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Martial Arts Stretching

by admin on November 13, 2009

Welcome to the Martial Arts Stretching webpage and congratulations on making the decision to increase your proficiency in your chosen art with increased flexibility. Whether you are a novice, an mixed martial arts competitor, or a grandmaster you can benefit from the ability to realize an increased range of motion using modern flexibility stretches and martial arts stretching techniques.

If you are reading this with an interest in increasing your flexibility you most likely fall into one of three categories; the beginner who is just starting out and wants to advance as quickly as possible, the experienced practitioner who desires to take his or her progress to the next level, or the elite martial artist who is looking to find every advantage when it comes to performance.  Knowing the quickest and safest ways to increase muscle length, and more importantly knowing how to overcome the body’s nervous system response to extended positions, is the key to reaching your flexibility goals in rapid fashion.

Traditional methods of martial arts stretching  are slow and painful, and quite often dangerous and ineffective. Conventional stretching routines which simply attempt to physically elongate muscles and connective tissues are ineffective compared to modern proven techniques to re-program your neuromuscular software.

The purpose of this website is to empower you with the knowledge that will help you greatly increase your flexibility as quickly and safely as possible. We will provide you with proven modern methods which will explode your progress and within weeks or months you will achieve a level of flexibility uncommon even to advanced martial arts practitioners.

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Flexibility is of primary importance in any form of martial art. The ability to move easily and effortlessly in an extended range of motion is a key to effective technique. Unfortunately too many martial artists don’t know modern martial arts stretching techniques and the science which would enable them to safely increasing this range of motion in a rapid fashion.  Our understanding  of the nervous system’s role in flexibility and new knowledge discovered in the last few decades of the physiology behind muscle and fascia elongation has brought an opportunity for the martial artist to increase flexibility at a speed not known before. The modern martial artist can achieve elasticity in weeks or months that it previously took years to accomplish.

Advancements in the knowledge of the proper order of flexibility stretches, the correct way to warm-up before stretching and cool-down afterwards, and the understanding of the physical structure of muscle and connective tissue with neuromuscular factors have led to advanced techniques and routines which will allow you to realize expert levels flexibility in almost no time at all.

Most martial arts stretching routines have been passed down from teacher to student, from generation to generation and are relatively identical to the routines performed hundreds of years ago. When most advanced martial artists are asked why they follow a particular stretching regimen they say, “I do it this way because my instructor did it this way and he was flexible, my instructor did it this way because his instructor did it this way,”  and so on, and so on…  This brings us to the “Story of the Trimmed Ham.”

The Story of the Trimmed Ham

There was once a young homemaker who had a special recipe for a holiday ham she prepared for her family every Christmas. Her husband and children delighted in the rich flavor of the dish and talked year round of its favor with them. One Christmas the lady’s husband watched his wife prepare the ham, and noticed how she carefully trimmed off exactly three quarters of an inch from each side of the piece of meat before placing it in the oven. When he queried her about this practice she admitted that she didn’t exactly know why she did this. She said she had learned the recipe from watching her mother fix the same dish each Christmas.

Later the wife called her mother and asked her why the family’s holiday ham recipe called for trimming off the ends of the ham and her mother also admitted that she didn’t know the purpose for trimming the ends because she too had learned the recipe from her mother. So, of course the young homemaker called her grandmother to find the purpose behind the secret of  trimming precisely three quarters of an inch from each end of the holiday ham. The grandmother replied, “It’s no secret, I always had to trim each end of the ham to fit it in the small pan I had to cook it in.”

The moral of this short fable is it is not wise to perform an act a certain way just because the person you learned from did it that way.

Why the Way They Used to Stretch is Not the Best Way to Stretch Today

Study of martial arts in from the early twentieth century backwards was a lifelong commitment. and as more of an occupation than a pastime, more vocation than avocation. When a student would start his martial arts stretching at five years old and continue with two to ten hour flexibility routines for life, it was easy to remain flexible through adulthood. Not many of us in today’s modern world have the spare time to devote this sort of diligence to the commitment of flexibility, we have to find a better way. This is where modern scientific stretching methods come into play.  Using modern stretching techniques and procedures by taking advantage of our greater understanding of the human physiology we can achieve greater gains in flexibility than our ancestors in a fraction of the time.

