Martial Arts have that fascinating dynamism and speed that require your body to be flexible, and all of you knows that a flexible body means higher standards in your techniques.
I still have in my mind the first time I saw Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking an opponent while splitting his legs in 180 degree …and that was AWESOME!
In my little boy mind I wanted to do it right away …and that’s when I pulled my leg muscles too much, and learned the importance of warming up and stretch correctly.
Stretching is a key factor in Martial Arts and there are different ways and movements your teacher/instructor will show you depending on your specific Martial Art. However keep in mind few important points that will help you to get the most out of your training.
First off, let me remind you my personal Golden rule: More train, More gain (I prefer this positive version 🙂 ).
You should stretch almost every day if you want your body to give you the flexibility you want. By “almost every day” I mean “Every day, but take 1 day off every 7-10 days”.
Be Warmed up
For better results you should have blood flowing and pumping to lubricate and oxygenate the muscles while stretching. After a good warm up or at the end of a work out is the best time.
A light warm up is OK too, as long as you keep your blood flowing.
Remember, blood carries vital energy to your body, let it flow.
Remember to Breathe
Keep calm and breathe. Control your breathing by inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth after holding it for a moment. At the moment of holding your breathe you can slowly increase your stretch to improve your flexibility.
That little pause, just before exhale, is the right moment to push it a bit further.
Use your breathing to relax your body while stretching, it will increase the blood flow and will help your body to get rid of lactic acid.
Consistency and Regularity
The more, the better. As I said, train almost every day, but take some time off. Continuously stretching your muscles may damage them and, if that happen, you can say goodbye to your Van Damme kicks for a long while.
Keep your stretch time at least 20 seconds, just stay there without pushing it.
Make a schedule for stretching days and stick to the routine, it could feel a little boring but if you get the hang of it and keep it constant you will get your results.
Strengthen your muscles
Keep your training complete. Don’t just stretch your muscles if you don’t train their strength too. This may seems like a small rule but keep it always in mind.
Stretch between sessions during your classes. While takings pauses during your lessons you can always fit some stretching while relaxing. The body is warmed up, the muscles are responding, and you need some chilling seconds of good breathing. Remember to don’t over do, just remind your muscles that they have to improve their flexibility and stay ready for the next workout session.
- Don’t over do your body limits. If you feel too much pain stop right away and take the needed time for your muscles to be ready again. Listen to your body.
- Drink water. Keep your body hydrated, drink even if you are not thirsty in that moment, take it as a habit and keep always a big bottle of fresh water nearby (fresh, not freezing cold).
- Try to keep your stretching moment steady. When you are at the limit and you start to feel the pain is when you should slowly stop and gently push it, don’t bounce. Bouncing can badly take you over that limit and damage your muscles.
- If you are not in a workout or training program you should be 100% sure of what you are doing before start stretching. I understand you can be all fired up from that awesome movie, but that guy kicking ceiling lamps had been training for quite sometime before achieving that result.
- Get a visit to a doctor and check out some trainers before you start any workout session (I know it may sound lame but you should not overestimate your body capabilities and let professionals help you out).
Lastly, let me suggest you a very interesting book about stretching to get you more details about the best way for you to gain elasticity : Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts.
Enjoy your Training!