Here’s a thought: If you never serviced your car, how much sooner would it break down compared to if you did?
The human body isn’t much different.
It’s a complex machine that needs to be cared for and requires maintenance.
When you train hard, you’re causing micro-tears in your muscle fibres; when you rest and recover, the body’s response is to heal and rebuild the muscle so that it can handle more stress in the future.
Your engine (nervous system), gears and tyres (muscle and joints) need adequate maintenance and recovery in order for adaptation to occur.
The thing is, muscles can become physically shortened and lose its length through repetitive physical stress and overuse. This can happen from everyday activities such as sitting at a desk, laborious work, sleeping in uncomfortable positions, and exercise.
Muscles get tight, joints lose mobility, there’s less range of motion...
And then more serious problems arise…
Poor posture, muscle imbalances, injuries... cramping up in the middle of a submission.
Or worst of all…
… Getting your guard passed in 10 seconds (by a white belt) 😶
All jokes aside, due to the dynamic and physical nature of BJJ, these are all real consequences that can happen sooner or later if we don’t do the “maintenance work”.
That’s why it’s important to take a preventative approach by being proactive in building a healthy and resilient body to minimise the risk of injury, and train for longevity.
Of course, there are many ways to keep our body functioning optimally (such as eating right, getting enough rest, exercising, reducing inflammation etc.) but in this article, I’ll cover mobility for performance and injury prevention in BJJ.
Mobility vs. Stretching
One thing to keep in mind about mobility training is that it’s not the same as flexibility training.
Mobility refers to the joint’s ability to move actively through a range of motion, and how far the joint moves within the joint capsule. Whereas flexibility refers to the muscle’s ability to lengthen passively through a range of motion.
Mobility training is more effective than traditional “stretching” because it’s based on movement and motor control. Your central nervous system will limit your mobility based on how much control you have as a way to keep the joint and musculature safe.
You can spend all day stretching to achieve the splits, but if you can’t actively get into that position, consider your split only temporary. You must develop the strength and stability in order to maintain this new found range of motion.
Considering all other things equal, the Jiu Jitsu player who has stronger muscles and tendons, yet mobile and stable through their joints, will have a physical advantage over the other.
For instance, when you have to re-guard against someone attempting to pass your guard.
The more mobile your hips are, the more technical and easier your guard play will be. Lacking hip mobility means you have to spend more energy and commit to larger movements when trying to avoid getting passed, which can lead to you gassing out.
Having good mobility and stability through your joints gives you a ‘built in protection’ from injury as the joint is able to move through a larger range of motion.
“Motion is lotion.”
Mobility work can be done multiple times a day, at any time of the day, however, it’s best done before exercise. Movement will lubricate the joints, allowing you to achieve greater ranges of motion more easily, as well as strengthening the connective tissue in the area so the effects will be more lasting.
Mobility training tips:
Examples of mobility exercises to develop balance, strength and stability for each area:
In order to get the full experience out of Jiu Jitsu, it requires us to consistently show up because many of the benefits come later in the journey - when it becomes a lifestyle. However, to remain consistent, we need to pay as much attention to caring for the body as much as training it. Following a mobility routine will greatly compliment your Jiu Jitsu practice, help fortify your body against injuries, and take your Jiu Jitsu to the next level.