Armbars are a complex movement that utilizes the legs and posterior chain for maximum efficiency to create a hyperextension force on the elbow joint. Each muscles has a different task.
- Hamstrings (hip flexors): Heels are pulled in as tight as possible to control the opponent so they cannot sit up and create space to escape the submission.
- Adductors (hip adduction): thighs are squeezed together to isolate the humerus to focus the energy on the elbow joint.
- Glutes (hip extension): The finishing force. The hips are raised/extended to impart the force necessary to dislocate the ulna from the humerus.
This means the posterior chain is extremely important: hamstrings for control and glutes for finishing the submission.
Bridging is an excellent beginning exercise to develop motor control and has a clear skill transfer to grappling, however for strength development to occur one must sufficiently load the tissues to create adaptation.
Here are two exercises that I like to develop glute strength and power.
- Barbell hip thrust: This exercise can be loaded heavier than a kettlebell and spares the spine while still developing glute strength.
- Kettlebell swing: This exercise is great for developing ballistic explosive movements.
The goal of an armbar is not to get your opponent to tap, the goal of an armbar is to disable your opponent by making his arm useless.
Make sure you have the motor control to not hurt your training partner but make sure you have the finishing power to disable your opponent if the need arises!
Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Brown Belt
Former MMA Fighter