When we train in a martial art, one key aspect that will benefit all types of training is improving you flexibility. This also tends to be a limiting factor for many people so making this a key focus will help push though those barriers and make performing many techniques easier. Training a few times a week will help, but to really see improvement, we need to stretch daily, which means taking some time at home to work on flexibility. Make some of the following exercises a daily priority and you will see improvements across the board within a month or so. Keep going and you will wonder why you haven’t been stretching daily forever.
Touch toes, touch the sky – A favourite of mine, great for warm up and stretches through your whole body. Stand up straight, legs shoulder width apart. Bend over to touch your toes then straighten up and reach for the sky. Go up and down for 60 seconds. Keep focus on controlled movement, bending at the hip and reaching by stretching through your torso. Both stretches also work holding a toe touch or reaching to the sky for 60 seconds.
Leg raises (Front and Side) – Can be done lying on the floor or standing up. The key is to keep your legs straight for your raises and maintain control to ensure an effective stretch. Front leg raise is raising one leg at a time, straight up in front of you, aiming to get head high but this may take time. Side leg raise will stretch out your groin, place your feet next to each other and raise you let straight to the side. Resist the urge to pivot the foot on the ground. Do 10 with each leg, 3 sets of each to be most effective.
Arm swings – Great for a warm up, this is a range of motion exercise which will increase your flexibility and mobility in the process, it’s also very simple. Stand up straight, straighten your arms and from the shoulder joint make as big a circles with your arms as possible. Start by lifting forward till your arms are straight up then bring them back down behind you. Go for 30 seconds, then reverse the movement for another 30 seconds.
Mid-section rollover (foot to hand) – Lay flat on the floor, feet out straight and arms out wide. In a fluid motion, bring your right foot up to your left hand without lifting your back, shoulders or arms. Move the foot back and repeat with left to right. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Thread the needle yoga pose – This is probably the best stretch for anyone and everyone. Lay on your back, bend you knees and place both feet flat on the floor. Lift one foot off the floor and place it over the other thigh. Reach around each side of the supporting thigh and hold under the knee joint. Lay back so your shoulders stay on the ground bring the thigh towards your chest.
Kneeling Quad stretch- As far as a quad stretch goes, this one is fantastic. It can be as intense as you need and only needs minimal effort. Get down on one knee, slide your front foot forward about a foot, then bring your hip forward. This will place a stretch on your rear quad. The further forward you go, the greater the intensity of the stretch. Do with both legs, hold for 60 seconds.
Shoulder stretch – for this one use a towel or resistance band. Grip the towel or band in both hands, holding your arms out straight, 45 degrees from your body. With straight arms, from the shoulder, move your hands up over your head then down behind you as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds and return to start position. Repeat 5 times.
Chin pull-ins- This stretch is very easy and will help with upper back and neck complaints. This stretch should be done every day, multiple times throughout the day. Stand up straight, shoulders back and head up. The stretch is done by moving your head backwards and bringing your chin to the center of your collarbone. Hold for a few seconds then relax, repeat for about a minute.
Sideways Splits- Made famous by Jean Claude Van Damme, for kicking arts, this is the stretch that will make you a hero. This is one of the easiest stretches to do but it takes a long time to get to full stretch. Place your feed about twice shoulder width apart and put your hands on the ground. Keep our legs straight and slowly let yourself get lower, your body weight does the work. Drop till you start to get a little pain in your groin muscles. This is where you stop and hold for about a minute. After a minute try and drop by another inch and hold for an extra 30 seconds. Over time, you will be able to get lower but it may take years before you get to Van Damme levels…