In Jiu Jitsu, if rolling is ice cream, then warm ups are vegetables. We all know they are necessary, but time and again many students conveniently arrive to class just as warm ups end.
However you might feel about them, BJJ warm ups should be an integral part of your Jiu Jitsu growth, especially when you’re new to the sport.
What Does A “Regular” BJJ warm up routine look like?
Although Jiu Jitsu is still a form of exercise, BJJ warm ups will most likely look different and have different objectives than a warm up for a run or gym routine.
Often, your coach will include Jiu Jitsu focused drills into your warmups in order to build a wider context for the movements you might use in training. The main goal of a warm up is to prepare the body for a more intense workout, it should be challenging, but not devastating to the body.
A general warm up should be relatively short and work every part of the body, including the lungs. Every Jiu Jitsu player is familiar with the staple warm ups that begin class: shrimping up and down the mats, Judo rolls, sprawls, and technical stand ups are just a few that comprise nearly every Jiu Jitsu warmup.
The curious case of skipping BJJ warm ups
The issue of skipping warm ups is usually relegated to memes and Jiu Jitsu forums. However, anecdotal evidence aside, we all know those higher belts that consistently miss warm ups. The stereotype seems to stick mostly to purple belts.
Of course, everybody has their own unique schedule that determines the classes they can attend. But, there is probably more to it that makes warm ups so unappealing.
Generally, Jiu Jitsu warm ups consist of basic BJJ movements. By the time a practitioner is a purple belt, they will have likely done this technique, both in warm ups and while rolling, countless times. It’s easy for these movements to become an unsatisfying routine if they aren’t attached to something meaningful, like a new technique.
Depending how your school runs warm ups, the reason for skipping could be an aversion to any high intensity workout that isn’t Jiu Jitsu. This might sound counterintuitive, but just because someone loves BJJ, does not mean they love fitness. If the warmup is a lengthy, cardio pushing workout, many practitioners may opt out, in order to save their intensity for their rolls.
Why you need to be serious about warming up for Jiu Jitsu
Warm ups are valuable in more ways than just physical. While a good warm up should loosen the muscles helping to prevent injury later, that doesn’t convince the chronic skipper who does a brief warm up on their own.
In fact, if your academy’s typical class structure follows warm up, drill, then roll, a practitioner might find themselves warmed up just from the techniques they were drilling, depending on their practice intensity.
However, aside from the physical aspects, there are a few reasons why warm ups are important. If you are new to Jiu Jitsu, warm up drills can be fundamental in introducing you to core Jiu Jitsu concepts and movements. While shrimping might be old hat to a higher belt, it is vital information for a newbie.
One of the biggest challenges in Jiu Jitsu is learning how to connect your own body’s movements to the technique you are attempting to master. Jiu Jitsu focused movements and drills are a great way to break the body mechanics into more understandable pieces.
For higher belts, Jiu Jitsu warm ups can be a great way to stave off the complacency of hitting a plateau. Have you allowed yourself to form bad habits for your movements over the years? Get back into warm ups to tighten up your movement. As a higher belt, newer Jiu Jitsu players will be looking up to you as an authority figure whether you know it or not. While you may not be a coach by title, something as small as giving it your best in warm ups is a great opportunity to set a good example for younger and newer Jiu Jitsu athletes.
Make the BJJ warm up fun again!
There is no incentive for anyone to take part in warm ups if they see no value in them. You can add value to your warm ups in many different ways.
- Tie warm ups into the lesson
This is probably the best way to get those higher belts back on the mats for warm ups. Nobody likes to miss the trailers when they go out to the movies, so make your warm ups a preview of the lesson coming up.
Turn the different mechanics of the techniques you will teach into specific, targeted exercises. This helps them be better prepared for the technique and have greater context for how it is applied.
- Be creative
No one gets excited for their fifth room run of the week. While it takes more planning on the coach’s part, new and creative warm ups will be much more enticing. Adults like games too, so find a physical game that gets everyone involved, and that you can tie some grappling concept into.
A favorite at my gym is called “snake in the grass”. One person is chosen to be the snake. At the start, everyone is gathered around the snake. On the word “go” everyone scatters as the snake tries to capture everyone turning them into their allies. The twist is, the snake can only move on their knees and use takedown principles to fell their victims. The last person standing is the victor.
- Do Jiu Jitsu
While it might sound obvious, Jiu Jitsu can be a great way to prepare to do Jiu Jitsu. However, certain parameters should be put in place, so that nobody feels like they should go home after a few intense rolls.
Try objective based rolling, where you start from a certain position or only seek one type of submission. Or, you can roll for short rounds and focus more on pace than on submissions.
Jiu Jitsu warm up drills can be a fundamental and formative part of your Jiu Jitsu growth.
While everyone has their own reasons for skipping them, you should prioritize warm ups to keep your skills sharp and your fitness on point. If you have any influence at your academy, try suggesting fun and new warm ups to appeal to more people while still communicating Jiu Jitsu principles.
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.