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Tau's picture
Warm Ups

Listening to the latest podcast has made me think. Now I suspect that those of us that use this forum do so because of a shared way of thinking. This encompasses embracing changing, adapting or evolving training methods in the constant pursuit of the most effective way of training.

I'm constantly looking for ways to keep warm ups effective and safe, fun, purposeful and time-efficient. I have a variety of classes on offer at the moment in terms of a juniors class, an adults class, a "family class" and also an all-ages Kickboxing class. How I run warm-ups for each of those does differ.

I'm currently looking to change how we conduct stretching in class and a debate on safe stretching methods has been ignited at the Aikido club that I attend.

So how do we all conduct our warm-ups? What do they consist of, and in what order? What types of stetching do we do?

For classes other than Kickboxing I've abandoned press-ups as I fail to see their benefit for pragmatic training. I'm working more drills in. We do a lot more punching and kicking earlier in class now almost as an extension of warm-up into CV work, prior to the more technique and fine skills.

Wastelander's picture

I generally start with slower, mobility-based exercises, like side-tipping, heel-raises, arm circles, and knee bends. After that, I tend to work up to more dynamic exercises that incorporate breathing exercises, such as some junbi undo methods from Goju-Ryu and some short power drills from Whipping Crane kung fu. Then I'll usually do some work with weights--either barbell, dumbells, kettlebells, or chi-ishi, usually, but sometimes I'll do push-ups, pull-ups, dips, or resistance bands. Sometimes, I'll replace the dynamic/breathing excercises with bagwork, though.

Marc's picture

My generic warm-up would work through all the major joints in the body (from neck through arms, shoulders, spine, hips, to legs) to get the joint fluids going. This is simply to prevent injury and usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Most of the time I try to incorporate some movements from the kata we will work on. This way I don't "lose time by just warming up".

Sometimes I throw in a game with a partner, sometimes some speedy elements to increase the heart rate. It always depends on what we will do after the warm-up phase.

I understand "warm-up" as preparing the body for what follows - like "booting" into exercise mode.  Otherwise I would call it exercise or training.

Tau's picture
MCM180's picture

We usually do joint motions like what Marc suggests, with some pushups & situps, and some leg stretches. 

As a not-very-flexible 41-year old who often trains in the "family class," I've noticed that some of the warmups are geared for little kids -- that is, they don't need nearly the stretching that I do. So I usually get there early and work on hamstrings for 5 minutes so I can walk the next day. One size doesn't fit all!

One of the instructors does some more interesting things - like walking us slowly through the kata and stretching out as we go, again like what Marc is talking about only maybe going the other direction - incorporating workout into kata. This is more interesting to do but doens't always accomplish the hamstring stretches I need.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

A warm up is generally thought to need to include four elements:

1 – Mobility (mobilising the joints)

2 - Primary Pulse Raiser (warming the body up and stimulating the cardiovascular system)

3 - Short Stretch (loosening off the muscles – not to increase flexibility, and short enough not to allow heart rate to return to resting levels. They are also all standing as contact with the floor can pull heat out of the body quickly)

4 - Secondary Pulse Raiser (raising the heart rate more to get the body fully ready to train)

For karate purposes, I think we most effectively and efficiently achieve the above through karate / combative motions. For example, rather than curl the arms back and forth to mobilise the elbows, get the students to practise light punches. Rather than do star jumps to raise the heart rate, gently grapple or do footwork drills. And so on.

To me, this kind of combative warm up psychologically “warms up” the student as well as warming them up physiologically. It’s also activity specific and hence more effective. Finally, it introduces yet another opportunity for skill training and hence ensures the most effective use of training time.

Things like press ups are training exercises and I don’t feel they have any place in a true warm up. Developmental stretches – ones aimed at increasing flexibility – are also best done as part of the cool down at the end of training.

It also needs to be remembered that one mans “warm up” can be another training session, so true warm ups need to be such that the individual can work at a pace that suits their current level of development.

The “traditional warm up” tends to consist of a mini workout (press-ups, sit-ups, etc.) followed by developmental stretching. By modern standards, this is not good and would be regarded as bad practise. I therefore feel we need to move beyond this and embrace what modern practise knows to be more healthy and efficient. However, modern studies tend to be based on generic exercise and more mainstream sporting activities. So, while we will always listen to the guidance of modern studies, we also need to adapt that to be activity specific. A combative warm-up for combative practise – in line with current best practise guidelines – would therefore seem to be the way to go.

All the best,


Marc's picture

I would like to add a rule I learned in my instructors course about the general order of exercises during a lesson:

1. Warm up

2. Exercises that require coordination (especially fine motor skills)

3. Strength exercises

4. Endurance training

5. Cool down

Of course a lesson could ommit any of 2, 3 or 4, depending on what you want to teach that day. But you should not change the order, because coordination is quite bad after strength and endurance training.

Take care and train safely everybody


Tau's picture

Does anyone still do partner-assisted stretching?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
Does anyone still do partner-assisted stretching?

I don’t in classes because of the danger of injury and the fact it’s recognised as “bad practise”. I’ve also not done it in my own training for eons for the same reasons … but I did in the past, and I’d be a liar if I said I’d not found it personally helpful when I was in my 20s. Now being in my mid-40s I’m more careful about such things though and it would not be something I’d recommend.