Rotational movements for BJJ, and most other mat sports, are often an over looked area of development. I tend to think it is because you can’t see the obvious development of the “Beach Muscles.”
What parts of the body generates the most useful power, speed, and suddenness? Yes, it’s the hips, glutes, lower back, and abs. Given that, here are some great exercises that strike a good balance in working these important body parts.
Seated Rotations are a great exercise! You can change the resistance by using a heavier medicine ball or even dumbbell if you really wish to go heavy. I also like going low reps and heavy weights here. Select the weight that allows you to squeeze out 4 per side in a slow controlled fashion.
Start with the medicine ball in your center chest then simply rotate to the left, back to center and finally to the right. You can perform these with your feet touching the ground or lifting your feet to increase the difficulty.
High Reach Sit Ups
High Reach sit ups really target the upper abdominal area.
Start flat on your back with your medicine ball extended perpendicular to your body. Sit up reaching as high as you can with the med ball as you come to the front position. Repeat this while reaching for the upper right and upper left positions
Suggested repetitions: I like to keep these in the higher rep area with 20 reps and perform at least 4 sets (1 rep is left, center, and right)
Heavy Bag Rotation
Heavy Bag rotations are one of my favorites for lower back development, taxing the cardio system and clinch strength. You can select a heavier bag to increase the difficulty. The goal here is mid to high range of repetitions.
Start by bear hugging the bag perpendicular to the floor. Then rotate the bag side to side around the thighs/hips.
Suggested repetitions: 10 to 20 per side
“Land Mines” are a great tool to add to your gym! The exercise is very versatile and offers a great movement; the “old school” method was to shove a t-shirt around the end of an Olympic Bar and push it into the corner to emulate the movement. Today there are a number of manufacturers of Land Mines, we have been using the Sorinex Land Mine for years.
This exercise has you extend your arms straight out and rotating while dropping the bar down side to side. Be sure to release the back leg and hip on the opposite side as it takes a lot of unnecessary stress off the knee and lower back. You really must concentrate on keeping your arms extended the entire time. Drop the weight down if you find yourself bending the arms to accommodate the weight.
Suggested repetitions: 7 to 8 on each side
Chin Bar Windshield Wipers
This is a great exercise and a bit advanced; but it’s a killer, killer movement!
Start by hanging from a chin bar and bringing your toes up to the bar. While holding yourself in place, rotate your hips & legs from side to side slowly (just like a windshield wiper).
Suggested repetitions: 5 to 7 per side
Bungee Cord Rotations
Bungee cord rotations are a great “ballistic movement”. I do these movements after I am fully warmed up. Really try to make these movements truly explosive.
Start with the bungee cord to your left and explosively rotate to the center, your feet should remain stationary. “Firing” thru the movement and returning in the same fashion is the goal here. You can hesitate for a moment between each rep, but I like exploding out and exploding back on each movement.
Suggested repetitions: 8-10
Bungee Cord Hi-Low’s
Bungee Cord Hi – Low’s are another great ballistic exercise.
Begin on the ground and explode to the top and then perform a return to center. Explode back to the top and return to the left foot and finally explode back to the top and return to the right foot. Think speed to the top of the movement and really fire those hips forward at the top allowing them to “load up” as you fire back down.
Suggested repetitions: 4- 6 reps (1 rep is center, left, and right)
Adding a BOSU Ball to the Rotational Side to Sides causes you to fire your stabilizers muscles so you can keep your balance on the instable ball.
It is the same movement as the conventional side to side rotation discussed above but your base is now moving as you are sitting on the BOSU ball. I have done these fast and I have done them slow.I feel that doing them really slow adds a challenge to keeping your balance. You can also handle heavier weight doing them slower so a double bonus.
Suggested repetitions: 8 to 10 rep range per side
Anything on the Roman / Hyper Chair is good, especially when it is performed slowly and deliberately.
This is a standard hyper extension movement with a twist at the top. Really accentuating the top twist movement and holding it for a moment.
Suggested repetitions: both sides for reps of 6 to 8 (after you can comfortably perform 6 to 8 reps, add some resistance with a med ball, a dumbbell, or a plate. Remember your physics, the further away you place the weight from the lever point, the more work you have to perform. So a lighter weight further away from your waist area will be heavier than a heavier weight held to your chest).
Roman/Hyper Chair with Arm and Leg Outs
Once you have a solid base with your standard Hyper Extension movements, you can start taking the movement “off plane”. In BJJ, we rarely move perfectly on plane, so we should develop our muscle groups in a similar fashion (after we are sure we have a good base of strength).
Here I like to have same side arm and leg out and perform the hypers. It is also good to have opposite arm and leg out for mixing it up. This puts a good load on your lower back and glutes, so be sure to move slowly and control the movement.
Suggested repetitions: 6 to 8 reps
Ring Straight Leg Lifts
Another favorite piece of equipment are the gymnastic rings with good ole’ bodyweight. If you are lucky enough to have invested in a set of these, try reps of straight leg raises. This movement provides good static strength training for your shoulders and triceps and is also great for your abs.
Simply lock out your arms and while you stay in place raise your legs to a L-shape.
Suggested repetitions: 8 to 10 reps