When I was eight years old I was training in gymnastics a couple of times a week. As all eight year olds were at the time, I was also pretty nimble on my roller skates! One day I fell and landed in the splits and remember thinking to myself “if I wasn’t able to do the splits, that would have really hurt.” Ultimately what I am saying is – we bend so that we don’t break. This is one of many reasons that stretching and limbering is vital to any athletes training.
In martial arts flexibility is an integral component of the discipline. If you want to kick someone in the head, you’re going to need the flexibility to get your leg there first and foremost!
Our bodies do not work as multiple separate parts, everything is connected to everything, so if you want to kick higher one would assume that you need to stretch your hamstrings, however your hamstrings are attached to your gluteal muscles which are attached to your back etc etc. so whilst it is always worth stretching specific muscles, we need to look at ourselves more holistically. When we frequently stretch the back of our bodies, the muscles in the front can shorten so it makes sense to stretch everything.
I have a background in gymnastics, dance and yoga, there isn’t a muscle I can’t stretch. So if you cant touch your toes or you’re prone to strain and injuries, keep reading for why you should start limbering.
The Main Advantages of Stretching
Muscular Relaxation: When muscles are tight they are wasting energy as they often lack blood flow. This equates to a lack of oxygen and nutrients being carried to the muscle, which leads to unnecessary muscle wastage, fatigue and pain.
Symmetry and Posture: None of us are perfectly symmetrical but often the A symmetry we have is over pronounced by tightness that can easily be resolved. Like a tap dripping, if one side is constantly compensating or if you favor a particular leg or hand when striking then eventually something has to give.
Stretching Relieves Pain: if something is tight it hurts, if it’s loose, it doesn’t.
Injury Prevention: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, if we bend, we don’t break. If your muscles are loose then striking, falling and moving will all be easier.