Follow our stretching guide to learn how and when to stretch!
Stretching; that ever important but often overlooked step to exercise. Though many of us can attest to being repeatedly reminded of the importance of stretching from coaches, teachers or other fitness professionals, how many can say that they do it regularly and confidently? For martial arts, the benefits of flexibility are undeniable. Higher kicks, looser hips and of course less risk of injury are things we all would like to achieve. But how can we go about it in a safe and effective way? Follow our steps in this stretching guide and you’ll be on your way to gaining flexibility the right way!
Although stretching is often thought of as the first thing you do before starting your workout, it is best to precede it with some light warmup. This way you will increase blood flow to the muscles and reduce your chances of pulling or injuring a muscle from the stretch itself. Focus on warmup exercises that increase your overall circulation i.e. jumping jacks, jogging in place, mountain climbers. Once you get your heart rate going slightly and body warm you’ll be ready to tackle your stretch routine.
PRE WORKOUT STRETCH
When it comes to stretching, slow and steady ALWAYS wins the race. You should never rush into a stretch or push it to a point of physical pain. Listen to your body and respect its limits. Pre workout stretches should be largely dynamic, meaning you use movement to take your body to the limits of its range of motion. For martial arts, focus on the muscles you will utilize most in the class depending on the style. This could be hamstrings (kicks), hip flexors (BJJ), deltoids (punching) etc. This will simultaneously loosen and warm the muscles for the workout ahead of them. Stretches may include:
- Walking lunge forward (psoas)
- Running Butt Kicks in place (quadriceps)
- Swinging arm circles forward/back and side to side(deltoids and latissimus dorsi)
- Leg swings front and back and side to side across the body(hamstrings)
POST WORKOUT STRETCH
Now, you’ve just finished your workout where you pushed your muscles to their limit and tired them out. This moment is a crucial time to stop and stretch. At this point you should be focused on static stretches as they are most effective when your muscles are warm and supple. With static stretches your body should relax into the stretch and hold it without motion or bouncing. To see an increase in range of motion, you should be holding these stretches for 30-60 seconds each a few times per week. Begin each stretch slowly and gently until you feel tightness in the muscle you want to stretch but not pain. These stretches may include:
- straddle stretch
- butterfly stretch
- runner’s lunge
- sitting toe touch
- calf lunge
Always remember that the most important thing is to listen to your body. It’s very easy to overdo a stretch and end up sore for days. So go slow, ease into it and avoid doing anything that causes pain. Stick to our stretching guide and you’ll see the effects it will have on your training in no time!
Find out how to get started with martial arts classes for yourself here and check out this infographic for some quick tips for good stretching!