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Fusion Fitness - Warm Up

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'If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.' Abraham Lincoln

Visualise a tree. Immediately we think of a solid trunk with leafy branches sprouting forth. This tree will withstand hail, sleet, snow and wind because deep in the ground it has put down a solid base of roots. The foundation stone of all our workouts lies in the essential warming up and cooling down components. Without these we are failing to prepare ourselves, both physically and mentally, for the main body of work. During the warm-up phase, the body adapts to the increased blood and oxygen flow to the heart and other muscles. Mentally we are becoming focused on the workout ahead, letting everyday distractions slip aside and beginning to concentrate on the forthcoming exercises.

Similarly, the heart, even though a strong and efficient muscle, needs a gentle cool-down period to allow its rate to drop slowly and safely. As the hearts rate gently increases during the warm-up, the cool-down involves a series of decreasingly easy moves. Think of slowing down from a sprint to a fast run, through a jog and into a walk. All cool-downs and workouts should finish with a thorough stretch.

So how do I warm up?
There are various different methods of warming up but the main rule is to start off slowly and build up gradually. The basic warm-up should last at least five minutes before the body is physically warm enough to go through the initial stretches. There are several aerobic options. If you have the information (and weather permits) walking is an excellent way. A walk around the block, starting off at an average daily pace and then building up to a very brisk walk, is a simple and effective option.

Many of us have redundant exercise equipment, such as exercise bikes, steppers or rowers, lying around the house gathering dust. Drag it out, wipe it down and use it! If it hasn't been used in a considerable period of time, it is advisable to check that it is in safe working order.

The same principle applies as for the options above when using exercise equipment start slowly and build up gradually. If neither of the above options appeals, put on some music and follow these basic aerobic moves.

Warm Up Workout
Marching Start off on the spot and then move forwards and backwards. Keep the feet softly flexed and don't slam them down. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight. Use your arms, keeping the elbows bent and the fists soft, and pump your arms as you march.

Marching Start off on the spot and then move forwards and backwards. Keep the feet softly flexed and don't slam them down. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight. Use your arms, keeping the elbows bent and the fists soft, and pump your arms as you march.

Continue for at least one minute.

Heel digs Moving on from the march, place alternate heels to the front, keeping the foot flexed. Punch your arms out straight in front. Keep the supporting knee soft and the back straight.

Continue for at least one minute.

Shoulder rolls Keep marching throughout this move. Using their fullest range of motion, gently roll your shoulder forwards five times and backwards five times. Let your arms hang loose by your side and just let your shoulders do the work.

Knee lifts Now bring up each knee to touch the alternate hand. Don't lean forwards or backwards. Keep the abdominal muscles tight and the back straight. Again make sure your supporting knee is not locked.

Continue for at least one minute.

Neck rolls March gently again keeping the back straight and your shoulders relaxed and down. Take your chin towards the right shoulder and slowly semi-circle down and over to the left shoulder. Repeat eight times side to side. Try to keep the move slow and continuous.

Knee bends Stand with your feet one and a half times hip-width apart. Begin by flexing at the knees and the hips. Make sure your knees travel in line with your toes and your back is straight. Don't take your bottom any lower than the line of your knees. Straighten up, taking care not to lock your knee joints.

Repeat eight times.

Side steps Step side to side now with long easy strides. Place the feet down toes first, heels following. Keep the body upright and the head lifted. Start with your hands on your hips and then begin to push the hands out in front every other stride.

Continue for at least one minute.

Leg curls Add to the side steps by bringing alternate heels up towards your bottom. Make sure your supporting knee is always soft and don't slam your feet down.

Continue for at least one minute.

Warm Up Stretches
Now the muscles are warm follow these short stretches for all-over body flexibility.

Top of back stretch (trapezius) Stand with feet hip-width apart and the knees slightly bent. Link the hands, with palms facing you, and reach out until you feel a stretch across the top of your back. Keep the elbows soft and the chin slightly down. Imagine you are hugging a beachball.

Back and waist stretch (latissimus dorsi and obliques) Stand with your feet one and a half times hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Lean to the right and reach up with the right hand. Then lean over to the left, supporting the torso with the opposite hand. Aim to feel the stretch all along the right side. Change sides.

Chest and front of shoulder (pectorals and anterior deltoid) Clasp the hands together behind the back and then lift slightly away from the body. Keep the elbows bent, back straight and abdominals tight. Aim to feel the stretch across the front of the chest.

Front of thigh (quadriceps) Use the wall for support if necessary. Keeping the back straight, flex the knee and grasp the ankle. Gently draw the heel to the bottom. Keep the supporting knee bent and try to keep the knees parallel. You should feel the stretch down the front of the bent thigh. Change legs.

Back of thigh (hamstring) Bend the left leg and extend the right one. Lean forwards keeping the right leg straight but the knee not locked. Place hands on left thigh. Aim to feel the stretch in the back of the right thigh. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight. Change legs.

Calf (gastrocnemius) Start with your feet hip width apart. Extend the right leg behind and bend the left knee. Keep the hips and shoulders square and ensure the feet stay hip-width apart to ensure stability. You should feel the stretch in the upper part of the back calf. Change legs.


By Anne-Marie Millard
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.

Author:

Biography: Anne-Marie Millard trained as a personal trainer before discovering martial arts, which she began to incorporate into her exercice routines. She went on to found a national agency of martial artists and personal trainers and has appeared in two videos: Fighting Fit and Tiffany Chapman's Fighting Fat Workout Video. Anne-Marie is also a fitness editor.

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