As a beginning mixed-martial arts fighter, I got anxious just wrapping my hands before class. The checklist of things I needed to accomplish before stepping into the ring seemed overwhelming. Not only did I have to master the art of hand wrapping and change into my fight gear, I needed to increase my core temperature, prime my mobility, and give my central nervous system a jolt.
Add in traffic on the way to the gym, especially in a city like Los Angeles, and a warm-up ritual can quickly become rushed and unfocused.
No matter what your sport, when you are pressed for time, the following four exercises are efficient and effective enough to prepare you for the battle ahead. They progress from the floor to a standing position while addressing each joint's mobility and stability. They will help prevent injury and improve your performance.
The Fast Four
1. Assisted Leg Lowers
This exercise offers a good bang for your buck by improving hip mobility and stability through proper leg separation patterning, core activation, and increasing hamstring length. The movement also improves the hip hinge needed to touch your toes, perform a Deadlift or get into your combat stance.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight up against a wall or held by a partner.
- Lower your left leg to the side, bringing your heel to the floor without arching your lower back.
- Tighten your core and slowly bring your left leg up to the starting position, keeping the knee straight.
- Perform 10 repetitions on each leg.
2. Quadruped T-Spine Rotation
This drill will help you improve your posture and upper-body rotation.
- Start in a quadruped position on your elbows and knees.
- Place one hand on your low back with your palm facing up. Rotate your shoulder up on that side.
- Push the planted elbow into the ground to increase rotation.
- Perform 5 to 8 repetitions per side.
3. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor with Lift
This movement addresses lower-body stability and mobilizes the quad and hip flexor muscles. It is one of the best glute activation exercises.
- Start in a half-kneeling position with one leg in front of the other.
- Without moving your lower body, rotate your thoracic spine and shoulders toward your front knee. A helpful cue: squeeze the glute on the side of your down knee.
- Reach your arms up and maintain a tall posture.
- To increase the difficulty, decrease the width and narrow your stance.
- Perform 10 repetitions per side.
4. Wall or Floor Scapular Slides
This one is typically done in a standing position, but if your shoulder mobility is restricted, you may want to do it on the ground. Scapular Slides increase glenohumeral range of motion and improve scapular (shoulder blade) stability. Plus, they open up the chest and set the shoulders to improve posture.
- Begin with your back against the wall or lying on the floor with a neutral spine.
- Extend your arms overhead.
- Slowly pull your elbows down to your sides while keeping your wrists as close to the wall (or floor) as possible. This should cause your shoulder blades to go down and back.
- Reach up to the start position. Do not let your rib cage flare.
- You should feel some activation of your upper back muscles and a stretch in the front of your shoulders.
- Perform 10 repetitions.
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