Improve Your Leglocks With These Mobility and Strength Drills

Leg Locks are the rage right now in the BJJ scene and for good reason…they work!

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone should just start grabbing ankles and falling back for wild, uncontrolled Leg Lock attacks. This approach to the Leg Lock game will not work in the long run and will only get you in trouble when you run into someone who understands the game and can capitalize on your mistakes.

As an official Leg Lock nerd I’ve geeked out on the movement principles behind a Leg Lock game and how I can improve them through mobility and strength training. This was both a selfish goal since I could use them to improve my own effectiveness, but it was also a way to help new people avoid the common mistakes.

One thing I’ve learned through coaching BJJ is that knowing what to do and physically being able to do it are two different things. And a lot of people lack the basic mobility and strength to apply what they are learning when getting started with Leg Locks.

Even the great John Danaher has a saying that reinforces this concept –

“Train movements before moves.”

He uses this saying to help people understand that if you can’t perform the basic movements needed for a specific move then it will be tough to do it correctly. You have to fix/ improve the basic movements needed first and then the technique itself will become easier to execute.

Which leads us to the mobility and strength drills I wanted to share with you today. They cover the 3 common mistakes I see people make and offer a way to improve the movement causing the problem.

These mistakes include…

Not being able to “close the triangle” and control the hips, usually related to a lack of hip mobility.
Not being able to trap and crush the foot in the armpit, usually from a lack of T-Spine and Shoulder Blade mobility .
Not being able to extend the hips without also extending the knees and “deadlifting” away, usually from a lack of specific Bridging work..

Based on this, here is a simple routine you can do at home to help fix and improve these key elements to effective Leg Locks:

Mobility & Strength Drills for Better Leg Locks

1 – Shin Box Switch X 10-20 reps each direction
2 – Sphinx Shoulder Pumps X 10-20 reps
3 – Sphinx Head Nods & Head Turns X 10-20 reps each
4 – “Leg Lock” Glute Bridge X 5-10 reps with 3 second hold at the top

Here is a video from a workshop I did going over these drills:

I recommend doing these drills 4-7 times a week for the next month and see how you’re feeling on the mats. Couple this with some focused drilling for your Leg Locks and you’ll be catching and finishing more people with much less effort.

Until next time…

James Wilson
BJJ Strength Training Systems

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Hip Band Circuit for Better BJJ Hip Function

A few weeks ago I shared a post on Glute Training for Total BJJ Hip Development. In it I shared some recent lessons I had learned about the importance of training all of the functions of the glutes.

The glutes have three main functions, which include 1) Hip Hinging, 2) Hip Abduction and 3) Hip Rotation. And while you can go down a rabbit hole of exercises with each one of these, one of the easiest ways to start training the glutes is to add in a Hip Band circuit at the end of your workout.

I’m using the term Hip Band as a generic term to refer to products like the Glute Loop and Slingshot Hip Circle – large bands that are placed above the knees and used for a variety of glute enhancing movements.

My favorite way to do this is to pick six movements and do each of them for 30 seconds. This comes out to three minutes of work (6 movements X 30 seconds each) and really targets areas of the hips you didn’t know you had.

In this video I share the circuit I use the most often, although there are a lot of different movements you can use with this training tool. The important thing is to get started with some specific glute training like what I show below:

On the mats this circuit has helped by making it harder for my opponents to pin my knees together, plus it has helped to relieve some low back pain I would get after one too many hard rounds. Having strong, functional glutes is important for both performance and staying healthy, making it a must for your BJJ specific program.

If you want to learn more about glute training I suggest checking out Bret Contreras, a.k.a. The Glute Guy. He’s done a lot of great work in helping to show the importance of glute specific training and while most of his work is with people who just want to look good, he’s worked with Team Attos in San Diego and gotten good feedback from them as well.

Glute training is going to be a big part of the future of BJJ specific strength training but you can stay ahead of the curve and start using it today. If you don’t have one already then invest in a Hip Band and start using circuits like this one a few time a week and see how much it improves your movement and strength on the mats.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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Improve Your Deadlifts and Pull Ups With This New Training Tool – Angles90 Review

As a jiu jitsu athlete and strength coach I’m always looking for ways to improve my results. Which is why an ad on Instagram for a training tool with a funny name caught my eye a few months ago.

While I almost never pay too much attention to things advertised on the ol’ social media channels, this one looked interesting enough for me to actually order. After a few days it arrived and I got my first chance to use what would become a favorite new training tool.

The Angles90 is a simple training tool that really helps improve the feel and functional carryover of some key exercises, most notably the Pull-Up/ Chin-Up and the Deadlift.

By allowing for a more natural rotation of the elbows and shoulders during these exercises it lets you get more out of each rep and train a very important BJJ specific movement skill. It also allows for a variety of grip options, giving you some different ways to train it as well.

