Stretches for martial arts
Have you ever wondered how to improve your flexibility and mobility? Even if you don’t consider yourself flexible, daily stretches can help you to kick higher.
Muscle flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen and allow joints to move through a range of motion. There is some debate about the effectiveness of stretching, however stretches are commonly carried out before exercise as they can improve muscle flexibility, prevent injury and enhance performance. Stretching can be very valuable as a martial artist, especially if you’re not naturally flexible.
Current scientific based research suggests that Dynamic stretches (stretching in motion) is best for the beginning of a workout and can be included in the warmup itself. Static stretches which we go into a bit more in the next section is better performed at the end of your workout.
Maintenance flexibility: Static stretching should be held for 15-30 seconds.
Improving flexibility: Static stretches for 30-60 seconds.
Static stretches are the most widely used as they are easy to understand and implement. A static stretch is performed by placing muscles at their greatest length and holding that position. For example, with a quad stretch, you bend your knee, lift your foot and push your hips forward, which elongates the muscles.
To increase flexibility, you need to stretch regularly and push the stretch, but never rush and push stretches too far, as this can lead to injury. Other injuries may be prevented by stretching both after warm up, and after training finishes. This is because muscles are loose for the training session and are also less likely to seize and stiffen after training.
It is important to stretch corresponding muscles. For example, if you stretch your quad muscles, you should also stretch your hamstring. By flexing your quad, your hamstring extends, so by stretching both muscles you are less likely to make some muscles compensate for others.
Some of my favourite individual static stretches for martial arts:
(Please stretch within your limits and don’t push a stretch past a point where it hurts or causes discomfort. We do not accept responsibility for any injuries obtained by using these stretches!)
Quad stretch – This one is a slight variation on our normal hipflexor stretch. Kneel with one knee on the ground and hold onto your foot, bringing your heel towards your back. Push your hips forward to make the stretch more intense.
Glute stretch – Our most frequently used glute stretch at Wilkes Martial Arts is one of my go-to glute stretches. Bend one leg in front, and either have your back leg bent (so your legs make an S shape), or straight. I prefer keeping my back leg straight as the stretch feels a bit better to me. Leaning forward (head towards your toes) also helps to intensify the stretch.
Glute stretch #2 – This is a variation which you can do laying on your back. Bend one knee and place the opposite ankle on top. Hold onto your thigh (of the bottom leg) and pull your leg towards you. Although both of these glute stretches are good, my favourite is a partner stretch which I will talk about next time!
Full splits – This is an alternative to our normal groin stretch and is excellent for flexibility. First, sit with your legs apart and lean slowly forward. You can relax and then repeat this stretch a couple of times. I also like to lean down to each side, and also lean to the back (pictured). It is important to build up this flexibility slowly, and don’t force the stretch to a point where it is painful.
Half splits – Crouch down onto one leg and keep the other leg straight. This is another groin stretch that I find easier than the full splits. To deepen the stretch, you can use your elbow/arm to push your bent knee outwards, and your other arm to reach down towards your toes.
Hamstring stretch – Sit on the ground and lift up one leg, making sure that your knee is not bent. If you’re not very flexible, you may like to use one hand to push down on your knee, keeping it straight. Alternatively, you may like to use your other hand to hold onto your heel. Try to push the ball of your foot forward, and maintain good posture.
That’s all for now 🙂
– Miss Busher