Stretching for martial arts

George Hynec

Here are some thoughts on stretching for martial arts and similar sports where kicks.. and sometimes fists, are used (e.g. soccer, football, rugby)

Rule number 1 – stretching should be sport specific. I.e. you can’t stretch the same way for your kickboxing class as you would for a 5 km run! Incidentally if you are a runner – don’t ‘push the tree’ prior to your run. The tree does not like it and it is not good for you anyway.

Rule number 2 – stretch dynamically prior to your training session. Warm up for a few minutes before taking on dynamic stretching. The movement should mimic the activity you are about to undertake. For example, perform front, side and back leg raises in preparation for kicking. Start easy at first gradually increasing the height. Always aim at a target such as an outstretched hand. If you don’t have a target you risk overextending the movement which can lead to injury.

Rule number 3 - Do not stretch statically prior to training. It is well documented that this can lead to injuries as you are stretching cold muscles. You are also weakening your muscle prior to training – something you don’t want. Heavy static stretching anesthetizes the muscle. When you then start performing your high kicks, the stretch receptors will not be as alert as they have been previously ‘programmed’ to tolerate the pain – a good way to get injured in a hurry !

Rule number 4 – Stretch statically, preferably using C&R (contract and relax) method after your workout when your muscles are most pliable. The idea is to contract the muscle while it is in a stretched position and therefore strengthening it in the process. You hold it for a few seconds, exhale and drop further into the stretch and repeat several time. You will be amazed how further you will be able to stretch by using this technique.

It is not good enough to have fantastic flexibility with hardly any power when delivering a high kick or an  awkward punch. Stretching with the C&R method also reduces your chances of getting injured….and that’s got to be a good thing.

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