Feeling Stiff? Try these BJJ Warm Up Drills

Mike Pellegrino (physical therapist and black belt) shares the BJJ warm up drills he uses to get limber up before each training session.

bjj warm up drills

Feeling Stiff? Try these BJJ Warm Up Drills

If you’ve been training long enough, odds are you’ve rolled into class feeling stiff a time or two, or always. While you might think, “Eh, big deal,” you should know, that “stiff feeling” might potentially lead to a jiu-jitsu related injury. The best prevention? A nice, quick full-body BJJ Prehab warm-up.

Before we go into Mike Pellegrino’s go-to set of BJJ warm up drills, we need to address why it’s important. In an earlier post we reviewed the importance of prehab for injury prevention. Maybe you’re even already signed up for BJJ Prehab and have been doing your prescribed prehab workouts at some other time during the day. However, another key time to put in a little prehab work – particularly something that is designed to work your entire body – is right before you begin jiu-jitsu class or sparring. 

“Oh, but my professor already does a warm up before class.” That’s great. However, many jiu-jitsu warm ups are often not thorough enough. And if you’re already feeling stiff, some of the “warm up” moves might even put you at risk of injury. You wouldn’t want to pull something during front rolls, do you? Not saying that it will happen… just that it could. Do you want to take that chance? 

So without further ado, here is Mike’s favorite set of BJJ warm up drills:

1. Squats​

First up is standard squat. Start standing, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, toes turned out slightly if needed, arms extended in front of you. As you lower your hips to about parallel, keep your knees in line with your toes, your torso straight, and your weight in your heels. 

Depending on how tight your hamstrings are, you may find it difficult to get very low at first. That’s fine, don’t force it. Do this for 30 seconds, moving at a steady pace, standing all the way up at the top. 

The squat is designed to work the muscles of your hips and knees, warming them up and relieving tightness, as well as increasing flexibility in your ankles and stretching your lower back. 

2. Supine overhead press​

Now, lay on the ground, with your legs bent and your feet planted. You’ll start with your arms bent, palms up, and your elbows and top of your hands flat on the floor. 

Straighten your arms, sliding them along the floor, then bring them back as far as you can go without elevating your elbows and hands from the floor. Do this 10 times. 

The supine overhead press is a mobility exercise for your shoulders and will warm up the muscles of your upper back. 

3. 3-way hamstring stretch​

Begin standing, with your feet three feet apart, both heels flat on the floor and bending to touch both hands to the floor in front of your forward leg. 

In the  first movement, your toes will be pointed forward. Your forward leg may have a slight bend; that’s fine. Hold for 10 seconds. 

In the second movement, drop your knee, pull your forward toe to the inside, then extend your legs again, keeping your hands on the floor and both feet flat. Hold for 10 seconds. 

In the third movement, drop your knee again and point your forward toe to the outside. Extend your legs again, keeping your hands on the floor and your feet flat. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. 

The 3-way hamstring stretch will target the three different muscles running down the back of your leg that form the hamstring. 

4. 90-90 stretch​

Lie on the floor, with your hips and shoulders facing one direction. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and extend your arms in front of you, palms together. Open your top hand up and over to the opposite side of your body, trying to touch the back of your hand onto the floor, turning your head to follow your hand. Retrace that path and return it to your other hand. 

Do this 10 times, pausing for one or two seconds on the bottom, relaxing into the extension for each one. Repeat on the opposite side. 

The 90-90 is a mobility exercise that focuses on your lower back and neck.  

5. Stationary reverse lunge​

Stand up, hips shoulder-width apart. Step back with one leg, dropping your rear knee to the floor, ensuring that the front knee doesn’t pass beyond the toes of your front foot and your upper body remains upright. You’ll have a 90 degree bend in both knees. Return to standing, then alternate feet. 

Repeat at a steady pace for 20 total reps (10 each side). 

The stationary lunge will warm up your knees, as well as the muscles of your quadriceps, glutes, adductor magnus (inner thigh muscle) and calves.  

6. Side plank​

Lie down on your side, then elevate yourself onto your elbow, stacking your top leg on your bottom leg and extending your top arm straight up. 

Try to keep your spine straight, your core tight, your hips in line with your shoulders and your head in line with your spine. You don’t want your hips to sag toward the floor or your head to curl forward. Hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side. 

Side planks will engage your core, warming up your transverse abdominals, obliques, and hip abductors.

7. Piriformis stretch​

Sit down, with your arms braced behind you and both knees bent and planted on the floor. Grab the ankle of one leg, bending your knee outward, and pull it in front of the thigh of your other leg. 

For a deeper stretch, bring your upper body closer to your shin and your hips closer to your planted foot. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

The piriformis stretch is a lower body flexibility exercise that targets the muscles of your hips and knees. 

Heather Raftery is an Atos black belt, freelance writer and social scientist (BA in Journalism and Anthropology, MA in International Studies). She has written for FloGrappling, Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Fighters Market and BJJ Prehab.