The Importance of Warming Up

BY LEONARDO DELGADO

Hi there! My name is Leonardo Delgado and I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt @ldelgadojjacademy and Hyperfly Ambassador. I’m also a Breathing, Nutrition, and Movement coach @_breathe.move.eat_, and today I want to talk to you about how warm-ups and cooldowns can facilitate high performance and kickstart recovery.

 Why is warming-up so important?

In the context of physical activity (Jiu-Jitsu, weightlifting, conditioning, cardio etc), warming-up is necessary in order to prime the body for the activity that will follow; you will be activating the muscles that are going to be used in that training session. By warming-up you are elevating core body temperature, blood flow, and heart rate, meaning your body will be ‘ready to go’ once you need it. Performance and output increase and the chance of a bad training session and injuries decrease.

 

Athlete Leonardo Delgado preparing for a match.

Is there a good and bad way to warm-up?

It depends. I know, I know. I also hate the ‘D’ word but here, it’s very important. 

Our bodies and needs are unique and have unique scars, compensations and adaptations from the years we live. So, the way we move, run, lift or train shouldn’t follow a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

The activity you’re preparing to should also be taken in consideration. The warm-up for a run won’t be the same warm-up for a heavy squat or deadlift session. Warming-up for BJJ should also be different than warming-up for boxing, for example.

I tend to follow 2 rules:

  1. How am I feeling today? What parts of my body need attention and/or feel stiff?
  2. What am I preparing for? 

So, for example, if I’m not lifting heavy or if I’m warming-up for BJJ I will focus on general, functional movement patterns that will lubricate my joints, get my HR up and increase blood flow. Think here Yoga + Ginastica Natural type of movement; very dynamic. I’ll make sure that my shoulders, hips, neck and spine are loose and supple, and ready to work.

Athlete Leonardo Delgado stretching.

 

What about my pulmonary system? I feel like it takes me while to reach peak performance even after doing a good warm-up.

Want to start every session super strong? Want to go from 0-100 quick and without gassing or having to wait a second wind? Warm-up your pulmonary system! 

In very simplistic terms, respiration is about gas exchange: we inhale (mostly) oxygen and exhale (mostly) CO2. It is the accumulation of CO2 in the body that triggers the need to breathe. So, the higher the intensity of the activity, higher (and faster) CO2 levels will rise, potentially leading to over-breathing, potentially leading to tiring out quickly.

One of the best ways to do a pulmonary warm-up is with dynamic breath holds (inhale or exhale or both); my favorite one before training, competing or working out is:

After my regular warm-up, I do 3-5 sets of (nasal only):

10 Air Squats (inhale going down, exhale going up)

5 push-ups (inhale going down, exhale going up)

Stand up and take 3 normal breaths. At the end of the 3rd exhalation, I pinch my nose and jog as far as I can while holding my breath. I push until I feel a moderate discomfort (not an ‘almost passing out’ one), I then stop, take 3 normal breaths and repeat.

 

What about cooling down? Is it really that important?

Ever left the gym, or competition and felt like you’re hyper alert/reactive for hours to follow? Feeling agitated after getting home? Having trouble sleeping? Taking a few minutes to cool down after your activity can help you with that.

Exercise is stress. It moves us towards a sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) state. Our body doesn’t differentiate if we are exercising, having a heated argument with someone or running from a bear.

Intentional slow breaths (specially through the nose only) can help shift gears to a parasympathetic (rest, digest & recover) state. You will then kickstart recovery and ensure you’re not ‘rushing’ for the rest of your day. There are many protocols but the simple always works; and it doesn’t require much: something as simple as 10 controlled slow breaths through the nose can help you shift gears, recover better and have a more productive day.

 

Athlete Leonardo Delgado competing in a Gi.

 

Want to know more?! Reach out @leonardodelgado or @_breathe.move.eat_ on IG.