Facing each other, each person holds the hands of their partner in a monkey-grip position, ie fingers curled inside the palm of partner.
Place one foot forward towards the other to establish a balanced stance.
Starting slowly, ask each person to begin to push their arms in and out, pumping back and forth alternately to their partner.
Gradually build up the pace and momentum until the pair cannot move their co-joined arms any faster.
Once out of breath, stop and let go.
Video Transcript for Woodcutters Warm-Up
presented by Mark Collard
Okay, can I ask for a volunteer to step forward? I’d like to show you this next exercise. It won’t matter who it is.
Okay, great. Let’s stand over here so we can all see it. Standing facing one another, and I would suggest that you use the, what we call, monkey’s grip. Do you refer to this as a monkey’s grip? Jim, what do you call this?
Holding hands. We call this the monkey’s grip. Alright.
And with one foot forward, naturally having to get yourself ready, I’d like you to imagine that these are pistons, but in fact it could also be viewed as like one end of a very long saw that as woodcutters, we would be using to cut through at some major trunk of a tree.
And starting off slowly, and then gradually increasing in pace you’ll need to be balanced in that position, and then you start to go, sh-sh-sh… Quicker, quicker… Sh-sh-sh… Alright, you got the idea. Give it a go.
Just when you think you’ve gone quick enough, go a little quicker.
(people playing Woodcutters Warm-Up)
Go quicker, even quicker.
How To Play Narrative
This is the perfect ten-second warm-up for those cold, winter days, or any moment you need to raise the energy.
Everyone needs a partner who could benefit from a quick energy boost as much as they do.
Facing each other, ask partners to hold hands in what’s known as the monkey grip position, whereby the fingers of each person curl inside the palm of their partner, with thumps sitting on top.
By way of demonstration, look your partner squarely in the eye, and slowly – and I mean slowly – start pumping back and forth with your arms. That is, push your left arm out, while pulling your right arm in, back and forth, back and forth.
Like a steam train that is gathering momentum chug by chug, you get faster and faster, until you think you can’t go any faster. But you try, and you do go faster, and finally – pfffttt – you fall down in a heap on the ground and can’t believe you were feeling cold a few moments ago!
Done. Warmed-up, and ready to move. If not, pick up with a new partner.
Practical Leadership Tips
Caution people about (a) gripping too tightly, lest they penetrate their fingernails into the palm of their unsuspecting partner, or (b) exerting too much back-and-forth motion that one or both partners pull a muscle.
Emphasise the ‘start slowly and build’ up preparation. Only this approach will allow each partnership to truly know how far they can push the exertion before reaching their limit.
Embedded in the instructions is a note to place one foot in front of the other. This is really necessary, to help establish a balanced stance for each person, especially when the pace really builds.
You could integrate Woodcutter’s Warm-Up as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a fast and furious warm-up.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to interact and engage safely with one’s partner may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite each partnership to reflect on the level of safety consciousness that was demonstrated during the activity, especially if you happen to observe that some people went a little over the top in terms of their enthusiasm or energy, ie compared to their partner.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Woodcutter’s Warm-Up could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Swap Arms: As above, but involve the less-dominant arm/ hands.
Circle Warm-Up: Form a tight circle of fellow lumberjacks or jills, and hold the hands of your two neighbours. You know the rest.
Quick Warm-Ups: Take a look at Toe Tag and Skipping Rope to experience two more rapid warm-up exercises.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Back in the olden days, I can’t imagine how cold it must have been without central heating and fleece to protect us from the outdoors in the wintertime. Think of the many people who work outside, like lumberjacks, chopping trees and wood all day. How did they keep themselves warm? I think I have an idea…
Have you ever seen a steam-train start to move? There’s a lot of steam and noise and a bit of slipping for a while, and then ever so slowly, the wheels start to turn, and then a little faster, and then faster, and before you know it, the train is cruising along. I’d like you all to experience that feeling of building up a head of steam, as it was called in the day, with this next exercise…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly energetic, warm-up:
Were you surprised how quickly you warmed up?
What was necessary to develop a good rhythm between you and your partner?
Can you think of another area of your life that would benefit from developing a good rhythm?
The inspiration for Woodcutters Warm-Up, and many more energetic warm-up exercises, was sourced from the following publication: