[First published in 2013. Part of the Training for Warriors series, by Martin Rooney*]
The guard position is centered on the hips. If the hips are free, the guard can be maintained and the opponent is vulnerable. When the hips are overcome or controlled, the guard and a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner’s ability to prevent a pass has become vulnerable.
Developing powerful hip abductors, adductors and hip flexors, therefore, are critical for keeping an opponent from passing (as well as correct technique, of course). Don’t get me wrong, developing strong hips does not mean you will automatically have a great guard, but know that stronger hips in addition to a great technical guard will make your game better. This month’s article will focus on these often overlooked and undertrained muscles. Although I am not much for training “gadgets,” the three exercises this month involve a rubber band training tool called a Superband. These can be found online at many performance enhancement companies and are inexpensive. I like elastic resistance for a few of the exercises listed because they are easy to transport, can be used anywhere as either a warm up, workout or stretching tool and due to the successful personal experience I have had with them over the last number of years.
Since the guard position requires patience and endurance in addition to strength, the exercises this month will also be performed with a similar style. As I tell all of my athletes, you should never let your physical conditioning be the reason you get passed or defeated. These exercises will require muscular endurance and mental fortitude.
Superbands come in a number of different levels of resistance. I would suggest starting with one of the two lowest levels of resistance. During the performance of the exercises below, know the resistance is able to be adjusted. Depending on the stretch you place on the band, you can increase or decrease the pull. Make sure you are using the strongest tension possible that you can still complete the exercises.
1. Hip abductor work: side band walks
Step both feet inside and onto the Superband. Pull the band up with the hands and turn the band so that it forms a “X.” Get into a half squat position with your shoulder blades pulled back and the hands pulled high to create more tension. From here, step out to the side with the left foot. Then bring the right foot back to meet the left. The right foot should be brought back slowly, under control and the foot should not drag on the floor. During this exercise you should stay on the balls of the feet and maintain the original half squat position. Perform the exercise for 10 meters to the left and 10 meters to the right and repeat for 3 sets.
2. Hip adductor work: band stretch and squeeze
Begin sitting on floor with two Superbands. Place one over each shoulder and pull the band around your back across to the opposite hip. Bring up each foot and place the band around the instep. Lie back on the floor and extend the legs. Then slowly open the legs to a full stretched position. Hold for two seconds and then close the legs and hold for two seconds. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Hip flexor work: band guard pulls
This is another very demanding exercise, but also very specific to the guard position. Begin lying on your back and hook a Superband around the top of the ankles. From here, pull your feet up toward your hips as if your were assuming the open guard position. Hold for two to three seconds and then slowly let the knees return to the straight extended position. Repeat this for 3 sets of 10 reps.
* Martin Rooney is the author of Training for Warriors, Ultimate Warrior Workouts and Warrior Cardio. He has trained champion fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC and Olympics. Information about upcoming TFW certifications at trainingforwarriors.com