by Thomas Kurz
In this article you will learn about selecting exercises for the warm-up. (The general principles of arranging exercises in a warm-up were explained in the article “A Well-Run Workout: The Warm-Up.”)
First, ease into exercise and start warming up your joints by various ways of walking (normal, on toes, on outside edges of feet, on heels, walking sideways, walking on all fours, and so on). During upright walking athletes should warm up their fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
After limbering up their joints, athletes are ready for a higher intensity aerobic exercise or a game. The game or games have to be age-appropriate and should include movements or skills needed in the main part of the workout—for example, dodgeball can be used in a warm-up if evasion skills are to be stressed during the main part of the workout.
The instructor can start with a game that he or she knows the athletes like—a game of tag, for example—and then either introduce new rules that make it a lead-up game for a main task of the workout or introduce another game or drill. So, if the main task is learning or perfecting a side kick, the tag game can be played with all athletes jumping on one leg with the other leg pulled up to their chest. Frequent breaks in such a game should be filled with dynamic stretches, such as leg swings. After such a game athletes can do side kicks over an obstacle, for example, a chair that forces them to chamber their kicking leg high. Finally they can do side kicks standing between two chairs, which forces chambering not only high but also close to their body. If they are kicking alternately over each chair with the leg nearest that chair, it improves dynamic balance. The difficulty of all exercises in a warm-up should be increased gradually. In the example just given, the athletes should start with kicking over the seats of the chairs or even over chairs laid on their side, and end up kicking over the backs of standing chairs. To prevent fatigue of the leg muscles from spoiling the form of movements and to break the monotony of doing one exercise continuously, the instructor can order breaks during which athletes practice in pairs some previously learned hand technique that can be used as a tactical set up for the side kick—for example, a jab from a side stance.
Other examples of lead-up games and exercises for martial arts:
If teaching sweeps is the task of the workout, the warm-up exercises may include a simplified soccer game using a medicine ball heavy enough to force shuffling it with a sweeping motion of the sole of the foot rather than kicking it. Alternatively, several athletes stand in a circle and shuffle the ball to each other with soles of their feet while one athlete who is inside the circle tries to intercept it.
One of the exercises useful for teaching defenses against low grappling attacks is playing tag in pairs. Athletes hold each other by the hand (or do not hold each other at all) and try to tag each other on the thighs or lower legs. Eventually, instead of tagging, grabbing one or both legs is allowed and so is pulling the attacker down to sprawl him or her flat on the ground.
Throwing and catching a medicine ball can be used as a lead-up exercise for both punching (to teach the continuity of motion starting with pushing off the rear foot, rotating the trunk and hips, and following through with the shoulder and arm) and blocking (rotating the trunk while sidestepping or when absorbing a punch).
Whatever exercises are done in the warm-up (and that depends on the subject of the workout and on the age and skill level of athletes), their intensity should start low and then gradually increase. By the end of the warm-up, the exercises reach the target intensity planned for the beginning of the main part of the workout. Starting the warm-up at a high intensity is counterproductive (see explanation in the twelfth article of this column) and so is having drastic changes from a high to a low intensity of exercises.
In selecting or devising lead-up exercises, a instructor must make sure that their form does not conflict with the actual techniques of the sport or the martial art. Let’s take a workout with the task to learn the mid- to high-level roundhouse kick (which means that all athletes have a flawless form of all prerequisite techniques listed in the article “High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Great Height and Power in the Roundhouse Kicks”). One of the lead-up exercises to be used in the warm-up for this workout is thrusting with the knee of a bent leg as far and as high as possible.
In the initial form of this exercise an athlete holds on to a chair, barre, or just places his or her hands on a wall, aligning the body as described in points 1–5 of the article “High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Great Height and Power in the Roundhouse Kicks.” Up to this point there is no likelihood of conflict or confusion with other techniques. Eventually, when every athlete can align his or her body properly, this exercise can be done without any support, in pairs, so the athletes kick with their knee a focus mitt or some other target held by their partners at such a distance or over an obstacle that forces full extension of the thigh, hips, and a counterbalancing lean of the trunk. It is in this form of this exercise that there is a danger of confusing it with a real technique, specifically with the knee kick (murup chagi in taekwondo, hiza geri in karate). While this exercise seems similar to the knee kick it is not a real knee kick and it should not even be called a knee kick to avoid confusing athletes. In the knee kick, which the athletes have mastered as one of the prerequisite techniques prior to learning the roundhouse kick, the arms must control the opponent’s body—not just have a hold on the upper body but such a hold as to “freeze” the opponent’s legs to prevent a counter. The instructor should make sure the athletes do not think about the lead-up exercise for the roundhouse kick as a form of a knee kick because they may end up trying to use it as such in a fight and get severely countered. Further, from a strictly technical point of view, such control with the arms as needed in the knee kick requires a much different trunk position than that in the roundhouse kick. In other words, there is a conflict of arms and trunk actions between the knee kick and the lead-up exercise for the roundhouse kick.
This article shows how to apply principles of training explained in the book Science of Sports Training. Get this book now and have all of the info—not just the crumbs!
In the next article you will learn about the main part of a workout.
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum