How Can I Strengthen My Feet For BJJ?

Dr. John working with Rene on how to strengthen his feet for BJJ

As a barefoot athlete you need to pay more attention to your feet than most.  Every part of your body is exposed to be manipulated and used against you.  Protect your feet by strengthening them.  We partnered up with Rene Sousa to show us and explain why it’s important to strengthen your feet as a BJJ athlete.  You’ll end up using this new found strength to help you get out of leg locks,  and boost your foot sweeps.  Let us explain to you what we mean and introduce you to 3 exercises to bulletproof your feet. 

Leg Locks

Your opponent may use your feet to their advantage.  A few common leg locks that can cause stress in your foot are toe holds, the inside/outside heel hook, and the straight ankle lock.  Rene took Dr. John through these examples demonstrating exactly what they could do.  Each of these leg locks involves manipulating the foot and knee/leg causing pressure and stress on the top of the foot, the ankle, and the arch.  If you’re not careful and don’t either escape or submit in time your feet will likely suffer. 

There is a “new” escape tactic out of leg locks for BJJ athletes.  Rene explained to us that most people counter by flexing their feet, however, they’ve started to experiment with extension and pointing the toes.  If you move quickly and are skilled enough, this extension can allow you to slip out of your opponent’s grasp

Rene demonstrating different BJJ leg locks on John

Foot Sweeps

On the counter attack (literally), foot sweeps can be a great way to take down your opponent.  These generally involve a lot of timing and creating a hook shape with your foot to get your opponent off balance.  Like the name sounds, potentially even sweeping them off their feet.  The exercises we are about to share are directly correlated with the shape you make with your foot to create that hook! 

BJJ Foot Strengthening Exercises

Loosening the Connective Tissue

Rene loosening up the connective tissue to improve his arches for BJJWe are using with the Hypersphere Mini, but a lacrosse ball can also work.  You want to methodically move through the entire bottom of your foot for 30 seconds getting all the way from your heel to the ball of your foot.  This includes the outside and inside of your foot.  Don’t just go in 1 straight line!  Once that 30 seconds are up, you can go back to any tender spots and hold.  The idea in this is to relax your foot while applying pressure to break up the connective tissue.  That will decrease rigidness and allow for more flexibility.

Stabilizing Your Arch

Rene stabilizing his arch by practicing doming

From being barefoot, it should come as no surprise that your arches may be lower than people who are in shoes all the time.  That doesn’t mean we can’t get them back.  Arch doming is one of our favorite exercises to do just that.  Begin by stepping one foot back.  This is SO IMPORTANT because it puts the other foot in the proper position.  With your more forward foot, you want to try to lift the arch.  This is no easy task and an incredibly subtle movement!  Definitely watch the video below for more detailed instructions.  Do this 10-15 times per foot.

Strengthening Your Arch (Not Tib Raises)

the posterior tibialis exercise is the same sweeping motion as a foot sweep in BJJ

Lastly it’s time to strengthen.  For this exercise, you need a band.  Wrap it either under the ball of your foot (not too high so it’s pulling on your toes, and not too low so it’s in the middle of your arch) or around your big toe.  For this movement you want to point your toes down and then sweep them inward. To release, go back the way you came in a controlled manner.  It’s important when adding tension with your band that it’s in opposition.  If you’re doing this with your right foot, think about holding your band a little out to the right (maybe 30 degrees off of your hip) to get the most out of it!  Do this 10-15 times per foot.

Watch our How To Video Here From our Don’t Submit Yourself Series!

If you’ve been an avid follower of Mobility-Doc then you know there is a method to the madness.  A Mobility-Doc one to be exact!  We didn’t choose these exercises haphazardly, but instead made sure they all work together to get you the most benefit.  Make sure you do these in order for 3 rounds.  It should take you no longer than 10-15 minutes.  You can use these for pre-hab, rehab, and general strengthening!  If you’re about to train focusing on leg locks or foot sweeps, consider incorporating this primer into your warmup! 

Don't Submit Yourself Before You Hit The Mat

Rene Sousa doing a buggy choke. with both legs in hip flexion

BJJ isn’t all about strength.  It’s about agility, quick decision making, and mobility.  That last one is often ignored but can be the most important.  Having healthy mobile joints reduces your chance of injury and submission!  We worked with Rene to make sure we understood everything a BJJ athlete would need. Bulletproof all the areas of the body that count by doing MDRx BJJ Mobility.  We will help you feel better, move easier, and better yet, not have to submit as quickly.  Incorportate these 15 minute sessions into your warm-up and see your new mobility translate on the mat.

Follow Us

Recent Posts

Let's keep in touch!

Receive updates when our blog, featuring the latest health and wellness information, is released along with other special events – No, we won’t send you things every day, but once or twice a week!

Dr. Chloe and John