of their other passions in life. Finding time to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and execute all of the conditioning practises that an athlete needs to become exceptional at BJJ, is almost impossible. This is why there is a significant importance for athletes to discover the right balance for themselves, as this will be different for every individual. Athletes will need to ask themselves an honest question; what are the most important things in their life, and once they can answer this, then they should easily be able to structure workout schedules to benefit their lifestyle.
Finding a balance between practising techniques, battle testing techniques by rolling, doing bjj exercises, doing cardio workouts, doing core strengthening exercises, and lifting heavy weights, seems unlikely. There is no real trick to balancing all of these aspects, as all an athlete needs to do is prioritise which of these elements are the most important. For example if an athlete already has a significant amount of strength, but their cardio is lacking, then obviously cardio workouts should be more of a priority. A good idea is to spend a lot of time practising BJJ, and then split the rest of their free time between the rest of these important conditioning components. Athletes must also know when to take rest days, as recuperation and relaxation is extremely important. Whichever pathway an athlete chooses they should do it strategically, as this is how an athlete will achieve long jeverdy in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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