As with many martial arts, flexibility training is a key part of the lesson structure. Is being able to perform the splits essential? No. Sure, if you have a wider range of flexibility you will be able to train to do higher kicks but it is the technique that is most important and through continued training those techniques will improve in speed, power, accuracy and timing.
So why stretch? Stretching (even outside of martial arts) has shown to give both physical and mental benefits. Increasing your flexibility will not only lengthen your muscles helping you feel more mobile in your daily life, but the act of regular stretching can help your mind and spirit.
Disclaimer: Work within your own limits, never over stretch and as always, consult your doctor should you be in any doubt that a stretching routine may cause or exacerbate an existing injury.Use common sense …
There are many types of stretching, focusing on any individual one will not give the best overall result. For the ideal stretching routine, combine a number of the following types of stretch:
- Static stretching
- Dynamic stretching
- Isometric stretching
- Active stretching
- Passive stretching
Stretching a muscle to it’s furthest point and then holding that position.
Controlled movements (e.g. swinging the leg from front to back) to increase the range of movement in a particular part of the body.
A type of static stretching which utilises isometric contractions (tensing) of the stretched muscles.
Holding a stretch with no assistance other than the strength of the opposing muscles.
Utilising another person or an object to assist in bringing a joint from a relaxed position through it’s full range of motion.
If you are going to give yourself a regular stretching routine, its just as important to know when not to stretch. You need to find the balance between muscle tension and muscle flexibility. Over stretching muscles will leave them susceptible to injury. It’s better to perform lighter stretching before and during exercise, then save the intense stretching for after the workout. This way your muscles will not have been stretched to their limits without time to recover before being put under further stress during training.
Warm-up before stretching! Remember, stretching can be stressful on the body and should be considered and activity in itself, therefore take time to warm-up before stretching!