MartialArtsStretching.com will explore the many reasons muscles and fascia resist elongation and we will continually bring you cutting edge knowledge and insight to allow you to enjoy rapid progress in flexibility using proven modern scientific knowledge and techniques.

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Martial Arts Stretching – Stretches to Avoid

by admin on November 11, 2009

Certain stretches should be avoided as part of your martial arts stretching routine as they have a very high risk of injury to your muscle and connective tissues, nervous system or even your skeletal system. Torn muscles, sprained tendons or damaged cartilages are no fun and can delay your progress by weeks or months. Sometimes the injury can be so extensive as to prevent the study of your martial art at all. Following are several methods and stretches that are better left out of your martial arts stretching routine unless you are under the direct supervision of a certified physical therapist, certified yoga instructor or professional trainer that you trust explicitly.

 

The Ballistic Stretching Method



Ballistic Stretching Method Butterfly Stretch

Ballistic stretching utilizes bouncing or bobbing rhythmic motions to extend the stretched muscle group beyond the normal range of motion. The risks of damage from over extension is too great and the limitations presented by the stretch reflex limit the potential for gains in flexibility.

 

Inverted Stretching Methods


Inverted Stretching

Any exercise or stretch where you hang upside-down can be risky. Remaining in an inverted position for any length of time can increase your blood pressure to dangerous levels and can result in popped or ruptured blood vessels, loss of consciousness, or even stroke.

 

The Standing Full Backbend Stretch


Standing Backbend

This stretching exercise is performed by placing your feet flat on the ground and arching your body fully backwards until your palms are flat on the ground behind you. This stretch results in compressed spinal discs and could induce pinched nerves, compressed discs, or other damage to the spine and neck.

 

Straight Legged Toe Touches


Standing Straight Legged Toe Touch

Whether you are performing toe touches from a standing or seated position it is important to bend the knees somewhat to relieve pressure to the lower vertebrae and lumbar and prevent hyper-extension of the knees. When performing toe touches you should concentrate on rotating only at the hip and minimize the stress to your back.

 

Dynamic Torso Twists


Dynamic Torso Twist Stretch

Fast and/or intense twisting of the torso can result in injury to the lower spine and lumbar and strain the ligament tissues in the knee joints. The momentum of intense  rotational movements results in torsion to these joints is beyond their capacity of their structural capacity.

 

The Hurdler’s Split Stretch


Hurdler’s Split Stretch

You perform this stretch by sitting on the ground with one leg bent fully behind you and the other leg reaching fully forward as you attempt to reach your forward toe. This stretch puts considerable strain on the lower back and can result in hyper-extension of the knees.

 

The Yoga Plow Stretch


Yoga Plow

To perform this exercise you lie flat on the floor with your arms resting on the ground at your side and proceed to raise your legs and torso up and backwards over your head until your toes touch the floor behind you. This position places extreme strain on your lower back and lumbar region. In addition it can compress your lungs and heart and can make it difficult to breath properly.

 

Again, the stretching methods and exercises mentioned above should not be performed as part of  martial arts stretching  routine except by very advanced practitioners or under the immediate supervision of a certified trainer, yoga instructor or licensed physical therapist, and should never be performed alone. The risk of serious injuries far outweighs any potential gains in flexibility. There are simply too many other more effective methods and martial arts stretching exercises to choose from.

 

I invite you to visit MartialArtsStretching.com often to learn the safe techniques and methods which will allow you to rapidly increase your flexibility beyond what most consider possible. The modern and scientific stretching methods currently available can allow flexibility to be achieved in a few months that conventional methods required years to achieve.


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Types of Cooperating Muscle Groups

by admin on November 10, 2009

To design an effective and safe martial arts stretching program you should have a basic understanding of the muscular system and how muscles affect your body’s movement. Muscles cover the skeletal system which acts as the main framework of the body. Muscles move the body by contraction. The muscle cell and fibers shorten which in turn pulls the ligaments connected to a bone and this causes motion of a body part which is typically hinged by a joint.

