It took me such a long time to find what gets me into the zone and fully prepared to perform at a BJJ competition. There’s so many different opinions out there, some people recommend to only stretch, while others say you should warm-up and sweat a lot to get the blood flowing.
Others say no warm-up is the best way because, and I quote, “Have you ever seen a lion warm-up before she hunts?” *sigh*
Exploring BJJ Competition Warm-Ups: What Do Champs Do?
First of all, a disclaimer – other people’s BJJ competition warm ups may not work for you. This isn’t a flaw in their warm-up methods, but simply reflects individual differences and preferences. While there are general guidelines for building the optimal warm-up, it still comes down to your specific needs and desires. Ultimately, the perfect BJJ warm-up is the one that works for you.
But it is still handy to see how champions warm-up to get an idea of what methods work. Today we’re focusing on 2x world champion Nicholas Meregali.
Meregali takes his warm-ups super seriously. He drills leg drags, toreandos, take-downs, and guard passes all while getting himself pumped before his fight. He performs this routine before each tournament and we can clearly see that this helps him to bring out his best.
But does that mean you should do that as well? No, because not all athletes are the same. This is why you should learn the concept of building a BJJ competition warm-up routine that ticks all the boxes which will get you firing on all cylinders when you step on the mats.
The Power Of A BJJ Warm-Up Routine
Routines quiet our minds. If you structure a warm-up routine specific to yourself it will keep you focused, and more specifically, it will keep you focused on the exact feeling and thoughts you want to have before competing.
The worst thing to do is to start focusing on “what if” scenarios or worrying about your opponent. Performance at a BJJ competition comes down to a calm mind and perfectly executed game plan. Both will become possible if you’re focused and warmed up. Having a “go-to” routine is essential to your mat performance.
The more you can drill your warm up, the more it will become routine and the more comfortable it will feel. After a while, going through the motions will be effortless. More importantly, your mind will associate certain moves with certain thoughts, keeping you in the correct mindset as you go.
Breaking Down the Ideal Warm-Up:
There are only a few general guidelines you need to consider when building a BJJ competition warm-up routine. First of all, you need to know what parts of your body require a bit more attention than others. This is key in picking out the right drills, moves, and intensity for your routine. For example, if you have tight hips and loose shoulders, you may want to spend more time warming up your hips and less on your shoulders.
Secondly, you need to know how to structure your warm-up. Try to start slow and deliberate, and gradually move to more specific and fun drills. Try designing your warm-up around this framework to maximize its benefits:
- Mobility drills and breathing
- Specific BJJ drills
- Having fun
Let’s spend some time exploring each and every one of them, along with some great ideas on the best exercises and movements you can use.
Mobility Drills and Breathing
I recommend dynamic stretching over static stretching. A great example of dynamic stretching is doing a yoga flow sequence, or 2-3 sets of mobility drills to get the blood flowing (you can search YouTube for good mobility drills for athletes). Generally you’ll want to avoid static stretches such as standing in one place while stretching a specific body part because that can hurt your performance.
I personally use Yoga for BJJ as a warm-up flow. Yoga for BJJ offers 5-10 minutes flows to elevate the heart rate and get you feeling loose. An added benefit is the flows keep you focused on your breathing which is a very important part of your BJJ competition warm-up.
While you’re doing your mobility/yoga flow try to focus on your breathing through the movements. In through your nose out through your mouth. It is that simple.
Don’t think about anything else. Focus on your movement and your breathing. Keep it moving, keep it flowing
Specific BJJ Drills
Now that you’re a bit warmed up you should preferably do a bit of drilling with a friend. Nothing too hard. Drill easy movements at first like leg drags, toreandos, knee slides, or armbars. Then you can add a flow roll just to transition between movements. Most tournaments have a warm-up area you can use for this.
But what about tournaments that don’t have a warm-up area? Most of the time you can still drill on the floor, but if you really don’t have a space, then drill some grip fighting, single legs and arm drags, just so you get the same feeling like in training. This should have you ready for any BJJ competition.
The focus should be on flowing, not on heart rate and sweating.
Nothing more, nothing less, during the warm-up, and after you’ve finished your warm-up! For some people, listening to music makes it more enjoyable. For me personally, I watch Kevin Hart comedy shows after my warm-up, just to keep my good vibes going .
You can talk with your friends, or watch funny YouTube videos. Anything that will get your mind in a good and happy state and not serious. The main idea is to make it feel natural.
I want you to think of your BJJ competition warm up the same as you do in your academy. Most gyms start with a warm-up, then drill techniques, and end with rolling. Just like you build the intensity step by step at the gym, so should you do the same before you compete.
Putting It All Together
Now the last step is sitting and writing down everything we covered above. Here’s the key checklist:
- What mobility/yoga drills will you do?
- What specific drills will you do?
- How will you make it fun for yourself?
Figure out the answers to all of the above questions and your BJJ competition routine will materialize before you. Granted, it will may take several attempts and tweaks over time, but you’ll get there. Once you have your routine, you will see what a huge difference it makes in your BJJ competition performance.