Warm-up & Stretching for Wushu
Warm-up & Stretching in Wushu
Warm-up is essential for any practice and competition. A proper warm-up will enhance our flexibility, power, strength and more importantly, will reduce the risk of injury. There are many concepts in regard to warm-up and flexibility that are often misunderstood. My goal here is to present some of these concepts so that we can either refine our warm-up routine, improve our flexibility, or alter our exercise drills for Wushu practice. This article will be divided into two parts, the first will be dealing with the warm-up routine then the second part will be summarizing how to improve flexibility. Remember that these are very condensed and practical articles. There is more information regarding warm-up and flexibility, for which I recommend reading articles from peer-reviewed strength and conditioning journals. Other than that, this article will provide you with the basic understanding of warm-up.
There are two main types of warm-ups: General and Specific. In the general portion we want to raise your body temperature, which will improve our blood circulation, muscular contraction and flexibility. The specific warm-up places an emphasis on getting the body ready for the physiological demands of the sports. A great example of this is when we do “JIBENGONG”.
Types of Stretching
People often confuse stretching with warm-up. Stretching is a method used to improve flexibility, which is used during warm-up exercises. There are four different types of stretching: ballistic, dynamic, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and static stretching. Each of these have their place and time during Wushu practice. Dynamic stretching refers to the use of cyclical movements directed to improve flexibility and body temperature. These are often done in place or while running in the carpet. Static stretching requires a person to hold a certain position for 10-30 seconds. A great example of that is holding a split position. Ballistic stretching requires a person to hold a position (similar to static stretching) and then bounce in a control manner. For example, we can do a PUBU stance and then bounce up/down for 10-30 seconds. Lastly, we have the PNF stretching. This is the most effective method to improve flexibility, which involves using a partner. I will discuss this in the next article. Table 1 shows a description and an example of each stretching modality. Table 1 shows when the stretching modality is the most appropriate to use. There other examples that you can simply copy and search for on YouTube.
Static vs. Dynamic stretching.
While there are several studies that indicate that static stretching diminishes force and power production in the vertical jump, people need to be aware that these studies have not been done with Wushu athletes. One of the main differences between the recreational college athlete and the Wushu athlete, is that the Wushu athlete is often required to exhibit a higher degree of flexibility compared to a recreational athlete. For example in those studies, the subjects were only needed to do vertical jumps, whereas, in competition and practice, Wushu athletes were required to kick way higher above shoulder level and sometimes land into splits. Also we need to be aware that Wushu is not a pure strength and power sport, it requires its athletes to exhibit these qualities because it is also an aesthetic sport. Therefore, while a static stretching does diminish your power capabilities, it also improves your flexibility more than dynamic stretching.
Warm-up Stretching order: Team practice vs Individual practice.
I’m aware that most of you reading this article belong to a school and practice team warm-ups. In this case, I argue for a hybrid approach which there is a use of static, dynamic, and ballistic stretching. Figure 1 exemplifies a basic warm-up routine. The international athlete from the Mexico Wushu Team, Dante Gamboa, was kind enough to share with us a basic warm-up routine that he uses with his students.
For the advance athletes or practitioners that train on their own, I would like to take two different approaches. As I said before, static stretching improves flexibility better than dynamic stretching, but dynamic stretching improves power and force production better than static stretching. The first approach is for those who lack of flexibility. This exercise is for those who are doing the same warm-up routine as our friend, Dante Gamboa, who showed us in the previous video. The second approach is jumping straight into dynamic warm up. I advocate this warm-up for those who are naturally flexible, for the Wushu practitioners who only need a short warm-up and for those that need to perform 540 jumps or 720s. Figure 2 exemplifies the stretching order for an advance athlete.
I personally prefer doing dynamic warm up because it is more fun and engaging to do. These warm-up routines are not set in stone and you can always alter routines around to see what fits you better. However, this article presents some ideas and concepts that are related to warm-ups and how I like to implement those. In the next article, we will cover more in-depth how to improve flexibility, tips, and exercises that can be used after practice. If there are any questions or warm-up routines you would like to share with us, please contact me!
*I would like to thank Dante Gamboa for preparing and sharing a warm-up routine, and also Justine Agalos who helped me revising this article