The functions of muscle groups respective to motion are known as agonists, antagonists, synergists and fixators.  A description of each and their contribution to movement is as follows:

Agonists

Agonists are the muscles which are contracting to create the movement of a body part. They are the muscles primarily responsible for a particular movement and they are also known as the prime movers. When you bend your arm at the elbow as in performing a curl exercise the bicep muscles would be the agonists.

Antagonists

Antagonists are the muscles which oppose the agonists and are typically located on the opposite side of the joint being hinged during a movement. Because muscles can only effect movement by contracting the antagonists will be responsible for returning the body part to its original position. In our curling exercise example the triceps muscles opposite from the biceps would be the antagonist.

Synergists

The function of a synergist muscle is to assist the agonists in movement. Synergists muscles help to stabilize and reinforce a movement and control the movement so that it remains within a safe range of motion. If you are doing our curl exercise and are straining to complete the movement the muscles in the shoulder and forearm can assist in the effort and provide stability.

Fixators

A special type of synergist function is the fixator. Fixator muscle groups provide support to a specific body movement by stabilizing the joint being moved. Fixators will prevent or minimize wobbling and loss of control of a movement. When you stand up the ankle muscles act as fixators, not actually moving your body but providing stability so the ankle joints will not bend or falter.

As we continue to study the scientific processes behind the movements and the specific purposes of different flexibility stretches and how they fit within our martial arts stretching routine, we will often refer to the agonistic, antagonistic, synergistic and fixation functions of the muscle groups and their effects on the performance of our flexibility efforts. Understanding the different function of muscles to movement is an important step to knowing how to intelligently apply the methods of a modern and effective martial arts stretching program to increase flexibility and proficiency in your sport or art.


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Types of Flexibility

by admin on November 9, 2009

One of the keys to designing an advanced martial arts stretching routine and making rapid progress with your flexibility stretches is understanding the body’s locomotor system (called the musculoskeletal system) and the types of flexibility that are available.   The human musculoskeletal system consists of the body’s skeleton, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. The skeletal system provides structure and framing, the muscular system provides movement, tendons and ligaments provide connection and attachment. The musculoskeletal system enables structured motion of the body, and the available range of motion is what we call flexibility. The various types of movements of the body require different types of flexibility, which in turn require different types of flexibility stretches. To understand which types of stretches are beneficial to your martial arts stretching routine you should first understand the different types of flexibility.


 

Static Flexibility

Static flexibility is flexibility which does not involve movement. It is a measure of the full range of motion of a joint and its related muscular involvement. The measure of progress in a side split or toe touch are classic examples of gauging the static flexibility of the relevant muscle groups. There are two types of Static Flexibility; Static Active and Static Passive.


 

Static Active Flexibility

Static active flexibility refers to the ability to maintain a position of an extended range of motion while stretching the antagonist muscles using only the tension of the agonistic and  synergistic muscles for support. The ability to assume and hold the stretched position comes solely from your muscles. The static active flexibility is dependent upon the static passive flexibility in combination with the static strength of the stabilizing muscles. An example of a static active flexibility is the ability to stand on one leg while you raise and hold the other leg out in front of you without any other external support.

 
 Front Leg Raise Static Active Stretch to Increase Static Active Flexibility

 

Static Passive Flexibility

Static passive flexibility refers to the ability to maintain an extended position using some external force. The external force could be your weight, your arms and hands, some apparatus or a partner. The ability to assume and hold the stretched position does not come solely from the muscles of concern as in static active flexibility. An example of static active flexibility is the side split with the force of gravity aiding the range of motion.

 
 Side Split Static Passive Stretch to Increase Static Passive Flexibility

 

Dynamic Flexibility

Dynamic flexibility concerns motion and the ability to perform movements of a limb or body part  through its joint’s full range of mobility. Dynamic flexibility depends on the body’s ability to combine relaxation of the agonistic muscles along with contraction of the antagonistic muscles in a dynamic motion.  Dynamic flexibility is the type of flexibility that typically increases performance of a martial art. The ability to kick high with power or fluidly perform a block with an extended range of motion are dependent upon dynamic flexibility. An example of Dynamic Flexibility is the ability to perform a high side kick.


