Who Doesn’t Want A Better Guard?
I know I certainly do. I’ll be the first to say that my flexibility isn’t all that, but hearing “30 minutes” when there’s 1,440 minutes in a day doesn’t seem unachievable at all! I don’t think I’m going too much out on a limb when I say that the fact of the matter is that all of us want to be the best we can possibly be in jiu-jitsu, right?
Too Much Good Stuff
Though it may not be in a jiu-jiteiro’s initial plans and goals of becoming more flexible, through stretching our bodies we also reap other benefits, such as increases in ROM (which is actually the real goal), improved posture, enhanced muscular relaxation, better blood circulation, lubricated joints from the production of synovial fluid, aligned joints for better coordination, improved mechanical efficiency and functional performance, decreased muscle stiffness, reduced risk of injury and low back pain, reduced or managed stress, reduced muscular tension, and relieved post-exercise aches and pains.
More Bang For Your Buck
There are a variety of stretches and they all have the same goal, which is to improve your muscles’ elasticity in order to become more flexible, as well as to increase your range of motion and muscle control. However, science is and has been backing up one particular type of stretch as being the best of the best if you had to choose only one. PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) has shown with amazing results that it promotes the greatest increase in ROM in the quickest amount of time. It has also been proven to reduce injuries since the muscle must adapt to the stretched position. Compared to dynamic, ballistic and static stretching it is the way to go.
Active PNF stretches are comprised of a shortened contraction of (an) opposing muscle(s) to passively place the target muscle in a stretched position. Once the position is reached, the target muscle should then be isometrically contracted, ie. it should remain in the same position, but flexed at a maximum of 50% of effort for the duration of the stretch. Upon the conclusion of the timed cadence, you would relax the muscle that you were just contracting and use either the opposing muscle, a tool (such as a stretching band or your belt), or a partner to place the limb into an even deeper stretch. What happens now is that the tight muscle becomes relaxed, lengthens and can be stretched even further. This is called the Contract Relax method and though you can perform it by yourself, for optimum results it should be done with a partner.
Warning: Flexing/contracting your muscle at 100% effort can cause injury and is not recommended.
Know When To Say When
Now that you’ve finally got your PNF stretching routine planned out, you should know when the most optimal time is to execute it. There’s nothing wrong with stretching before class, after a warm-up or prior to getting into technique, drilling, or sparring as long as it’s dynamic in nature. Dynamic stretching involves movement and prepares your body for the physical tasks to come. We recommend 10-20 minutes of this, easy cardio, a mixture of both, or taking some time after you finish sparring and your class is over on training days to utilize PNF stretches. Performing any PNF stretches before class will actually hinder more than help you and drastically increase your chances for injury.
1. Lie down on your back, with both legs extended and bring one up in the air. You can either keep the other leg flat on the mat or bend it slightly.
2. Have your partner kneel down on one knee with his other leg posted and place your calf against his shoulder. The two of you work together to find your current ROM by your partner gently pushing your leg forward until you feel tension.
3. Contract your muscle by pressing in the opposite direction for 8-10 seconds against your partner’s shoulder, then gently relax.
4. Your partner will then assist by gently pushing slightly further to increase the ROM until tension is once again felt. Upon reaching this tension hold the position for 30 seconds.
5. At the conclusion of the 30 seconds, repeat steps 3 and 4 for three to five times, then change legs and repeat the process on the other side.
Tip: While doing the stretch keep your pelvis down. It’s common to want to lift your pelvis up and take your hips and glutes away from the floor.
Often ignored in stretching, your glutes act as a primary hip extensor to produce speed and power, help maintain posture and act as both an adductor, as well as an external rotator.
1. Lie down on your back, with both legs extended, then begin bending one knee, drawing it toward your chest, and cupping it.
2. Your partner should place his hand on top of the knee and the other at your ankle or both hands on the knee. Once again, find the current ROM where your partner gently pushes your leg until you feel tension.
3. Follow the same protocol of steps 3-5 of the first stretch.