The warm up is such a fundamental part of exercising
that I think it is easy to overlook the exact purpose of doing it or what exercises
constitute the best warm up activity. I even have my doubts as to whether a
warm up is really necessary.
Last week we started the class with breakfalls. No
warm-up. I was dubious about the wisdom of this at first, thinking that we
might get some injuries but I actually enjoyed breakfalling from cold – it warmed
me up much more quickly than a usual warm-up and I felt ready for action all
session. No one suffered any injuries or pulls. So did the breakfalling
constitute the warm-up?
Last night I arrived late for class and the other
students had already done their warm-up. I arrived just as the class was about
to start a round of breakfalls, so I just did them – from cold again. They went
well and I felt fine – I felt warmed up
and ready for action. So does this mean that breakfalling was my warm up
Usually our warm-up consists of either running around
the hall for a couple of minutes or jogging on the spot, star jumps, press-ups,
burpees, sit-ups and straight leg raises followed by a few dynamic stretches.
This lasts between 5-10 minutes. Occasionally we warm-up with some fast kihon
moves or sparring moves followed by stretching. When I used to do my kobudo
classes the warm-up was similar.
When my husband used to belong to a jujitsu club the
warm-up lasted for 45 minutes and consisted of many static stretches as well as
a cardio-vascular warm-up.
Whichever way I have been asked to warm up I have not
suffered any injuries as a result of not
warming up sufficiently. However, I usually feel more ready for action if I
have ‘warmed-up’ doing the activity I am participating in (i.e. karate
moves/breakfalling) than if I have warmed up doing ‘warm-up exercises’ (i.e. running,
star-jumps, press-ups, stretching etc). This begs the question – what’s the
purpose of the warm-up?
My understanding of this question is that the warm-up
is designed to prepare the body for action by increasing the heart rate and
warming up the muscles. Well, I don’t need special exercises to increase my
heart rate – just doing karate does that. Also, my muscles are at a constant 37
degrees centigrade whether I’m exercising or not – it’s called body temperature.
So perhaps I’m trying to increase blood flow to the muscles rather than
increase their temperature…
Doesn’t it make more sense to increase the blood flow
to the muscles you’re actually going to use rather than a random selection of
them? I mean, if I’m going to punch and kick doesn’t it make sense to warm up
my punching and kicking muscles? I don’t need to isolate them out with special
exercises I just need to start punching and kicking – but more slowly and carefully until the blood flow has increased. If
the session is going to be mainly a throwing one will breakfalls warm me up
better than jogging and press-ups? If I’m doing a kata based session then
wouldn’t doing some kata warm me up best?
Runners run best when they warm up by jogging a couple of
rounds of the track. It has been advocated that weight trainers warm up by
lifting the empty bar or going through the range of weight exercises they
propose to do but without the weights first to warm up the correct muscles.
They should then add half the weight they want to lift and repeat the range of
movements before finally getting onto the full weight they intend to work with.
In other words, you warm-up best by getting on with the
activity you intend to be doing but at a slower and gentler pace until your
heart rate has increased and the blood flow to the correct muscles has
This makes more sense to me. I don’t feel I get any
real benefit from jumping and jogging around doing ‘warm-up’ exercises, despite
what conventional wisdom tells me. I’m
all for starting my karate sessions with a round of breakfalling, kihon, kata
or kumite – starting at a steady pace and increasing the intensity as I warm-up.
What about you? Do you swear by your warm-up routine or
does it just get in the way of doing your main activity?