High Side Kick Drill to Increase Dynamic Active Flexibility

 

Your passive flexibility typically exceeds your static flexibility for any given body part. The difference between the passive and static flexibility for a joint is known as the “passive-static flexibility reserve” and represents the current potential for increase in passive flexibility. The flexibility of a martial artist is sufficiently developed when the maximum available comfortable range of motion exceeds the required range of motion for the technique being studied. Any excess flexibility over the minimum required to perform a technique is called the “tensility reserve” and this reserve allows the martial artist to perform his or her art smoother and without excessive tension which helps in preventing injury.

Once you understand the types of flexibility your body can exhibit, you can match this with the appropriate type of flexibility stretches in your martial arts stretching program to increase your proficiency faster.

We invite you to learn much more about the science of modern martial arts stretching and modern flexibility stretches by coming back to MartialArtsStretching.com often.


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OK, now that we understand the different types of flexibility the human body has, we have a basis for understanding  the different types of flexibility stretches we can use in our martial arts stretching program to increase our flexibility. We will discuss the main methods of increasing flexibility and then discuss briefly some lesser known techniques. If you will remember from our article “Types of Flexibility,” the main categories of flexibility are Static Active, Static Passive,  and Dynamic . It stands to reason that the main types of flexibility exercises can be divided into Static Active Flexibility Stretches, Static Passive Flexibility Stretches, and Dynamic Flexibility Stretches

One side note, I will occasionally use the term “stretching” for flexibility exercises because it is easily understood. The truth however is that effective flexibility has less to do with the actual stretching or elongation of individual muscles or muscle fibers and more to do with mastery of your central nervous system’s response to extended ranges of motion and the strength you can facilitate at these extended ranges.

 

Static Active Flexibility Method

To perform a static active stretch you will move your body part into an extended range of motion and hold it there unassisted as you wait for the tension to lessen.  Static active stretches will increase your static active flexibility and your static passive flexibility. A general static active stretch is more effective if held for twelve seconds or longer.

 

Static Passive Flexibility Method

Static passive stretching in the practice of moving your body into an extended range and using some external assistance to hold it. It could involve the use of a device, a partner or your bodyweight to hold and/or extend the stretch.

 

Relaxed Stretching

While relaxation is an important component to all stretching methods, the “Relaxed Stretching Method” is a specific type of static passive stretching method and is sometimes referred to as  “waiting out the tension.” This involves gently relaxing the limb or body part you are working on into a extended position  and holding it there using the weight of your body, a partner, or devise until your stretch reflex relaxes the tension. You must be careful when performing relaxed stretches to isolate the muscle groups you are working on and not induce elongation of the ligaments. Static passive relaxed stretching methods are not advised for flexibility stretches targeting the back because of the potential of ligament damage. Relaxed stretching also does not help increase strength along with flexibility which should be the goal of every martial arts stretching program so use this technique sparingly.

 

Isometric Stretching

Isometric stretching is a form of static stretching which utilizes tension of the antagonist muscles that you are  stretching. Also known as contract-relax stretching isometric stretching will involve moving a body part into a position of maximum stretch, tensing the muscles being stretched and then relaxing the tension. One of the benefits of isometric stretching is that it will increase the strength in addition to the range of motion of the muscle groups being worked on and is much more effective than individual static or dynamic stretching  methods for increasing functional flexibility.

 

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching

PNF is a combination of passive stretching and isometric stretching and is generally considered the most effective method for increasing static passive flexibility. As in isometric stretching you will stretch a muscle group to its limit, then tighten up or tense the stretched muscles, but then you immediately move into a position of greater stretch and hold that position. The act of tensing the stretched muscles resets the stretch reflex which allows the immediate extension. It is recommended to allow at least twenty or thirty seconds of relaxation between tension/extensions to allow your muscles and stretch reflex to release the strain of the newly realized position.

 

Dynamic Flexibility Exercises

As the name would indicate, dynamic flexibility stretches involve motion. When performing a dynamic stretch you move the limb or body part in a rapid but controlled motion. The movement are typically carried out using a full range of motion, starting slowly and working up to a controlled full speed and maximum range of motion. Dynamic flexibility stretches typically imitate the specific movements used in your sport or art. Examples of dynamic flexibility exercises would include fast leg swings.

