A true athlete knows that stretching before a workout is imperative if you want to remain injury-free, so martial artist and actor Jean Claude Van Damme came up with the perfect set of stretches that will get each part of your body ready for action.
However, before diving into the exercises, you need to know how to stay in a straight position, from head to toes. Van Damme states this countless times during his lesson. Therefore, here are Jean Claude’s instructions for a perfectly straight position:
- Keep your feet pointing straight ahead (not to your sides).
- Tilt your hips forward (don’t arch your lower back).
- Keep your shoulders back and down (chest popping out).
- Raise your chin.
If you respect all of the above, Van Damme guarantees that when you “go into a restaurant, you go into a bar, people look at you because you have a strong physical presence”.
Now, since we’ve already learned how to keep a proper straight posture, we can find out how to get ready for an injury-free workout in Jean Claude Van Damme’s style.
Upper body warm-up
This part of Van Damme’s stretching routine will get your back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips ready to perform at the highest level during your workout.
1. Full body wall stretch
This move is an ice-breaker that warm-ups both your upper and lower body. Before all, don’t forget to always stay with your back straight.
- Put your hands straight and flat on a wall.
- Take a few steps back until your legs are straight.
- Lower your hands on the wall if you feel flexible, but don’t curve your back while doing it.
- Maintain the position for 8 seconds; 3 sets
Note: If you have a ‘big stomach’ put your hands up because your belly will curve your spine otherwise. Also, in the third set, try squeezing your buttocks while stretching once per second.
2. Back stretching
While having a yogistic ring to it, this stretch will open up your lungs and get the blood flowing throughout your back muscles.
- Keep your hands tight to your sides
- Inhale while raising your arms to the sky
- Put your hands together and lock fingers
- Exhale and maintain the position for 8 seconds in the first set; in the second and third set, go from left to right while maintaining position for 4 seconds on each side
Note: for the more advanced, Van Damme advises to do this exercise with your feet kept close together.
3. Shoulder stretch nr. 1
Before starting this exercise, Van Damme advises taking a deep breath using your arms “to open the lungs and the cage.” Also, don’t forget to keep everything straight, including your head.
- Keep your hands tight to your sides.
- Raise them to the sky.
- Put your right hand behind your head or your neck, if you have the flexibility.
- Grab your right arm’s elbow with your left hand and pull gently, stretching the right side of your body; change sides.
- Keep the position for 8 seconds; 2 sets on each side.
4. Shoulder circles
This exercise will “make space for your heart” as JCVD likes to say.
- Remember to stay straight
- Rotate your shoulders backward; then forwards.
- Do 4 backward rotations and 4 forward rotations; 3 sets.
Note: if you have poor shoulder flexibility, move slowly.
5. Elbows warm-up
After doing this exercise, you will find that your usual elbow strain whenever you do triceps or push-ups disappears.
- Keep your feet together and bend them about 30 degrees
- Extend the thumb of your right hand and lock your hand between the knees (the arm should be straight)
- Grab your elbow with your left hand
- Rotate slowly for 8 times and then switch; 2 sets for each hand
Firstly, you should know that quality it’s more important than quantity here and in general. So be sure to concentrate on your form. Also, if you do it right, Van Damme guarantees that your forearms will get as big as his.
- Bend your right arm and raise your elbow to shoulder-level
- Grab your right arm with your left underneath the wrist
- Rotate your wrist
- Do 8 rotations on each side; 2 sets per side.
Bonus moves: lock your fingers and begin rotating for one set; extend your arms and begin closing and stretching your hands 50 times per day.
These wrist warm-up exercises are especially useful if done before workouts that are pretty demanding on the wrists, like our at-home biceps workout.
7. Neck stretching
You definitely want to prepare your neck muscles and the cervical spine for your workouts.
- Slowly rotate your neck from side to side; 1 set, 8 reps.
- Same as point 1, but gently push your chin in the direction you rotate to stretch the neck a little more; 1 set, 8 reps.
- Do 8 reps of full neck rotations. If you go dizzy, Van Damme’s advice is to stay in front of a wall or a table while doing the rotations.
With this exercise, it’s very important to start slowly and increase the range as you get going.
- Put your hands on your hips
- Move your hips from side to side at first
- Rotate your hips 8 times clockwise and counter wise.
9. Hip side extension
Working on your hips’ flexibility will bring amazing benefits to all your other exercises, so be sure to stretch them properly.
- Hands flat on the hips and legs shoulder-width apart.
- Start to push slowly on to the right side and then to the left (hold 8 seconds on each side).
- After you get used to the move, you can play with variations.
10. Hip abductors stretching
Did we mention that this warm-up made by Jean Claude Van Damme will not only get your body ready for an intensive workout, but it will also drastically improve your mobility.
- Put two towels on the floor at a distance equal to the one between your feet when you have a wide stance.
- Place your knees on the towels.
- Slide the towels to your sides using your knees while supporting yourself on your forearms.
- After you extend your hips and knees at your maximum capacity, go forwards and backward for an even better stretch (for a total of 8 reps).
- Take things to the next level by keeping your feet at 90 degrees, just like a frog, and extend them alternatively for 8 reps.
- Come back to your feet by slowly approaching your knees; go into squat position and, then, up.
Note: If you need a chair to keep your balance, place one in front of you.
Lower body warm-up
Van Damme says that legs are very important because they are the foundation, the pillar of the temple, so be sure to stretch them properly. This way you will be able to train them effectively afterwards.
1. Knees and ankles
See your squat game leveling up as you incorporate this exercise into your warm-up routine.
- Bend your knees about 45 degrees.
- Make your hands in spoon-like shape and place them on your knees.
- Rotate the knees for 6 times on each side; you can add a complete rotation at the end if you feel like.
2. Buttocks, lateral abs and the knees
The following two exercises will reinforce the middle of the body and the knees.
- Stay in front of a wall with your legs shoulder width apart and, as previously stated, keep everything straight.
- Put your hands on the wall.
- Raise your legs – while keeping them straight – to your sides alternatively (you can keep them in air for a few seconds)
- Do a total of 36 reps.
Note: If you get more advanced, you can do circles while you keep your legs in the air. Also, you can bring them to your back and front instead of your sides.
- Stay in front of a wall with your legs shoulder width apart.
- Put your hands on the wall.
- Raise your knees to your sides and open up the hips.
- Do a total of 8 reps.
3. Achilles tendon and calves
Van Damme says the Achilles tendon is a very important part to train before a workout.
- Stay in front of a wall with your hands on it.
- Put a stack of 3-4 hard books (or something else, like a ladder) in front of you.
- Place the ball of your right foot on the books and the heel of the foot on the floor. Always keep your legs straight.
- Lean toward to wall to stretch the Achilles tendon.
Bonus note: keep your feet pointing a little bit inside for a better warm-up of the calves.
Van Damme warns that women especially like this stretch.
- Get your shoes off.
- Stretch your toe gently on all sides: front, back, right, left; do a rotation as well.
Now, thanks to Van Damme, you have a perfect warm-up program that will get every part of your body ready even for the most intense workout. Also, don’t be surprised if you will soon be able to do his famous “epic split”, because these stretches are developing your flexibility as well.