“The warmup of our workout is very important, since we’re getting the muscles going,” says Sensei Ash, a fourth degree black belt and founder of Family Fitness Revolution in Los Angeles. “Kicking itself is basically a mobility workout. When you lift your leg up straight, not only are you opening up your hip flexors, but you’re opening your quads and your hamstrings. So it’s not only building muscle, but improving your mobility.”
Before he throws one kick, Ash’s karate warmup involves a dynamic stretching routine that primes the body for some martial arts. “Sitting there trying to touch your toes is not going to do much,” he says, noting that he always takes the first 15 minutes of his training to stretch and mobilize through compound movements. In the mix for his pre-kicking work are frog jumps, bear crawls, and duck walks, all of which primarily focus on the lower body.
Also key for a karate pro? Having a strong core. “Everything comes from the core—your balance, your coordination, your power, your kicking, it all comes from your core,” says Ash. Think about it: You can’t throw a punch without twisting from your torso. To see what it’s like for a professional martial arts instructor to get warmed up for some hard-core kicking, keep scrolling for his karate-focused mobility warmup.
4 karate warmup exercises anyone can do
“One of the best exercises in the world is a plank because it’s so simple and so effective,” says Ash of the classic core-strengthening move. “It can literally build up your entire core, your leg muscles, and your arm muscles at the same time, and it’s easy on the back.” Make sure that your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, your feet are straight behind you and in line with your head, and your core is engaged.
2. Frog jumps
This dynamic warmup exercise involves jumping all the way up from the ground from a frog-like squat. You’ll benefit by having more opened-up hip flexors, warmed-up ankles, and a stronger back and legs. Begin in a low squat with your hamstrings on top of your calves. With your hands flat on the floor in front of you, transfer your weight into your hands to jump up, then landing back in the low squat. Jump with your feet outside of your hands (a la a frog).
3. Bear crawls
Bear crawls, according to Ash, are great because they open up the shoulders and hips while lubricating all of your joints for serious kicking. To do the move, get down on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Press through your hands and hover with your knees off of the floor at a 90-degree angle. Move your right hand forward and left leg forward at the same time while keeping your hips level the entire time.
4. Duck walk
A duck walk is similar to a frog jump, but instead of hopping, you’re staying crouched in a squat as you move forward. Ash likes this exercise since it’s another one that mobilizes the hips for roundhouse kicks. Start in a deep squat, and step one foot out and then the other to move forward, all while keeping your torso lifted.
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