Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
As in any physical or athletic activity, it is always a good idea to begin your practice with a solid warm-up. A warm-up helps to prepare the body and allows the body to better receive the training. In addition, the time spent allows the Martial Artists to let go of the strains of the day and focus the mind for the task ahead.
Whichever style you perform (or even if you do not do Martial Arts but are looking for a warm-up routine), the steps to developing a warm-up routine are consistent. It is always best to start with the least strenuous activity first and ease the body into a more active state.
Most people start with stretches.
Leg stretch: Basic lunges can accomplish a lot in preparing the body for activity. Because much of Martial Arts involves having a strong basis, namely your legs, it is a good idea to assure your legs are properly stretched and warmed-up before proceeding. The lunge basically starts the process. With hands on hips, step forward and lean down until top of the front leg is parallel to the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds and then switch.
Shoulders: Begin by rotating your shoulders in circles. Keep a steady pace and focus on the movement of not only your shoulders but also the muscles in your upper back. Repeat this at least ten times and then reverse the direction. Make sure to balance the activity by doing the same number forward and backwards. For variation, you can also proceed to alternate sides, rotating one shoulder and then the other. For internal arts, you can also try to time your breathing with your rotations so that one breathe takes a full rotation. Slow down the rotations to increase the energy.
Neck: There is a great deal of controversy around stretching out the neck. In particular, some believe that rotating the neck can cause spinal issues. Not being of medical training myself, I advise those I train to take whatever action slow and to their comfort at this level. One rotation has the chin come forward then slowly rotating it to one shoulder, extending to the back, then to the other shoulder and finally back to the chest. Another variation for those that have neck issues would be to simply turn and look over one shoulder and then the other in easy movements.
Lower back: From a standing position, lean forward at the waist and reach to touch your toes. Do not bounce in this motion, simply let the body fall naturally. Stay in the downward position for at least 3-4 breaths. With each exhale, try to extend the body just a bit further down towards the feet and a bit closer to the knees. As you rise, bring your upper body up slowly to avoid becoming light-headed. Repeat this action a few times to allow the back to properly warm up. For an added warm-up, cross one leg in front of the other and repeat this exercise. Similar to the shoulders, remember to balance the exercise by performing the same number of repetitions with the other leg in front. This will stretch not only the lower back, but the legs as well.
Check for other articles on this channel for more warm-up routines.