A martial-arts–inspired warm-up increases circulation, improves dynamic flexibility and range of motion, integrates sport-specific activities and connects body and mind. The series presented here is an excellent way to begin almost any general fitness class. Start slowly and encourage students to be patient and “listen” to their bodies.
Awaken the Center
First, bring attention to the back and abdominals, the body’s “center.”
- Stand with feet double shoulder width apart.
- Bend forward while keeping legs straight, but not locked.
- Grab opposite elbows with hands, framing head.
- Once folded, focus on low back and spine, twisting gently and slowly.
- Adjust how deeply you bend and twist. Move from closer to floor to about halfway up and anywhere in between, working your way to upright position.
Neck: With hands on hips, move head 2x–3x in each plane of movement: forward/backward, twisting left (L)/right (R) and side to side. Gently circle head back and to L, and then back and to R, 2x–3x.
- With feet hip width apart, elevate and drop shoulders with breath 2x–3x and then move into shoulder rotations.
- Add arm swings and circles, moving with breath.
- Interlace hands overhead and look up. Lean slightly back, opening chest.
- Rise up and twist L; bend forward. Rise back up to center and repeat twist R.
- Complete 8 reps; 4x each side.
Step feet together and cross bent arms in front, hooking them if possible (“eagle arms”). Hinge at hips, bend gently toward floor and rise back up, 8x. Alternate arm positions.
Low Back/Hips: With feet hip width apart, circle hips/trunk in each direction 4x. Add standing side-bends.
- March in place with high knees.
- Add opposite-elbow-to-knee movement.
- Finish with side leg–raises/pendulum swings; 8x each side.
- Squat with feet close together.
- Rest hands on knees, and rotate them clockwise and counterclockwise 8x (knees together).
- Stand on one leg and rotate ankle; 8x each side.
Stimulate and activate the body, but not to fatigue. Move progressively through the following moves:
- deep squats
- wide-leg squats, moving from side to side
- reverse lunges
- push-ups and/or bird dogs
Add in jumping jacks or tuck jumps.
The Dan Tien Kick: The body’s center of energy, or the dan tien, is located below the navel. This move is a straightforward heel-kick with toes pulled back, pointing up. The bottom of the heel is the contact point.
- Start with L foot back and R foot forward.
- Lift L leg, bend knee and extend leg as if you were pushing something away with your foot.
- Exhale on kick and repeat 8x; switch sides.
- With feet together, lift L leg and extend L from hip. Foot is horizontal, toes pointing forward, hips facing front as if turning away from kick.
- Keep eyes on kicking foot.
- Step feet together and repeat 8x; switch sides.
- Starting with L foot back and R foot forward, swing L leg forward, then back.
- Keep knee straight in both directions.
- As leg swings back, lean slightly forward to avoid back strain.
- Cue students to connect to body’s center.
- Finally, with feet together, reach arms out to sides, palms up. Breathe deeply, expanding chest for 8 breaths.
Ahles, R. 2013. More than a warm up: 13 exercises instructional series. Blue Dragon School of Martial Arts; www.bluedragonkungfu.com/martial-arts-warm-up-exercises/275/; retrieved June 2013.