Radio Taiso Exercises
Radio Taiso exercises have been translated into English before, but I found these basic translations to be a bit dry! There was nothing really in them that explained why 10 MILLION Japanese people, young and old, practised these exercises every day of their (long) lives. Nothing in them to make you look at the movements and make you want to try them out. And don’t even get me started on the music…
Remind me what Radio Taiso is…
Radio Taiso is a very basic yet very useful daily bodyweight only exercise program. In Japan a short musical radio program (along with the voice of an instructor) leads MILLIONS of normal people through a workout that warms them up, stretches them out and prepares them for the day.
Why should I give Radio Taiso a go?
One of the reasons I think most of us find SOME difficulty in establishing a good fitness regimen is our lack of education. By that I mean our lack of education about what fitness is, about how our bodies work, about how and when to exercise for maximum effect. Coupled with that, exercising usually takes TIME, and not just the time spent exercising, but the time before and after too.
Radio Taiso covers your bases. Radio Taiso exercises will take your body through its full range of motion, and even if it is your ONLY dedicated fitness programme it will keep you in excellent basic shape.
Now of course you could just watch the video HERE but I honestly do not think a video alone is ever a good way to learn a workout / exercise routine. For a start (and I apologise to any Japanese readers) the music is off-putting. Secondly, as I have talked about before, if you only FOLLOW you never learn WHY you are doing something.
Tried and tested exercises
When writing about the Daily Dozen program last year I mentioned how the exercises I pay most attention to are the ones that stand the test of time. Let’s take a look at the second exercise in the Radio Taiso program:
Exercise 2: Getting the blood flowing
Exercises to promote good blood circulation throughout the body need not be ‘intensive’ or require any kind of crazy poses. This exercise involves both arm and leg movement, so stimulates blood flow in each of these areas.
Focus: The focus on this exercise is the simple rhythmic grace of the movements. This exercise is not too far removed from the NATURAL movements we make when we are cold – we stomp our feet and slap our arms around ourselves. The reason this works is because those types of movement ENCOURAGE the flow of blood to the extremities. When you tense up you are quite literally cutting off your own blood supply which means you will tire quickly and feel fatigued. By learning to relax your arms and your legs (as well as the rest of your body) you will quickly feel the benefits of FRESH and CLEAN blood pulsing through you!
I’m going to split the instruction for this exercise into 2 parts, and I would recommend practising each part separately before trying to put them together.
Part 1: Arms.
Raise both arms out in front of you and cross the left arm over the right so your left elbow is on top of your right elbow (or as close as you can comfortably get). Your hands are open and your palms are facing down.
As if both arms are suddenly very heavy, ‘drop’ both arms down in front of your body (uncrossing naturally as you do so), then make light fists with both hands and continue the movement by raising both arms out to the side to a little above shoulder height (you should strive to reach at least shoulder height). Imagine this as a ‘flapping’ motion. You are a bird soaring through the sky. If your wings are too floppy, you will fall. If your wings are too rigid you will fall. Aim for a loose but forceful movement and you will soon feel yourself soaring.
Raising the arms out to the side like this is the SAME movement as something called the lateral raise – an exercise with weights that is part of almost EVERY good shoulder building routine. This weight free version is every bit as good and important!
Open your hands again as you return to the starting position.
Part 2: Legs.
Start with your heels together and your feet at around a 45 degree angle. Come up on to tiptoes. Pause. Drop heels a little as you bend the knees slightly out to the same angle as the feet. The best mental imagery I have found for this is a ballerina doing the ‘plie’ (which literally means half-bend). Your feet will not be turned out as far as a ballerina, but the intent and the result is similar: The movement will work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, ankles, and feet. Straighten legs and rise on to tiptoes again, and then drop on back down to heels.
Step by step: Feet flat, tiptoes, lower heels slightly, bend knees, straighten knees, tiptoes, feet flat.
Putting the 2 together: Start with your feet as described above and with your arms down by your sides. As you bring your arms up in front of you rise up on your tiptoes. Drop your arms, drop your heels slightly and bend your knees. Raise the arms, straighten the knees and come up on tiptoes. Lower arms, lower heels. Raise arms up in front, begin exercise over again.
Review: This is not an easy exercise to get right at first – but it is worth persevering with. You will be proud of yourself and amazed at the improvements in your coordination after learning and practising this move over the coming weeks and months.
Repetitions: Eight to twelve repetitions of this exercise are enough to get the blood pumping. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t quite ‘get’ it at first. These exercises are meant to help you manage stress, not cause more!
Breathing: With the UP movements, breath in, with the DOWN movements breath out.
I like to vary what I do with my hands during this exercise – you may feel a natural inclination to open and close your hands as you go through the various motions, and I say go for it!
So many words!!
It IS wordy. Describing something properly takes words. Learning something properly means taking a little time to understand what it is you’re doing, and why. In case you missed it, this is why this particular exercise is good:
The movement will work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, ankles, and feet.
There is ALSO back, shoulder and arm involvement! It’s one helluva exercise!
Once you understand it though – ONE picture. One picture will remind you which exercise it is. Can you start to see how fitness will get a LOT easier the more you learn.
A great exercise for tired legs
Here is a variation of the SAME exercise from a wonderful booklet titled “Be as Fit as a Fiddle” from the 1930’s:
Starting position – Hands on hips.
Raise the heels from the ground as high as possible, keeping them together, legs straight, body and head erect.
Still keeping the heels together, bend the knees outward (as picture).
Straighten the knees evenly, keeping the heels raised. Judge a short pause and lower the heels.
Perform this movement four times to begin with, breathing in deeply as you bend the knees and exhaling as you raise upwards. All the muscles of the legs come into play. The carriage of the body will be greatly improved, while that tired, lifeless feeling about the legs caused by much walking on hard pavements will be entirely overcome by this exercise.It teaches you how to walk on the ball of your foot. It is an invaluable corrective exercise for flat feet – a defect which is widespread.
Increased agility and that delightful sensation of “being on the toes,” or ready to move about quickly in any direction, are worth trying to attain. This exercise will produce it.
So there you have it – Radio Taiso – or in English – A very good bodyweight exercise routine!