Before a performance vehicle gets driven in a race, the driver always runs the engine with controlled amount of RPM for a while, to lubricate the engine and warm up the moving parts. Much like a car, our body requires a similar pre-performance ritual, for similar reasons. If an athlete wants any longevity through his/her career, they will have to create a warm up routine that works the entire body, and also targets specific areas that get the most wear and tear in their sport. A Muay Thai warm up will consist of movements through the entire body, and without performing this routine, a fighter leaves themselves open to injuries during a training session.
If we neglect to warm up a certain area prior to training, even if it doesn’t get used often, it can relay tightness to other areas causing strained or torn muscles. The warm up we will show you aims to incorporate the entire body, even some smaller joints that are often neglected.
Here is a list of areas you should loosen up during your Muay Thai dynamic warm up routine
In a circular motion: (all movements displayed in video above)
- Wrists – moving your hands in circles with forearms remaining relatively still
- Elbows – moving forearms in circles
- Shoulders – moving entire arms in circles (don’t swing, keep control)
- Hips/lower back – feet spread slightly wider than shoulder width, big circles through hips.
- Knees/ankles/feet – feet together hands on knees, big circles with knees.
- Neck – first looking left and right repetitively, then up and down, finishing by making circles around the neck with your head.
Take as much time as necessary on each joint to really feel it starts to loosen up. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Over time you will begin to recognise when your body starts to limber up.
After performing circular movements on your joints, it’s time to take your back through some more extra dynamic movements. Start on your back bringing your knees to your chest and rolling gently back and forward, then side to side for around 20 seconds each. Once that is done, stretch your arms out in a “Jesus Christ pose” whilst laying on your back. Bring your left foot over toward your right hand, then back down to the original position. Then go back the other way, bringing your right foot toward your left hand, then back down to the centre. You do not need to touch your hand with your foot through this movement, as we want to stay relaxed and keep moving freely without strain. You will find that as you repeat it, your comfortable range of how close your foot gets to your hand will begin to increase. Perform at least 10 times each leg
Turn over and create a solid base on your hands and knees. In yoga, this movement is often used early in the routine to warm up the lower and upper back, and is Referred to as “cat-cow”, we will use it for the exact same purpose. Start by arching your back so that you are looking straight forwards, and inhaling, once you have finished your breath, begin to exhale and arch your back the other way to that you are looking down. Repeat this at least 10 times, but you can keep repeating for as long as you want.
In a swinging motion: (all movements displayed in video above) perform each swing 6-10 times
- Chest and biceps – with straight arms, swing both arms backwards into a Jesus Christ pose, keeping them both straight through the swing. Start easy and build up intensity
- Back – start in your Jesus Christ pose and swing the arms forward as if to give yourself a hug, returning back to the Christ pose. Alternate which arm is on top with each swing
- Tricep – lift your arm straight up, as if to reach for the sky. Keep your upper arm still and swing your forearm behind your head, toward the shoulder on the same side
- Hamstring – hold hand out in front of you, and swing each foot individually up to your hand
- Adductor – hold hand outstretched to the side, swinging your foot up to you hand keeping your leg as straight as possible
- Glutes – find a wall to lean your hands up against, and bring your foot in between your body and the wall toward the opposite shoulder, with your leg at an approximate 90 degree angle.
- Quads – one leg at a time, keep your thigh still, and bring your heel up to your glutes
- Hip flexor – hands on the wall, start with your feet together, and individually stretch each leg straight backwards and upwards
Like anything, getting your warmup started is the hardest part, but once you actually begin to stretch your joints and muscles dynamically (with movement), it feels great and makes the workout that follows much easier. Generally speaking, we don’t hold static stretches (holding a still position through a stretch) prior to exercise, as we lose elasticity and responsiveness in our muscles. These should be saved for after the workout, unless you have an area which is particular tight, in which case you may need to release with with pressure or a specific static stretch limited to that particular area. A great book to read if you are interested in learning more about stretching is “Stretching Scientifically” by Thomas Kurz.
DON’T BE IN A RUSH! Set aside 15 minutes prior to starting training, or even longer if you are one of the older guys getting around the gym. Not warming up correctly is one of the highest causes of injuries, so if you want to be training again tomorrow, start those dynamics movements before you start punching of kicking things!