Sprawl’n’Brawl Your Way into Better Shape

by Adam benshea on July 15, 2016



Fitness trends like Crossfit, Booty Bootcamps, and P90X have breathed new life into the old school burpee.  However, a close fitness relative of the burpee remains largely unknown to the trend seeking herd.  Hidden away among old, sweat-stained grappling mats, the “sprawl” is a movement that resembles the burpee in form and function, but has the additional benefit of direct crossover into grappling and MMA.


Like the burpee, in a sprawl you progress from standing, to the prone position, and back to standing again.  The significant difference between the two is that during the sprawl you focus on driving your hips into the mat, while keeping your chest up and your back arched.  The point of the sprawl is to mimic the movement used when protecting your legs from a potential takedown.  The harder your hips hit the mat and the more arch in your back, the less likely you will be taken down.


The sprawl is a beneficial training exercise for high school wrestlers and aspiring MMA fighters.  It is also a valuable addition to any self-defense program that trains potential combatants to stay on their feet in a barfight, pitfight, and jail yard riot (or any other rough and ready environment where your goal is to stay standing and keep swinging).  For the Average Joe and Jane, sprawl workouts offer a way to combine martial techniques with a tushy toning and delt defining workout.


Happy Feet Sprawl Workout

Similar to everyone’s favorite dancing penguin, start standing and begin to “chop” your feet (move them up and down).  Then, every two to three seconds drop to a hip slamming sprawl.  On different sprawls, fluctuate between putting heavy hip pressure into both legs, just the left leg, and then on just the right.  Changing hip pressure allows you to mimic defending double leg as well as single leg takedown attempts.


Start with 3 sets of 2-3 minutes


Medicine Ball Sprawl

Begin sitting on your knees with your feet tucked underneath your butt and with a medicine ball held at chest level.  Throw the medicine ball toward a partner or a wall and kick back into a sprawl position.  Your goal is to return to the original sitting position before the medicine ball returns from your partner or bounces back from the wall.  A favorite of UFC hall of famer, Randy Couture, this drill develops increased explosion in your takedown defense, better hip movement, and increased upper body strength.


At first, work to get through one continuous minute.



Wrestling coach Darell Gholar would use this drill to drive the fighters of the legendary Brazilian Top Team to a state of complete exhaustion.  The concept of the workout is simple, but the benefit is immeasurable.  Begin shadow boxing, but follow every combination with a sprawl.  Like with the “Happy Feet” drill, switch between putting heavy pressure on one leg at a time or both legs simultaneously to simulate defending single and double leg takedowns.  For best results, have a training partner or coach call out “sprawl!”  Like a real combat situation, this prevents you from knowing when you need to defend the takedown.


The goal of this drill is to create muscle memory for sprawling and brawling.  That is, not getting taken down and keeping the fight on the feet.  The aspiring fighter should complete this drill within the same time frame of the rounds of the upcoming fight (i.e. five minute rounds mean five minute drills).


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