Adequate joint mobility is essential for sustainable training and high level performance. Just like other training variables like sport skill work (drilling, situational and live rounds), strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance, mobility is something that must be on the training docket. You are severely limiting your capabilities and longevity if this training variable is left by the wayside.
It’s especially important in a sport such as BJJ because of the infinite amounts of complex body movements. The more range of motion and control you have of your joints (which is the essence of mobility) then the more feasible the amounts of attack you’ll have, as well as defensive options.
Importance of the 90/90 in Hip Mobility
The 90/90 hip position and isometric contractions will be foundational in increasing the usable strength in the “end” of a range of motion (ROM).
This is especially important as a bottom grappler as your leg dexterity and control are instrumental in guard retention and attacks.
Setup of the General 90/90 Hip Position
You’ll find me positioned in the accompanying video with one leg externally rotated in front of me with the other leg internally rotated behind me. This is the basic 90/90 position mentioned in the previous post because of the 90-degree angles of the legs formed in this posture.
In this variation I cover, the back leg is propped up, which internally rotates the hip even more — something which is lacking in the sedentary, desk-bound person. The block or object propping this leg up can be of varying heights depending on how mobile this joint is for the person. What we want is for your leg to be put in a range of internal rotation that is slightly challenging to induce a stretch in this region.
Sub-Position #1: PAILs
Next, we push our heel downwards into the block while keeping the knee in place on the ground.
This contraction stimulates the external rotators of the hip in this extended ROM.
In essence, we are getting stronger in a weak, lengthened ROM.
This is the definition of mobility.
Perform 15 second contractions into the block or object interspersed with relaxing and letting the block work its magical passive stretch.
Do about two minutes’ worth of contractions and then switch legs.
Sub-Position #2: RAILs
Rather than pushing our heel downwards into the prop to work the external rotators we are now going to lift the heel upwards while keeping the knee positioned on the ground.
The hip, oblique, and glute should feel engaged.
Position both hands in front of you while clenching the fists to irradiate tension throughout the core to encourage the engagement of the musculature that contributes to this movement.
If this is too difficult place the hand opposite of the hip being worked a place it on the ground to support your torso.
You should try to keep your torso as erect as possible, in both variations.
Perform 15 second contractions followed by relaxation where you allow the block to sink you deeper into the stretch.
Do about two minutes’ worth of contractions on both legs.
Remember, we are trying to lift the heel. Even if you can’t lift it, that is OK!
Because by trying to lift it, the nervous system and musculature necessary for this movement to be performed are engaged, which will ultimately allow for you to achieve the lift off.
These intense contractions at the outer limits of our ROM tricks our nervous system into embracing this new ROM as something that can be used under tension. Our body has in place inhibitory mechanisms called Golgi Tendon Organs that relax a muscle when it has achieved an intense contraction. By using prolonged isometric contractions we are teaching the nervous system that it’s safe to not only access more ROM, but do it under load, stress, and tension. This is mobility, folks.
Some Last Tips
If you’re feeling cramping in your hip, oblique, and/or glute, then you’re performing this correctly.
Embrace the tension. Embrace being uncomfortable, for this is where growth lies. Not just in exercises such as this, but being uncomfortable forces us to push past our limits and become better versions of ourselves. We all can relate to those early days as white belts when it was simply about showing up and surviving! Same applies here!
Begin performing these daily. Build it as a small habit first and then let it get it grow into a bigger one. Your hips will thank you and your life will be more vibrant as a result of moving more freely and efficiently.
I cover more performance training tidbits with my ebook “The Foundations of Movement Autonomy, Vitality, and Performance” that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats