BJJ Warm up Tips: The Importance of Joint Rotations

Flexibility and agility are signs of health but not many BJJ / grappling schools give a lot of attention to Joint Rotations (JR) which is, in my opinion, a huge pity, especially if you, like me, live in a cold climate and sit desk-bound most of your work hours.

I believe that you should perform JRs as often as 3-5 times during the day. They are small, very discrete movements that can easily be performed on public transport, at your desk or even in bed and they add a ton of well being to your much-abused joints.

What do they do? This facilitates joint motion by lubricating the entire joint surface with synovial fluid. Such lubrication permits your joints to glide more easily when called upon to participate in your athletic activity such as grappling / BJJ.

How are they done? Before the general warm-up, stand on the edge of the mat and dedicate 5 minutes or so to joint-rotations. Start either from your toes and work your way up, or from your fingers and work your way down (or use lazy-list below). You should perform slow circular movements, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, until the joint seems to move smoothly. 5 or 6 circles in each direction should be sufficient.

Common mistakes: Most people I have seen perform these very quickly, not realising that: a, you are still working with a cold joint, b, you don’t have to do a million of them to get the right result and c, you are pivoting about a point and hence creating very high localised velocities (in other words, the two bones are rubbing against each other very quickly!). So slow down!

Most importantly, build a habit of doing these everywhere, all the time, as often as you can. Look around on the morning bus / train ride, rotate your wrist at your desk, do a few shoulder circles while you are washing your plate after dinner. Build good habits and your body will love you for it.

PS. Here is a full list of the joints you should rotate. For more extensive information on the topic of stretching, check out this fantastic in-depth article and all the fantastic work by Tom Kurz.

  • fingers and knuckles 

  • wrists 

  • elbows 

  • shoulders 

  • neck 

  • trunk/waist 

  • hips 

  • legs 

  • knees 

  • ankles 

  • toes 

  • PS. I wrote a shorter version of this post a few years back but I have since seen some fantastic research that has backed the importance of this activity not just for BJJ / Grappling but general longevity, health and even post-op rehabilitation!


    Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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    Megan said...

    I have Kurz' book...good stuff in there. Have you seen Scott Sonnon's IntuFlow? First level is free on YouTube and it's all joint rotations. I do it on breaks at work and love it.

    Liam H Wandi said...

    I don't have Scott's stuff but I will deffo check it on YT. A friend did lend me Pavel's joint mobility DVD once and it was awesome. I can't imagine Scott's stuff to be too different but I will check it today. Thanks!

    Here's a cheesy campaign line:

    "Don't Tempt Fate...Rotate!"