Stretching for Martial Arts

3 tips to improve Explosive Flexibility

Stretching for Martial ArtsThat’s probably a term you’ve never heard before: Explosive Flexibility! But it’s extremely important nevertheless. So what does that mean exactly? Explosive power is the ability to accelerate and move over a distance in a short amount of time, AKA the body’s ability to mobilize rapidly from a resting position. To do this, you need to be able to cause your muscles to go from a relaxed to a contracted state, and back to relaxed, in a very short period of time. Simply put, it’s a combination of speed and strength.

Flexibility is the body’s ability to move through a wide range of motion. Most people think that this is all about the elasticity, or ability of a muscle to lengthen. To a minor degree, this is true, but there are other factors that are involved, which I’ll get to in just a minute.

So what is explosive flexibility? It’s the ability for you to quickly and rapidly move into a position that requires a wide range of motion. Does that mean jumping to do the splits on a counter top like Van Damme in Time Cop? No, you don’t really need to be that flexible. However, it does mean being able to kick higher and harder, or being able to explode into a submission that requires a high degree of mobility. After all, have you ever noticed that the higher you kick, and the closer you get to your maximum height, the less power you have? That’s because your body is essentially putting the brakes on at the end of the mobility. Just like the further you stretch a rubber band, the harder it is to stretch any further. This is your body reaching the peak mobility.

Key word: Mobility. Mobility is not just about a wide range of motion, but EASE of motion. Sure, you can kick to the head, but what good does that do if you lose all power at the arc of your kick, or pull your groin at the top? Maybe you can work a submission, but if you struggle to get into a high rubber guard, it’s hard to pull off that omoplata, and even more difficult to do it quickly, and in a way that catches your opponent off guard.

Outside of freakishly high kicks and crazy submissions, being able to move freely helps prevent injuries in daily motions. Injuries often result from imbalances in your body putting an unusual amount of wear and tear on your joints and soft tissues. This leads us to the first tip:

  1. Get balanced. Very often we are horribly imbalanced from spending an abundance of time sitting, our hips are not in their natural straight and extended position (standing). This can lead to a flat ass, sagging abs, and tight hip flexors. This means that you may be a little too tight in the front of the body, and strengthen the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, low back).
  2. You’re stretching too much. That’s right. The traditional static stretching is effective, but only to a certain degree. This helps you maintain and hold some nice long stretches, and it can help you swing your leg up higher. However, it doesn’t necessarily help you transition from one position to another. Let’s take your roundhouse kick for example. You need your hips to actually rotate into the kicking position to get the proper angle for power in the kick. Static stretches are great, and are a necessary part of a good mobility program, but it doesn’t address the rotational function of the hip.
    Too much stretching can also lead to too much elasticity in your muscles, which can make it more difficult to contract rapidly. Remember the explosive flexibility we discussed? Well excessive static stretching may make you more flexible, but you won’t be explosive, so you will lose speed and power. This means, you may be able to enter a freakishly flexible position, but you won’t have any speed or KO power.
  3. You aren’t strong enough. Remember, mobility is your ability to transition from one position to another. To do this, you have to have strength in the correct muscle groups to compliment your mobility. Say for example, your adductors (inner thighs) are extremely flexible, and you can do the side splits. However, your abductors (outer thighs) are not so strong. Well these abductors and your outer hip are the muscle groups that actually raise your leg up to the side. If these aren’t strong, it’s going to be extremely difficult to raise your foot up for a nice high head kick. That’s not to mention the other muscle groups involved such as the core, glutes, hip flexors, quads, etc. Many of these muscle groups are not addressed in a way that is conducive to kicking.

Kicks are very complex motions that require a high degree of mobility. If you want deliver high, strong knockout kicks you need to address strength flexibility in a number of areas to balance your hips. My friend, Eric Wong has put together a free report with 3 freaky flexibility techniques to really open up your hip mobility and address some areas that you are most likely neglecting.

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Click here to learn about the 9 Flexibility Factors

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