Stretching is Essential, full stop!
Are you looking for the gaps in your abilities or quick wins in terms of improvements? Are you trying to find out the reason why you struggle on the last few kicks, punches of a speed drill (for example)?
You know your fitness is there, you know you should be able to do it but something is holding you back. What is it?
Well, it could be tightness or inflexible muscles or joints etc. The more flexible you are, the better your range of motion….OBVS!!! So the better your range of motion, the more effortless the movement is. Less effort means less energy expended. Less energy expended means you have more in the tank and more to give, and so on….
X doesn’t always mark the spot…
It’s easy to think that improving flexibility in the hamstrings, for instance, is the key to improving the height or quality of your kick. And that doing some Chuck-Norris/Jean-Claude-Van-Dam-style-splits will help you get there. Well, yeah, it may help a little, however, not as simple as this. Muscle tightness or restricted range of motion can be caused by something not even that near to the part of the body or even where you think it is.
Individuals who suffer with Sciatica or have issues with their Psoas or Piriformis muscles can see face some flexibility barriers. People who are seated at a desk or in a car for large periods of time or people who have bad posture through lack of movement throughout their life will also suffer with flexibility issues.
Of course, we are referring to kicks but lack of flexibility in the shoulders, such as the deltoids and surrounding areas. Also, the lats, elbow joints, rotator cuffs etc etc, can cause huge issues with throwing hooks, jabs or whatever it is you are throwing at someone or something.
Movement in general can be hindrered greatly by lack of flexibility. So it really should be high up on the list of things you need to stay on top of.
So, all this talk of potential problems, however, no solutions so far……wait for it!
Where do I start?
Listen to your body when you finish training or in the hours/days following. What specific areas tend to suffer more? For me it is my shoulders and back (I am old though!). Whilst it is good to focus on the entire body, it’s not always easy in terms of time available. So, focus on the priority areas.
Also, think about your daily life and what is more likely to affect you based on this. For me, lots of sitting at desks and in cars. My back in general, but lower back for sure is a big issue, so I have a larger focus on this. Prioritse yours!
When I started martial arts, I used to think how lucky I was to be so ‘naturally flexible’ in my legs. This is absolute rubbish though. I wasn’t naturally flexible, it was all due to what I was doing when I was growing up. I had done ballet, tap dancing, modern and jazz at school. Yep, that’s right, you heard it correctly. I didn’t say I was any good, but I did it nonetheless. This set me up well in later life. I was able to do the splits easily both ways, stick my legs behind my head and esily kick above my head……(’WAS’ being the key word here!!!!)
However, my shoulder flexibility is not so good, this is something I have to work on constantly. And this is the key part of this whole piece, you have to work on flexibility and movement constantly. If you want to get flexibile or maintain flexibility, then you need to work on it constantly.
It’s not just about being flexible, it’s about staying injury free well into your old age. If you are 17 years old and reading this then this will mean nothing right now, however, from as young as late 20s or early 30s, you could be suffering from not having a decent routine for improving flexibility, range of motion and preventing injuries.
Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and MMA will take a huge toll on the body and it will creep up on you stealthily. More importantly, sitting at desks, in cars or even checking out your social media feed repeatedly, will cause stress on the neck and back etc. As stated previously, this can cause other issues all over the rest of your body.
In summary, have a routine’ yoga is great but just move, stretch etc and make it regular and part of your life….FOREVER!