The hamstring complex is an important area to warm up before jiu-jitsu. Tight hamstrings limit your guard flexibility, add to tension in your lower back, and set you up for possible injury.
Before you step on the mat, make sure you spend some time loosening the back of your legs dynamically. You can keep the static stretches for after class, but to best prep your body to perform, work through full ranges of motion to bring blood, heat, and mobility into your muscles and joints.
We’ll show three exercises to do progressively to warm up your hamstrings and get you ready to roll.
Lying Hamstring Extensions
Start with Lying Hamstring Extensions to begin loosening the back of your legs. Your sciatic nerve, or the main nerve in your legs that connects back to your spinal cord travels through your hamstrings.
If your hamstrings are tight, many times they can put pressure on this nerve and lead to uncomfortable lower back pain. Lying Hamstring Extensions will create space for the nerve to glide and gently stretch your hamstrings in the process.
Lie on your back with one leg flat on the ground and the opposite knee up and bent at 90 degrees. Hold the back of your hamstring and slowly straighten your leg up until it’s fully extended.
Actively pull your toes back toward your shin for more of a stretch and continue to bend and straighten your leg for 10 to 15 repetitions. Repeat on the other leg.
Runner’s Lunge to Straighten
The next exercise in the hamstring sequence builds on the previous move and loosens the muscles further.
Start by assuming a Runner’s Lunge position as if you were about to take off from the starting line. Place one hand on the outside of your foot and the other on the inside, and lift your back knee off of the ground.
Sink deep into the lunge then slowly straighten your front leg. Continue to bend and straighten your front leg from bent at 90 degrees to straight for 10 to 15 repetitions.
When starting, you do not have to straighten your front leg fully, but allow it to loosen up over the course of the set.
If your hamstrings are very tight, move your hands back on the ground closer toward your body. If you need more of a stretch, move your hands further from your body and be sure to repeat on both legs.
Spider Guard Stretch
The final hamstring stretch will prepare you for playing guard and loosen your hips and hamstrings in the process.
Lie on your back and pull both knees in, grabbing around the outsides of your feet. Pull one leg down and in toward your armpit, feeling a deep stretch in your hip. At the same time, extend the opposite leg out, stretching your hamstring and inner thigh.
Next, pull the extended leg in toward your armpit and extend the opposite leg out. You will rock side-to-side continuing to pull and extend your legs to loosen your hamstrings, hips, and lower back. Continue for 10 to 20 reps.
Before class or your next training session start with Lying Hamstring Extensions to prepare for activity and the hamstring exercises to follow. Perform 10 to 15 extensions per leg.
Once your legs have loosened a bit, move on to the Runner’s Lunge to Straighten and perform 10 reps per leg.
Finish your warm-up with the Spider Guard Stretch, performing 20 total reps.
Be careful not to move too quickly through these exercises or stretch beyond your ability. It’s easy to pull a muscle or injure yourself if these exercises are performed too aggressively.