Training for Warriors: Effective exercises to strengthen your hips

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[Part of the Training for Warriors series, by Martin Rooney*]

Although it was many years ago, I will never forget the two words that my body kept popping into my mind after my first few weeks training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: grips and hips. Those two words were representative of the two areas that were unusually stiff and sore after those initial training sessions wearing the gi. These two body parts were “calling” out to me, and this month’s article is evidence that I decided to “listen”.

Our body is an incredible informant that is always trying to tell you something. Most of us, unfortunately, have either forgotten how or choose not to listen to what our body is saying to us (If you don’t agree or completely understand, read the box “Ear to the mat”).

When I “listened” to my sore grips and hips, I naturally concluded that there were a few possibilities causing the issue:

1. These were areas that I may not have used in some time.2. These were areas that I had not used in that particular way before.3. These were areas that are required to have adequate strength, flexibility and endurance so that I could succeed in this sport.

This statement leads me to another one of my Warrior Principles: knowledge is rarely important without action. Once you recognize what your body is telling you (whether it is to eat right, lose weight, train smarter or recover more), you need to actually carry out that request. Our society’s greatest mistake is to make the same mistake. Not listening to your body long enough is exactly where most of the world’s health problems come from in the first place.
When I “listened” deeper to my body, I started to recognize all the reasons why the abdominal muscles are critical to Jiu-Jitsu. I realized that Jiu-Jitsu is incredibly tiring. This is due to a combination of improper physical preparation and technique. Why not break down common movements and turn them into exercises in which you can be both building strength and technique?

This thinking led me to create “blended” training techniques. These are exercises that mix elements of technique with movements that have strength and conditioning capabilities. This month’s workout is going to focus on the use of the abdominals and hips to develop strength, endurance, flexibility and pieces of technique all at the same time.

Success in Jiu-Jitsu, as I understand it, has a lot to do with the hips. Control an opponent’s hips, and you can control him. Keep your hips from being controlled, and you can pass, sweep and attack. In order for the hips to swivel and turn, the abdominal muscles must be coordinated and strong. Without adequate abdominal strength and control, a Jiu-Jitsu player will lack the needed control of the hips and legs to dominate on the mat.

The following workout of 5 exercises can be used after a Jiu-Jitsu session or as a warmup of the core. Perform 2 sets of each exercise for 10 total sets 2-3 times per week.

1. Kimura Sit Up
Begin lying on the back with hands clasped across the chest and the knees bent as shown.Sit up and twist the shoulders to bring the clasped hands to one side.Rotate back and lower under control back to the original position.Perform 20 reps to each side.

2. Butt Spin

Begin sitting with the feet and hands in the air as shown.Using the arms to create a twisting motion to develop momentum, “turn” on the butt to complete an entire circle.Once a full revolution is completed, repeat the motion in the opposite direction.Perform a revolution to each side without touching the feet to the floor.

3. Matador

Begin sitting on the ground with one leg held out forward and the other folded in the front as shown.Bring the front leg out to the side and back without touching the ground.Hold the leg elevated and then return to the original position.Perform 8 reps on each side.

4. Partner Sit Throughs

Begin with your hands in between your lying partner’s feet in the straddle position as shown.While keeping right hand down, pull the right leg around the partner’s left leg and sit the right leg alongside the partner’s torso.Return back to the original position and repeat on the opposite side.Perform 8 reps on each side.

5. Partner Ab Roll Ups

Begin lying on your back with legs straight and holding the ankles of your partner.Pull your feet up and past your partner on one side as shown.Return to the original position and then roll up to the other side and return.Finally roll up and wrap your legs around the partner’s and then return to complete the exercise.Perform 5 reps of all three directions for 15 total reps.


Ear to the mat
How listening to your body can direct your mind
Here are some common examples of how people normally ignore the body calling:

1. Many people eat food that makes them feel sluggish or tired, yet they continue to make the same food choices. 2. Many people’s bodies pack on fat, develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and a whole host of other diet related disorders, yet they continue to eat incorrectly.
3. People develop overuse injuries and continue to batter the same areas instead of giving that area the rest for which the body is screaming.
4. People awaken tired from too little sleep, but continue to deprive the body of that all important recovery mechanism on following nights. 5. People’s bodies “know” that daily exercise is healthy, but they continue to lead sedentary lifestyles. 6. People make themselves sick from toxic behaviors like drinking and smoking, yet continue to indulge in these damaging acts.

A warrior’s most important commodity is his health. A healthy lifestyle is even more important than a warrior’s time, family or friends. This is true because without his health, a warrior will have less of the three. I would love for you, the reader, to start listening a little better to your body and give it what it needs (according to the examples, a better diet, training schedule and sleep pattern would be a great start!).

I want you to apply the concept of “listening” to your Jiu-Jitsu. To better understand the physiology behind your training will lead you to faster improvement and greater results on the mat.

Are you listening when certain areas are telling you that they are sore, tired or inadequate? If so, then you understand how Jiu-Jitsu can teach you more about yourself than solely if you are “tough”, and you will probably be making the correct adjustments for continued improvement. If not, let this month’s article be a small example on how to eventually address the bigger picture. Now, get to work!


* Martin Rooney is the founder of the Training for Warriors system and has trained champion fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC and Olympics. His TFW fitness program is used in over 175 facilities in 25 countries around the world. Information about TFW certifications at

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