Warm Up Exercises for Dragonboating

Today I will talk about warming up for Dragonboating and what exercises I have used in our team. These are very common stretches and simple exercises that anyone can do and I highly recommend them before and after any training session and race. But firstly why warm-up and why don’t we get straight into a training session or race?

Why warm up?

  • warms your muscles by increasing the movement of blood through your tissues, making the muscles more supple;
  • increases delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles by increasing the blood flow to them;
  • prepares your muscles for stretching;
  • prepares your heart for an increase in activity;
  • prepares you mentally for the upcoming exercise; and
  • primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise.

Why don’t we get straight into a training session or race?
Warming up before a training session or race is simply to help prevent injury. While scientific studies are ongoing to define the best warm-up techniques to gain this injury-prevention advantage, the warm-up is an important aspect before any dragonboat session that a paddler undertakes.

Ensuring an effective warm up
To make your warm up effective, you need to do movements that increase your heart rate and breathing, and slightly increase the temperature of your muscle tissue. A good indication is warming up to the point where you have raised a light sweat. We would generally allow 5 to 10 minutes for your pre-exercise warm-up (or slightly longer in cold weather).

Warm-up options
Follow these options in the order listed.

    1. General warm-up. To begin your warm-up do 5 minutes of light (low intensity) physical activity such as walking, jogging on the spot. Pump your arms or make large but controlled circular movements with your arms to help warm the muscles of your upper body.

    2. Stretching. Any stretching is best performed after your muscles are warm, so only stretch after your general warm-up. Stretching muscles when they are cold may lead to a tear. Static stretching (stretching a muscle and holding it in this position without discomfort for 10-30 seconds) is considered the safest method of stretching. I will list some stretches that we recommend for Dragonboat specifically below, so keep reading.

    3. Dragonboat paddling warm-up. One of the best ways to warm up is to perform dragonboating strokes whilst out of the water. This will allow you to simulate at low intensity the movements you are about to perform at higher intensity during your session. For example, you may stand or sit on flat ground and pretend to hold your paddle out in front of you and start practising your stroke in mid air. Start with slow paddling as though you were in the boat to warm up your muscles and gradually increase it to a medium pace, until you feel that your muscles are loose and warmed up. Furthermore I would suggest also taking note to rotate your hip and back muscles so you will warm them up as well during your mid air warm up.

Dragonboat Stretches
These stretches below should be held at the point where you can feel the stretch but do not experience any discomfort. If you feel discomfort, ease back on the stretch. Remember not to bounce when holding the stretch. Don’t spend so long doing your stretches that your muscles cool down and your heart rate returns to normal.

Shoulder Strangle

1. Cross one arm horizontally over your chest, grasping it with either your hand or forearm, just above the elbow joint.

2. Exhale, slowly pulling your upper arm in toward your chest.

3. Aim to keep the hips and shoulders facing forward throughout the stretch.

Chest/Bicep-Wall Stretch

1. Place the palm, inner elbow, and shoulder of one arm against the wall.

2. Keeping the arm in contact with the wall, exhale and slowly turn your body around, to feel the stretch in your biceps and chest.

3. Adjust the hand position either higher or lower and repeat to stretch the multiple biceps and chest muscles.

Tricep Stretch

1. Extend one hand down the center of your back, fingers pointing downward.

2. Use the other hand to grasp the elbow.

3. Exhale slowly, pulling gently downward on your elbow, aiming to take your fingers along your spine.

Moderate Leg Over

1. Lie on your back, extending your left arm out to the side, while taking your left leg over your right, bringing the knee inline with the hips.

2. Keeping your right leg straight, use your right arm to push down on the knee of the left leg, exhaling slowly as you stretch.

Hamstring Stretch

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, one foot extended half a step forward.

2. Keeping the front leg straight, bend your rear leg, resting both hands on the bent thigh.

3. Slowly exhale, aiming to tilt both buttocks upward, keeping the front leg straight, and both feet flat on the floor, pointing forward.

4. Inhale slowly, and relax from this stretching exercise. Repeat the stretch again, this time beginning with the toes of the front foot raised toward the ceiling, but keeping the heel on the floor.

Quadriceps Standing

1. Stand holding onto a secure object, or have one hand raised out to the side for balance.

2. Raise one heel up toward your buttocks, and grasp hold of your foot, with one hand.

3. Inhale, slowly pulling your heel to your buttock while gradually pushing your pelvis forward.

4. Aim to keep both knees together, having a slight bend in the supporting leg.

Side Lunge

1. Stand upright, with both feet facing forward, double shoulder-width apart.

2. Place your hands on your hips, in order to keep your back straight, slowly exhale, taking your bodyweight across to one side.

3. Avoid leaning forward, or taking the knee of the bent leg over your toes. As you increase the stretch, the foot of the bent leg should point slightly outward.

4. To increase the stretch, relax upward, slowly sliding your feet out a few inches to the sides.

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