Another benefit to using the Angles90 is that they take a lot of stress off the wrists, elbows and shoulders compared to using a fixed bar position. I’ve personally found them to be much easier on my elbows and wrists during Pull-Ups/ Chin-Ups and I can feel my shoulders staying in a better position during Deadlifts.

I shot this video to show you the Angles90 and why I now use them for all of my Deadlifts and Pull-Ups/ Chin-Ups.

I’ve also found it useful for KB Swings and for Steel Mace Counter Rows. If you use these training tools then check out this video for how to use them for these exercises.

They cost less than $50 and I can’t recommend them enough to help you get better BJJ specific results from your Deadlifts and Pull-Ups/ Chin-Ups. You can find out more and order a pair for yourself at their website www.angles90.com.

You can also use the coupon code A90WILSON10 to save 10% on your order. Great training tools that actually deliver results and don’t cost a small fortune are pretty rare, which is why I’m glad to be able to share this one with you.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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Stick Drills for Better Shoulder Mobility

Your shoulders are one of the most amazing structures in your body. They allow us to do a wide variety of things through their ability to move through a huge range of motion. Nothing else in your body even comes close to them in this regards and thanks to them we can do everything from throw a ball to cinch in an armlock.

The trade off, though, is that they are much more prone to injury than most joints. They can easily get put into a position where they are weak and vulnerable, making it important to keep your shoulders strong and healthy.

A big part of this is your shoulder mobility. Unlike flexibility, which is your ability to relax into a range of motion, mobility is defined as your ability to control and exert force through a range of motion.

This means that if you can stretch your shoulders into a position that you can’t actively control then you have a gap between your flexibility and mobility, and it is this gap where the potential for injury is greatest.

So while you certainly need to do some shoulder stretching, especially if you are really tight, you also have to incorporate mobility drills into your routine as well.

While there are a lot of ways to do this one of my favorite methods lately is to use Stick Drills. By holding a stick in both hands you are able to connect both sides of the body, maintain better tension throughout the range of motion and help improve your mobility faster (this is based on my experience and observations so please don’t ask for the studies).

In this video I go over some of my favorite Stick Drills to improve your shoulder mobility. They are a great way to warm up before training or anytime your shoulders start to feel tight.

Using mobility training like this can help stack the odds in your favor by improving the range of motion you can control and decreasing your risk of injury. We need all the help we can get on the mats and hopefully these Stick Drills will help you like they’ve helped me.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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Importance of Being An Optimist In BJJ

Want to know the #1 thing that can make a difference in your BJJ journey?

While the physical stuff is important, the #1 thing is actually your mindset. Until you get things straight between the ears the rest of the body doesn’t really matter.

Of course, this isn’t news to a lot of you. Most of us have heard this in some form or another during our BJJ journey, ranging from warnings about the ego to keeping the long term in mind when faced with setbacks.

But while we get bits and pieces of it, what exactly does this mindset look like? Can you define it in a way that makes it easy for anyone to start using it?

Luckily the answer is “yes”. Thanks to the science behind elite athletes and Navy SEALS we can define what this mindset is…and it may surprise you.

It all comes down to a simple question – are you a Pessimist or an Optimist?

That’s right, how you interpret things when the world gives you lemons is the #1 predictor of how likely you are to stick with something hard like BJJ.

However, far from the touchy-feely hippie stuff that usually goes with these terms, the way we’re talking about them has a concrete definition that can apply.

A Pessimist says:
This happens all the time
Things will never change
It is all my fault

An Optimist says:
This won’t last forever
There is a specific reason for what happened
It wasn’t my fault, I just made a mistake and can learn from it

In this context the terms make perfect sense – if you feel like things always suck, will never get better and you are a terrible person because of it then you’re motivation level isn’t going to be super high. I mean, who would want to stick with something hard if there isn’t any hope?

But if you feel like things will get better and you can learn from the experience to help you improve in the long run then you have some hope, which makes it much easier to stick with something.

An Optimist’s mindset is also closely related to the “Growth Mindset” needed to learn. If you see things as a puzzle to be solved rather than a situation to be endured then you will automatically start seeking ways to learn instead of excuses to make yourself feel better.

This also applies to starting a training program (had to tie it into the strength training stuff somehow, right?). Approaching a training program as an opportunity to learn more about how to use your body to its maximum potential is much more interesting than slogging through another workout because “you need to”.

On a side note, I got the idea for this article while reading the book Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. It’s a great book with lots of insights you can apply to BJJ and life.

Make sure you’re keeping the right mindset and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey more, which will make you more likely to stick with it. While it’s a tough journey, a little optimism can go a long way.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson
BJJ Strength Training

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