Stretching is an important part of any workout routine. It helps your body increase its flexibility and range of motion, important attributes for martial artists. One of the best times for a stretching session is after a workout. Post-workout, your muscles are already warm and loose. This means that they are in good shape for productive stretching that improves flexibility. Because stretching is a low-impact exercise, stretching also allows your body to cool down as you transition from working out to rest.
For martial artists, flexibility in the hips is very important. If your hips are not flexible, you can strain your muscles when you do explosive kicks. Flexible hips also allow you to increase the height of your kicks without causing injury. Not only that, but good hip health improves your knees, feet, and the rest of your legs.
One helpful stretch is the butterfly. Sit with the soles of your feet touching and your knees bent and out to either side like butterfly wings. Slowly pull your feet in toward your body. You can also use your elbows to put pressure on your knees. This stretch will open your whole pelvic bowl.
Another good hip stretch is the lunging hip flexor stretch. Place one foot on the floor in front you with the knee bent and let the other leg fully extended behind you. Lean forward, bringing the hip of the straight leg closer to the floor. After stretching one hip, switch legs and stretch the other.
Martial artists depend on having a flexible back. Not only does this give them the range they need for twisting moves, but it also makes them less prone to injury when they fall. Take extra time on the back as a strain can put you out of commission for some time. Using tools like yoga wheels and massage balls can be helpful for reaching tough spots.
Common yoga positions are excellent stretches for the back. A combination of the cat and cow positions is one way to start your stretching routine. Get on all fours, look up and allow your spine to sink toward the floor. This is the cow position. Then arch your back and point your head downwards to reach the cat position. Repeat this move several times for a nice, relaxing backstretch.
A great deal of power comes from the shoulders when punching. In addition, some standard martial arts forms involve swinging the arms with a wide range of motion. Many doctors report that stretching the shoulders also helps loosen the muscles of the upper back. For these reasons, martial artists need to pay attention to stretching the shoulders.
There are two main motions to focus on when stretching the shoulders: rotation and lateral motion across the chest. For rotation, a variety of slow arm circles can help keep the shoulders loose. You might start with shoulder shrugs that turn into a full-arm circle. Remember to keep this movement slow and controlled. The basic stretch across the body involves holding one arm across the chest while using pressure from the other arm to increase the stretch.
If you are a martial artist or any other athlete, stretching helps your body perform at its best. Remember that all stretches are meant to be done slowly and carefully. By taking your time and putting in the effort, you will develop the flexibility you need to improve your martial arts form.