Having a well-rounded routine is important in Martial Arts training. This means for the artist it is crucial to not just focus on kicks and punches but also on strengthening the body. One of the most important parts of the body is the core. For those unfamiliar with that term, the core represents the muscles in the stomach and lower back region of the body. Strengthening these muscles improve posture and balance, which in turn can improve all aspects of your Martial Arts.
There are many ways to build core strength. Some people turn to yoga and asanas, where holding the positions builds the muscles, especially forms requiring a lengthening of the body and engaging the core. Some disciplines simulate this practice by working up the endurance of students in stances, especially crane-based ones.
For some people, the slowness of yoga and holding stances can become unnerving. I've heard this complaint many times for people who are more externally focused. Whereas, I believe some of these people would benefit greatly from learning this stillness, there are alternatives that might work to initiate training.
One of the more common exercises is sit-ups. Almost everyone who has gone through some sort of physical fitness or training has done sit-ups. Even this can become tedious to some people; so I recommend doing a mix of sit-ups in order to work on different muscle groups as well as providing variety in one's routine.
There are a few basics to remember with sit-ups:
- First off, be careful to keep your head, neck and back in a straight line. Therefore, if you do sit-ups with your hands positioned behind your head, make sure you're not using this to pull your body forward.
- As you work, focus your attention on the area you are flexing. Keeping your mind focused as such will help those muscles engage quicker and you'll feel the results more.
- Make sure to be careful you're not leaning on your tailbone. Extended periods of time resting on the tailbone can cause it to bruise and make this exercise painful. If you're finding yourself constantly feeling pain in that area, try adjusting where your feet are in relation to your body, by moving them either towards or away. You can also try using a rolled up towel or padding in that region.
- Move in steady motion. Try taking the same amount of time up as you do going down. Regulate your breathing likewise, inhaling as you rise and exhale as you descend. Try to avoid coming to a full stop, keep your body in continual motion.
- Remember, this isn't about "No Pain, No Gain." This is about building yourself in a nice, steady fashion. Your muscles should feel a good burn when done but your body certainly should not be in pain.
Basic crunches begin with the traditional position where your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet are flat on the floor. You bring your upper body forward and try not to bring your head much higher up than your knees.
Variations from this position
Looking towards the ceiling and keeping your back very straight:
- leave your hands behind your head or at your side
- fist your hands over your chest, as you come up do a punch and alternate with each lift
- fist your hands over your chest, as you come up do a double-punch
- cross your hands over your chest and as you raise, uncross and extend your arms out in side-wing strikes
With your chin pressed to your chest and doing a curling motion:
- cross your hands across your chest
- have your fists at oposite shoulders and as rise, bring your elbows and forearms together in a blocking motion
Looking at the knees (a movement somewhere between the previous two):
- leave your hands at either side
- place your hands behind your head and lift one shoulder to the opposite knee, repeat other side
- fist your hands over your chest, alternate punches, opposite hand, opposite knee on each lift
- fist your hands over your chest, as you come up, punch with one hand to the opposite knee and then the other side, complete both before you reach the top
These are just some variations to the basic sit-ups that can help add variation and fun to your sit-up routine. In doing exercises like this, one can build core strength that will help your Martial Arts.