Generic warm ups are great for preparing for the specifics of the training session to come. And they’re a great ‘catch all’ for group sessions. But, there’s a load of value being missed if you don’t take the opportunity to address some of your own personal issues.
What you need is not what everyone else needs. You probably instinctively know some of the areas you need more time on to feel good in the session. And these areas may not be something you particularly enjoy. Let’s face it, we all tend to avoid stuff we’re not so good at and go straight for the glory of the stuff we find easy. “There’s nothing wrong with strengthening your strengths, but when it come to your body, addressing areas of critical weakness is crucial for long-term development rather than basking in the short-term warm and fuzzy feeling that comes of stroking your ego a little.” – Lee McCurrach
And guess what, when you reclaim lost movement or ability, it becomes your new best thing! We ALL have problem areas. Accept this and don’t try and hide it – you’re only kidding yourself – everyone else sees your flaws. I think entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s approach to self-awareness hits the nail on the head, “I don’t fear being self aware. I know I suck at a lot of stuff.”
“We’re all equally cursed and blessed, we all have a unique training and injury history. And this shapes the most beneficial approach for you as an individual, your ‘game changers’. I see many different private coaching clients, all with their own unique challenges – there are some common ones, sure, but the mix is always unique. My advice is to shine a self-aware spotlight on yourself and see what’s there. Accept with 100% responsibility what you find, and then get to work.” – Orlando Waugh – Fort Worth Martial Arts Academy
Personalised Warm Up
So back to the warm up… I’m not suggesting your whole warm up is purely your own thing. You’ll need some general movement preparation for the session to come, which will be the same for everyone. But, it’s also an opportunity to spend about 5 minutes on you too, going at your problem areas.
This may not seem long, but with consistency, those minutes add up and make a massive difference. Even if you train just four times a week, in a month that’s approaching an hour and a half spent dedicated to really making YOU better.
Find The Time
If you can’t squeeze in a movement here and there as part of group session warm up, just turn up 5 minutes early and do it before you start. I’m also big on ‘active rest’. I dial-in a lot of corrective/mobility work in the rest periods between more intense exercise intervals or sets. As long as whatever you work on still allows important energy systems and local muscle groups to recover before the next set, then crack on.
What To Do
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fix everything at once. Pick the priority issues and blast them. It’s the 80/20 rule; 80% of your problems arise from the other 20%. Save yourself a ton of wasted time and effort and address the core 20% and see the remaining 80% clear up as if by magic!
Here’s another article I’ve written about this if you’re interested in learning more: Muay Thai Game-changers: The 80–20 Rule
If you get yourself in front of a good strength and conditioning coach, they’ll watch you move, and with a few screening movements pick out your key dysfunctional habits and give you methods to improve them. This is ideal, but you won’t all have physical access to someone who can do that for you.
When I put together programmes for Muay Thai fighters that I can’t observe in person, I always include warm up/active rest work that counters the common issues that I find with Thai boxers. And to give you the best value in this article, here are a few of those issues and what to do about it.
Thai boxers are always smashing up or rolling over their ankles, and as a result ankle range of motion gets screwed up. If you leave this unchecked, eventually it’ll cascade through your body like an avalanche – knees become painful, hips, then lower back and so on. The way your foot interacts with the ground affects everything else further up the chain of movement, so don’t fall at the first hurdle, look after your ankles!
You should be able to flex your knee a good 125mm or 5” past your toes in bare feet while keeping your heel down on the floor. If you can’t, work on it. You also don’t want one ankle more mobile than the other – you’re actually better off with two equally stiff ankles rather than one a lot better than the other. So if you have a difference, work on the tight one as shown in this video, so it catches up.
Sore lower backs are also common with more intense martial arts training, and this is usually due to poor movement mechanics at the hip. If you’re hips aren’t generating the movement they should, you’re lower back will take up the slack – and eventually it’ll let you know about it. In the following video I show you how to use the Cook Hip Lift to both check out if you move correctly, and correct it!
Scapular Retractor Activation
I see a lot of poor upper body posture and shoulder injuries in fighters. We spend a great deal of time with our shoulders rounded forwards in a fighting stance throwing punches. This makes for a long, weak and/or under active muscles controlling your shoulder blades.
The scapular stabilisers need work to bring them back in the game, or your lack of muscular balance will rob you of full power and ultimately result in injury. This final video from my online program shows you just how to switch on these muscles, regain control of your shoulder blades and save your shoulders.
Squeeze Them In
So there are a few ideas to get you going. If you add these into your warm up and/or active rest periods I guarantee you’ll notice the difference. And you’ll eventually bust through some long-term sticking points too. If you’ve got some personal movement issues to address, then get on it, work out your kinks. Consistently taking a few minutes here and there will have a dramatic effect down the road. Preparing your body for what you need it to do, is as important as doing what you need it to do.