Functional Training for Jiu-Jitsu

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Functional training is used to increase the overall performance you have with a given set of movements. This could be everyday tasks or movements related to a specific sport like Jiu-Jitsu. It also has sub-benefits like reducing injuries and building up a better intuition of techniques.

The best exercises for improving functional performance in Jiu-Jitsu includes the following; shoulder roll, the linear roll, the side-to-side bridge, the pushing of the neck, the crawl, and the crucifix roll. These exercises focus on strengthening the spine and the core.

In addition to Jiu-Jitsu functional exercises, we’ll cover functional training for everyday movements. That way if you have a sore day or need to build strength a little more for a particular exercise we’ll have a place to go. At the end of the day, the goal is to retrain the muscles to adapt to the dynamic loading situations that happen during sporting activity in order to maintain the spine in a neutral stable position.

Spine Strengthening and Conditioning

Rounding of the spine and arching of the spine are the two structures of the spine that we want to establish. Where the top(neck) of the spine and the bottom(lower back) of the spine are the two major bending points. Working these points will allow for an increased weight threshold and a number of techniques to be improved.

Shoulder Roll (Rounding of Spine)

Start in a supine(on your back) position. Place your forehead on the mat while in a kneeling position. Next, roll your body left or right onto your shoulders and neck with your toes touching the ground. Trace out a circular motion. Once you’ve gone around once, switch and roll the opposite way. Leave the legs slightly apart. When on your knees, slide your feet to the side opposite that you’re rolling. As you gain more muscle and flexibility you will rely less on your arms.

Linear Roll (Rounding of Spine)

Start in a supine position. Rollback and forth between sitting up and folding back until your feet touch the ground above your head as if you’re spine were a rocking chair. Keep your knees together, and hinge/unhinge your knees to control the momentum of the rocking. When you become comfortable you can go in between the linear roll to the shoulder roll, doing one full circle then rolling forward then back into the shoulder roll.

Side-to-Side Bridging (Arching)

Start in a supine position, place your feet flat on the ground close to your butt. Lift your hips up with only your neck and feet touching the ground. Everything follows the eyes. Look up and over your shoulder in the direction you’re going; let your head follow your eyes. Once you’re looking over your shoulder have your hips slightly pointing in the direction of your eyes, then walk in that direction then flip until you’re on your knees. Lastly, roll back down and bridge in the opposite direction.

Pushing with the Neck

Start in a prone position(face towards the floor), on your hands and knees with your forehead touching the ground. Roll your head, with your forehead touching the ground side-to-side then forward and backward. Gradually increase the weight you apply. Once you feel fine with this movement, lift up your knees from the mat so you’re on your feet then repeat. Once you feel fine with that, lift your hands and place them on your legs, on your hamstrings then repeat.

Core Strengthening and Conditioning

Your core includes the abdominals, the paraspinal muscles(the muscles along your spine), gluteals(your butt), the diaphragm(helps you breath), the pelvis floor(provides support for your organs, plus more), and the hip girdle musculature(attaches lower limbs to pelvis). Without the core, our spine would become unstable with fairly low weight loads. Working on functional performance for your core will provide quicker learning curves and better performance.


Start in the prone position. This is much like the normal bear crawl where you walk on your hands and feet but has a few differences. You only have to take 5-10 steps forward then go 5-10 steps backward. Focus on getting your elbows to your knees or slightly above on every step. Just go and a slow to moderate speed. You can add pauses after each complete pass back and forward, with one-legged planks to make it more difficult.

Crucifix Roll Solo

Start in the supine position. Lay on your back completely flat with your arms stretched so your body is like a T. Put your feet together then lift your legs up over your head, keeping them straight. Aim your legs slightly over one shoulder, touching your feet to the ground then slide your feet out to be further apart than your shoulders. Now bring your legs back over in a similar fashion over the other shoulder. Follow the video below with the addition of stretching your arms out into a T.

Functional Training for Everyday Movements.

The main movements that we make as humans include squatting, lunging, hinges, pushing, pulling, rotating, and walking. When we find ourselves unable to perform specific functional exercises for Jiu-Jitsu or any given sport, we can start with these fundamental movements.

When doing these exercises use abdominal bracing. Abdominal bracing is when you contract the muscles around your spine. It’s common to use your diaphragm when lifting to help provide strength. As you get stronger you’ll rely more on muscle. Below is a list of example workouts that provide levels of difficulty so you can tailor the exercises to your personal needs.

Obliques & Quadratus Lumborum (Obliques and Mid-Lower Back)

BeginSide plank on knees
IntermediateSide plank on feet
AdvancedSide plank on the left side then rotate to the right side

Abdominals (Abs)

BeginPartial Curl
IntermediatePartial Curl w/ Raised Arms
AdvancedPartial Curl w/ Raised Arms w/ 5 shallow breaths at top. Ball to increase muscle activation

Back/Posterior Muscle (Entire Back)

BeginQuadruped Exercise
IntermediateQuadruped Exercise raised arm and leg
AdvancedQuadruped Exercise, draw squares with arm and leg extended

Lumbar Multifidi (Lower Back)

AbdominalsSupine Bridging
Obliques/Quadratus LumborumSupine Bridge on swiss ball / Bosu ball – or resistance band between legs

All core muscles

BeginnerProne Bridge
IntermediateProne Bridge with swiss ball or Bosu ball. – for plus make a small circular motion with balls

In conclusion, maintaining peak performance is a multifaceted problem and needs to be individualized for everyone. Like all other types of exercises, we can see the best results when paired with proper sleep and diet. Most importantly try and create a routine around stretching regularly. After six months you’ll be a completely different person and your body will thank you for it!


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Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a huge fan of both BJJ and MMA. Jiu-jitsu is my biggest passion, and I’ve been training it for more than 5 years. I have recently been promoted to a purple belt. In this blog, I will be giving you tips on how to improve and how to choose the best BJJ equipment! Learn More