Posture up! If you’ve ever competed then you’ve most likely heard your coach and/or teammates shout this at least once per match. Posture is one of the most important aspects of having an efficient Jiu-Jitsu game. Despite what you may think, the subject of posture in BJJ is actually more complicated than it seems. Read on to find out why.
How does BJJ affect your posture?
When we talk about posture, usually the focus is on how posture affects your Jiu-Jitsu and/or your health in general. However, it is just as important (if not more) to address posture from a different perspective. Namely, how does BJJ affect your posture?
The answer to this question can be a bit contradictory. From one side, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can help you improve your posture if you already have posture issues. On the other hand, the nature of grappling is such that good posture is often sacrificed in order to achieve a specific grappling goal.
Before I go on, let’s define what posture is. The classic definition of posture is the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting. From a BJJ perspective, we can freely add lying down to this list, because in BJJ posture matters on the ground as much as it does when we’re upright.
Now, how BJJ will affect your posture depends a lot on how your posture is to begin with. If you’re a victim of bad posture from sitting too long every day, improperly walking, or as a result of some other underlying condition, then BJJ can certainly help. In order to become efficient at Jiu-Jitsu, you’ll need to learn to control your posture and that will easily transfer to everyday life.
On the other hand, good posture, mechanically speaking, is not always in the interest of Jiu-Jitsu. In plenty of positions, like most guards, for example, we tend to emphasize a more slouched posture. Also, our partners are actively trying to break our posture by stacking and twisting us into compromised positions.
If you are not sure where you stand with your posture, then take this easy test to figure it out. You’ll need a partner and a measuring tape:
- Stand with your back to a wall, and place your heels 6 inches away from the wall.
- The back of your head, your shoulder blades and buttocks should all be touching the wall.
- Have your partner measure the distance between the back of your neck and the wall. Then, measure the same distance at the small of your back.
- If the distance is more than 2 inches at any of the two levels (or both), your posture needs improvements.
How Bad Posture Can Ruin Your BJJ Game
Jiu-Jitsu is the ultimate game of details. Whether or not you enjoy conceptual Jiu-Jitsu you’ll have to embrace and learn the concept of posture, because it is a game-changer. There are two instances of how posture in BJJ is important: your own posture and your opponent’s posture.
In simple terms, you want to keep your posture mechanically superior, while breaking the posture of your opponent at the same time. To further put things into perspective, consider this: a straight spine does not necessarily also mean strong posture. Twisting the spine also breaks posture and this is a crucial detail to know.
Posture is best explained through example. When you’re on your knees in someone’s closed guard, you want to establish posture first and foremost. That means keeping your spine upright so that all the spinal muscles align and work as one.
To achieve this, direct your gaze forward instead of looking down at your opponent. Next, tuck the pelvis very slightly forward and make sure your shoulders are square with your opponent’s.
Establish a posture like this and have your partner try to move you. Now change one or more of these parameters and have them attempt to move you again. Notice the difference? That is how important posture is.
Having a weak posture in BJJ will affect you whether you’re on top or bottom. It is the one mechanical quality that you need to be mindful of constantly. All other fundamental concepts of Jiu-Jitsu like base, balance, power, maneuverability stem from a strong posture.
When you’re on the offensive, posture is what will make you unsweepable when you try to pass the guard. Posture is also what makes you weigh a ton in side control or finish an armbar without any wiggle room for your opponent.
Defensively speaking, posture is the backbone of any escape. In fact, there’s a whole game of defensive postures from all of the “bad” positions that help you get out in a very slick manner, and all because of focusing on posture, rather than explosive movements and power.
To sum things up, posture is what makes BJJ hard or easy. The choice is yours.
Exercises to help you improve your posture:
Certain exercises will help you not only improve your posture in general but also your specific posture in terms of Jiu Jitsu.
- Down Dog
A staple of Yoga poses, the downward dog is usually taken for granted. If you pay closer attention to how this pose works you’ll notice that it really focuses on posture. It will not only help you lengthen and realign your vertebrae and spinal muscles, but also strengthen them due to the isometric hold. Try a full sun salutation to really work your posture from every possible angle.
Probably the best-named posture exercise ever. You’ll need a bench and a couple of weights for this exercise. You could use dumbbells, kettlebells, or whatever you find suitable. Lie with your chest facing the bench, and a weight in each arm. Pull the weights up, retracting your shoulder blades, and hold for 5 seconds. The goal is to repeat the exercise for 3 sets of 5.
- Wall reaches
Probably the easiest exercise of the bunch. Stand next to a wall with your back to it, just like in the wall test for posture described earlier. Extend your arms, palms facing forward as high up over your head as you, while keeping them in contact with the wall at all times. Now pull the arms down as far as you can, bending them at the elbows, keeping them glued to the wall. You can also do the exercise while lying on the floor. 3-5 sets of 10 reps should be enough.
The Belt Harness
You’ll need a partner for this one but it will do wonders for your Jiu Jitsu posture, and your posture in general. Check out the video for the correct placement of the belt. You can set the belt up yourself, or have a partner help you. For the stretch, grab both ends of the belt as high as you can and try to flex your arms outwards, pulling your shoulder blades together. Hold the position as long as you can, and repeat for 3-5 sets.
Supplemental BJJ posture training is crucial in improving both your general and grappling-specific posture. Given how much posture affects your BJJ and your health, you should really focus on improving it. Moreover, try to be mindful of posture while you’re rolling and reap the benefits!
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