Practitioners of every single sport are conscientious of the importance that warm up has before start practicing any physical activity. It is essential in order to prevent any serious injury over the course of normal training. Such injuries could take one out of the game for a while, or even permanently prevent one from continuing with one’s craft.
Warming up is no less important in martial arts. It’s always vital to dedicate time before starting one’s training, no matter how light or rigorous it’s expected to be. That is one of the most important parts during a training session, and that’s why every session starts with it.
What does stretching do to prevent such injuries? Warmups generally start with basic cardio, which immediately begins improving blood circulation and heart rate. These promote the flow of oxygen and nutrients to one’s muscles, preparing them for the stress of the ensuing exercise. In addition, when the heart and muscles are suddenly stressed due to strenuous exercise after a long period of inactivity, they may be severely fatigued. Stretching allows these muscles to be gradually acclimatized to the exercise. Also, during warmups, muscle temperature is also increased, which loosens their tissues up and makes them more flexible and elastic, preventing tearing and avoid injury.
Warmups also have a solid mental component that complements their physical benefits. By warming up prior to practicing martial arts, practitioners will be prepared to face the difficulty, discomfort, and pain that comes with heavy sparring and practicing forms. They’ll take hits harder, and keep going stronger, longer.
How long should someone warmup though? Everyone regardless of sport or workout should always have at least five minutes of basic warmup. This is enough to get the blood pumping and the muscles warm. Start with jogging in place, a short walk, anything that will result in mild sweating, noticeably increased heart rate, and warm muscles.
After your muscles have heated up and are pliable enough, move on to static stretching, which involves holding your muscles in a stretched position for up to 30 seconds. Cycle through stretching all of the muscles you’ll be using for your martial arts training. Consider splits, knee pulls, and other leg techniques. Static stretching is fairly safe, so keep it as part of your warmup routine at all times.
Sports-specific warmups are next up after your static stretching. In martial arts, these often take the form of repetitive usage of learned moves, such as side kicks and katas. For your warmup, if your instructor hasn’t provided a specific one to use, practice all of your kicks and moves to get your blood pumping.
For an intense warmup session, you may move on to dynamic stretching, but only if you have your instructor’s guidance. Dynamic stretching has you preparing your muscles by “bouncing” or swinging past their maximum range of motion. Examples include leg swings, knee lifts, and arm circles. Dynamic stretching may result in injury if overdone or not executed correctly, so make sure you have someone with you who knows how it should be done.
Your entire warmup should take no more than 30 minutes to complete. You don’t want to deprive your body of valuable energy for your actual workout, right before you even begin. If you’re a beginner, casual practitioner, or otherwise mostly sedentary, you’ll want to go for the full 30-minute warmup before you start. More experienced athletes can do with just 10-15 minutes of warmup, as their bodies are already conditioned for this kind of work.
Finally, after you complete warmup and your full workout, don’t forget to perform cool down exercises. Immediately after intense exercise, your respiration and heart rate will be very high – cooling down with less-intense training, jogging or walking will allow those rates to slowly return to normal. You’ll also help remove lactic acid that has built up in your muscles through low-intensity exercise as part of the cool down, which will reduce the pain you feel afterwards.