If you’ve done BJJ for any length of time you have undoubtedly encountered an opponent with high levels of flexibility and been frustrated as their rubber like limbs stymie your pass attempts and squirm out of submissions. You may have even ended that roll and decided that you want that kind of advantage for yourself.
While some people seem to have been born flexible it is possible to earn it. Regular stretching, in combination with a good strength training program, can lead to huge improvements to your Jiu Jitsu performance. Better flexibility leads to more powerful throws & takedowns, slicker escapes, better guard retention and more agile passing. Beyond performance gains, a regular stretching practice also helps promote your longevity in the art by protecting your joints and correcting skeletomuscular imbalances brought on by the demands of training or the effects of daily office work.
The very best way to begin developing your flexibility is to regularly participate in a program like Yoga for BJJ under the guidance of a qualified instructor.

Failing that, targeted stretches performed on a frequent basis as a part of a wholistic training plan is the way to go.

Basic Programming

Make sure to warm up before doing any kind of concentrated stretching or flexibility work.
Never stretch through an injury except under the direction of a physiotherapist or sports doctor.
Static stretches (like most of those demonstrated) should ideally be performed separate to strength training. The best times would be directly after BJJ training or as their own session.
If stretching after class pick two to three different movements and focus on them for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks change one of the movements.
Hold each stretch for 3 sets of 30 seconds with about 30 seconds rest in between.
The best stretches for improving performance focus on the hamstrings, glutes and lumbar.
The best stretches for longevity focus on the shoulder capsule, thoracic spine and hip flexors.


While there are literally hundreds of stretches and mobility exercises you could choose to work on here are some of our favourite stretches for BJJ.
Middle split (no hands)
Stand in a deep horse stance, and slowly start to walk your feet away from your body. Hips in line with feet, knees locked out. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
stretching bjj
Front split
Lunge forward with one foot, keeping both feet hip width apart. Slowly start to slide/walk your front foot further away from you, ensuring you’re up on your toes on your back foot, and weight through the heel of your front foot. Your hips and shoulders should be square and your front knee should be locked out. You should feel a stretch in the front leg through your calf, into the glutes, and in the back leg from your quads down.

flexibility bjj

Couch stretch (hip flexor)
Made popular by Kelly Starett, the couch stretch is a really effective way of stretching your quads and hips. Start on all fours, close to a wall, slide one leg back and place your knee in the intersection of the wall and floor. Now raise your upper body, so that your front leg is at a right angle to the floor – squeeze your glutes to support your lower back.

Sit on the floor with your legs in a straddle position about 90°. Reach forwards with both arms, and walk your hands away from your body. The goal is to compress your hips to get your chest, and head to the ground.

Bridge (high and low)
For high bridge, start by lying down on your back with your feet close to your bum, and your hands by your head, a little wider than your shoulders. Start to push your hands and feet into the floor, with straight arms, so that your body forms a smooth arc – there shouldn’t be too many right angles with this one!

“Kinks” in your bridge usually indicate areas holding large amounts of tension. As you can see, Simon is currently very tight through his upper back and shoulders. To help alleviate this, or if you’re not particularly mobile, you can place your feet onto a box.

For a low bridge, jam your heels underneath your bum with the weight going through your toes and ball of your foot. Push your knees forwards and down (your south), head and shoulders touch the floor, and you can choose whether to use your hands or not. Squeeze your glutes!

Depending on where you are tight, you may find one easier than the other – it’s ideal to be able to do both, especially for Jiu Jitsu.
Keep your legs together. With your knees locked out, try to compress your body at the hips. And yes, you can point your toes if you like to make it pretty.

The Jefferson Curl:
First popularised by Steve Maxwell and then more recently by Christopher Sommers, the Jefferson Curl is a fantastic tool for promoting both strength through the spine and flexibility.
Start by standing tall on a flat surface or an elevated surface and with some kind of weight in your hands. This could be a barbell or kettlebells. You’re not looking for the heaviest weight possible, so start light (eg. 5kg) and progress from there.

When performing the movement, lock out your knees so your legs are straight. Then lean forward slowly, and think about “peeling” each vertebrae one at a time, until your arms are hanging down as low as they can. Do not to let your hands rest on your feet or the floor.

If you can touch the floor, move up onto an elevated surface (for example, a box or weight plate). Ultimately you are looking to have your upper body rest against the front of your legs. To return to the top, contract through the backs of your legs, concentrating on your hamstrings, and roll up one vertebrae at a time.
This particular version of the Pigeon stretch has a slight tweak to it and it’s fantastic for opening up your hips.
Start on all fours and slide one leg back. Lean forward to place most of your weight on the front leg. Now play around with letting that front knee fall out to the side. Find your sticky spot and hang there for a moment.
Rather than hold for time perform 10 slow pulses then a hold for 10 seconds on the last rep.

For this one, start with the lead leg directly in front of you with the knee bent at 90° lining up with the foot. Then place the trail leg out to the side and also bent at 90° inline with the heel.

Lean forward to get the deep stretch through the hip and glute minimus.

For the trail leg, try to square yourself off inline with the knee but, if you cannot, you can lean back to help achieve the position.
Quadratus Lumborum Stretch:
Sit on the floor in a typical hamstring stretch position. Turn your upper body towards the bent knee, grabbing it with the opposite hand and lean your upper body towards the foot of the straight leg. The trick with this one is to hold on tightly and think about guiding your head and shoulders towards and beyond the foot.

Cossack Stretch:
The Cossack Stretch is a great position to ‘teach’ your hips how to do the splits and is similar to positions you can find yourself in while passing guard or attempting a takedown.
Straighten one leg (again point your toes if you feel like it). Tuck your other leg up towards your butt, trying to keep your heel and glutes nice and close to each other. With that same leg, try to keep your foot flat on the ground, and your knee and toes pointing in the same direction.

Deltoid capsule stretch:
Lie face down (prone) and feed your left arm underneath your chest. Let your left knee fall out to the side. To add more intensity to it, reach forwards with the non-stretching arm.

Scorpion stretch (pec to bicep):
Lie prone on the floor. Reach forward with one arm, then out about 45° (so either 10:30 or 2:30 on a clock). Keep the non-stretching arm close to the body (like a push up position), and use it to create leverage and push the stretching shoulder into the ground.

Reach the opposite leg to the stretching arm backwards over the body and just hang there.


In combination with a regular strength practice, implementing a consistent stretching routine has some serious benefits for Jiu Jitsu athletes. As your flexibility develops improvements in performance and resiliency will shortly follow.


Demonstrations and descriptions by Simon Le. Simon is a Strength & Conditioning coach at Elements Fitness, holds a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is a Contra Mestre in Capoeira. If you’re interested in training with Simon he can be reached through our contact form or at his website Simon Le Coaching.