Grappling Abs Workout To Improve Your Guard

March 23, 2016
9 minutes read
Grappling Abs Workout To Improve Your Guard

Whether you’re in a self-defense encounter or training on the mats, the guard position is an integral part of grappling. This is especially the case if you find yourself being attack by a bigger, stronger opponent.

There are a multitude of different guard positions that have evolved over the years. However, the conventional closed guard has been tested and proven to be effective for both sport and self-defense oriented grappling.

Closed Guard Is King

There’s nothing wrong with having some advanced techniques in your grappling arsenal. The Berimbolo sweep, Reverse De-la Riva guard, and Inverted Guard are viable guard options for someone training in a gi or no-gi situation.

But what if you find yourself in close quarters combat on your back?

When gravity isn’t on your side, it’s imperative to secure the closed guard position. Once you wrap your legs around your opponent’s waist, you should focus on breaking their posture. This will allow you to control their upper body with your hips, which will mitigate their ability to throw forceful punches.

This position will also leave your attacker vulnerable to many common attacks from the closed guard. The triangle, armbar, ompomplata, and kimura are all high percentage submissions that have been tested and proven to be effective at the highest levels.

Your grappling technique will always take precedence over your physical attributes. But if you’re facing an attacker that has a substantial size advantage, there’s nothing wrong with supplementing your technique with some strength and conditioning.

Grappling Abs Workout

Many of the common closed guard attacks are predicated on the elevation of your hips. Today, we are going to do a home-based workout that will target your hip flexors and abdominals. These exercises will be tailored to resemble the triangle, which is one of the most lethal submissions from the bottom.

The Triangle


I have held the rank of a Jiu-Jitsu purple belt for nearly 2 ½ years. During this time, I have come to realize the triangle as a position, rather than a submission. In my opinion, it is one of the best positions that you can employ in a self-defense encounter.

When you lock someone in the triangle position, you have a variety of different options to choose from. You can choke your opponent unconscious, but also submit them with a series of armbars, kimuras, and keylocks. You can also use the triangle to sweep, which will put you in a dominant position from the top. If for any reason you can’t sweep or submit, you can survive the fight at close range by neutralizing your opponent.

In today’s workout, we are going to simulate the triangle and closed guard positions. This will help strengthen your hip flexors and make your guard attacks more explosive. You’ll be performing 3 bodyweight ab exercises in a circuit workout. Cycle through each circuit two times, and try to keep your rest between 10-20 seconds per set. Let’s get started.

Grappling Abs Workout Breakdown

Exercise #1 – Closed Guard Crunches
This exercise is going to improve your posture from the closed guard position. When performed correctly, it will also add some toned definition to your upper four abdominals. The key is to keep your body locked into this position at all times. Raise your legs to roughly a 90-degree angle, and then cross your ankles as tightly as possible. This will help you keep your guard closed against bigger, stronger attackers.

Start with your shoulder blades on the floor, and then place both of your hands on your forehead. When you put your hands behind your head, it can inevitably cause you to crank on your neck towards the end of each set. When you keep your hands on your forehead, it puts the maximum amount of tension on the upper abs. Elevate your shoulder off the ground, as if you were trying to touch your chin to your sternum. Once you reach this point, pause and contract your core. Slowly come back down to the starting position, and then continue repeating this motion. Continue to repeat this motion for 30 straight seconds.

Exercise #2 – Triangle Oblique Crunches
One of the most common counters to the triangle is the “stack” position. If you’re attempting to triangle a larger opponent, they will most likely distribute their weight forward. If you can’t keep your triangle locked up tight, you risk losing the position and being stuck in bottom side control. This bodyweight exercise will help you finish the triangle choke on much larger opponents. It will also independently target each side of your obliques, which will help trim some inches off your love handles.

Begin by simulating a triangle position with your shoulder blades flat on the floor. Place your hand behind your head, and then crunch up until your elbow makes contact with your opposite side knee. The elevation of your shoulders will isolate your upper abdominals, while the twisting motion will activate your obliques. When you reach this point, slowly descend your shoulders back down to the floor. Continue to repeat this motion for 30 seconds, and then immediately switch sides.

Exercise #3 – Leg Lifts
In my experience as a trainer, this is the best exercise that you can do to get toned six pack abs. Leg Lifts will activate the lower region of your abdominals, which is an area that a lot of people tend to struggle with. It will also strengthen your hip flexors, which will help improve your attacks from the closed guard. Proper form is essentially when performing any type of Leg Lift variation. Doing 5 correctly will generate better results than doing 50 with impartial form.

Begin by gripping the bottom of your couch and extend both of your legs. In one motion, elevate your legs up to the point of your waistline. This movement is going to activate your hip flexors. Continue to elevate your legs up past your head, and then slowly bring your legs back down to the ground. Remember, you only target the lower abdominals when you break the point of your waist. Always capitalize on the full range of motion, and maintain control of your lower body at all times. Repeat this movement for 30 seconds.


As grappling continues to evolve, there will be more dynamic guards that surface. However, the basics have been proven to work at the highest levels. If you want to be able to defend yourself from a larger attacker, then you need to understand the fundamentals of the closed guard position.

This workout will tone your lower abs build the explosiveness of your hip flexors. Cycle through this circuit two or three times, and be sure to leave a comment below.

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Kiley Lynch
Kiley Lynch

Once an unhappy and overweight accountant, Kiley decided to get the body he wanted. By the end of his journey he had quit his job and realized his passion for physical fitness and helping others achieve what he once thought was not possible. Kiley is the author of the book The Transformation Truth. He has written for dozens of offline and online publications, including Men's Fitness and holds a degree in Kinesiology and certificates in personal training. He also hold a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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