This fundamental jiu-jitsu exercise will help you engage your body in a fashion that will allow you to capitalize on your weight distribution and protect your own body. This is everything in BJJ! By training how to properly recruit parts of your body (starting with your core), you will be able to enact that pressure to ultimately break down the structure of your opponent and preserving your own.
It’s the second option from the side plank covered in a series of articles on BJJ core training.
Application and Effectiveness of BJJ Core Training
Whereas the last variation I covered here utilized a side plank that targeted the abductors (spreading of legs away from midline engaging the outer hip) this one targets the adductors, the contraction and squeezing of the inner thigh pulling the legs towards the midline.
Hip extension and the activation of the glutes is still at play here. We’re simply trading abduction for adduction. It’s good to train both because these subtle muscles are imperative for stabilization of the legs in conjunction with the core.
Also, as a BJJ core exercise, it translates well in terms of motor programming for positions such as the armbar and north-south kimura. In these positions specifically, you must squeeze your legs together in order to keep your opponent wedged beneath and and in between your body. It’s also a good way to learn to disperse tension throughout your body by actively engaging your core properly.
We can even look at how most submissions and the nature of the sport involve squeezing our opponent in some way. By doing BJJ core exercises, we’re learning how to create a core container that allows us then to create real strength in our body and makes the adductor squeeze even stronger for leg-based control positions.
I personally use this BJJ core exercise as a “primer” my day as well as for all of my different training sessions. I feel I can move my limbs in space confidently because it solidifies my core container. Dr. Stuart McGill — the preeminent spine biomechanist in the world who has worked with numerous combat athletes including Georges St. Pierre — and Dr. Craig Liebenson — a chiropractor in the Los Angeles area who works with a lot of low back disorders — both advocate this exercise as a staple in rehab settings and for activation work before training.
Liebenson especially uses it as a diagnostic test to assess asymmetrical firing patterns and muscular endurance of the QL in the lower back.
This protocol is as follows:
- Complete side plank on both sides for maximum time or until form breaks
- Compare times
- If there is a significant difference (say, 30 seconds) between the two holds, then you know which side to focus on
BJJ Core Cues
- Pinch knees to fire adductors
- Squeeze glutes and extend hips forward
- Elbow tight
- Engage lat, side oblique, and QL by pushing bottom elbow into ground
- Keep a strong fist and squeeze as hard as you can to irradiate tension throughout the body
- Slightly pinch elbow towards side while seeking to keep shoulder and upper back muscles lengthened
Perform sets of 10 seconds or less for maximal contraction. Endurance based core work doesn’t recruit maximal muscle contraction. Most movements in sport will need for you to exhibit maximal contractions on command frequently. Gain your endurance by doing multiple sets with enough rest in between sets to allow for an intense contraction. 30 seconds to a minute is a good starting point for your rest periods.