 

Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching is the rhythmic bouncing or bobbing type of stretch which relies on the momentum of the moving body part to forcibly move the muscles being stretched to a position beyond the normal limits of flexibility. Ballistic stretching was once a popular method used by martial artists  but it can easily lead to muscle or connective tissue damage or tearing.  This method is not recommended unless under the immediate supervision and direction of a licensed physical therapist or professional trainer. The risk of injury far outweigh the potential for gains in flexibility using this technique.

 

Some Additional Methods:

Active-Assisted Stretching – This technique involves performing an active stretch and when the limit of flexibility is reached the range of motion is assisted by a partner. Like ballistic stretching there is a risk of damage and professional supervision is called for.

Active Isolated Stretching – Also called the Mattes Method after its originator Aaron Mattes, AIS stretching is similar to PNF stretching but uses short rest periods of around two seconds between contractions to specific isolated muscle targets

Rhythmic Stabilization – This technique is accomplished by alternately contracting the agonistic and antagonistic muscles of the limb being stretched while the range of motion is being gradually increased.

Many flexibility exercises can be performed using different methods. For instance the seated butterfly stretch can be done using the dynamic method,  the ballistic method (not recommended),  the static active method including isometric stretching, or the static passive method with the assistance of a partner or your hands. Which method you choose for which exercises should be a function of the end result you wish to achieve and what part of your workout you are in. For instance if you are a student of Taekwondo and you desire increasing the  flexibility in your legs and hips for high kicks, you could perform front leg lifts in a light dynamic method as part of your warm-up, the same exercise with a more intense dynamic effort as part of your main workout, and perform the foreword leg lift  movement and holding it at maximum height for the combination of flexibility and strengthening benefits using the static passive method as part of your cool down portion of the workout. 

The proper use of these flexibility methods will greatly increase the effectiveness and speed the progress of your martial arts stretching program.  We invite you to visit MartialArtsStretching.com often to continuously learn more about modern flexibility stretches and the science of modern martial arts stretching.

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Martial Arts Stretching Splits Video

by admin on November 7, 2009

This is a relatively good video on using a isometric stretching static passive method of the stretching splits exercise. The instructor mistakingly identifies it as a static active stretch. Note how he is contracting the antagonistic muscles of the inner thigh (isometric stretching) and holding his position (static stratching), using his bodyweight to assist with the flexibility stretches (passive stretching).  This one martial arts stretching exercise takes advantage of multiple methods for its effectiveness. While the subject of this video is obviously an advanced student, these techniques can be used by less seasoned martial artists to help increase their range of motion. Just be sure to listen to your body when performing this martial arts stretching splits exercise, don’t stretch too much at any one time and stop before you feel pain.

 

 

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There is a lot of misguided information on the most effective components of an effective martial arts stretching program and what methods of flexibility stretches should be included. You need a lot of flexibility if you are going to easily be able to effectively and powerfully perform the moves in any type of martial arts that require extended range of motion. If you want to be skillful in any martial arts style, you need to have flexibility, focus, and strength.

The quickest way to make progress in your flexibility is to develop and practice a modern progressive  martial arts stretching routine. Advanced routines that have worked the best have a light morning stretching routine, a light evening stretching routine, and a powerful main workout during the daytime. While this schedule sounds grueling, it has been proven that an aggressive schedule similar to this will increase your flexibility 2-4 times faster than a martial arts stretching schedule that is less dedicated. After having reached the level of flexibility that is sufficient, you will be able to lighten your routine and cut down on the number of flexibility stretches needed quite a bit.

When designing your schedule and deciding exactly which flexibility stretches to perform during your morning and evening stretching workouts, you need to include active stretches, as well as methods that will loosen your muscles and joints. You should not incorporate strenuous passive stretching, isometric stretching, or PNF stretches as these will tire your muscles and the fatigue will actually be counterproductive. you need to perform your morning flexibility stretches prior to breakfast stretching on a full stomach is not good. You need to have your blood supply either concentrating on digesting your breakfast or focusing on your physical activity. It is not beneficial if it has to do both at the same time. Your digestion will suffer and your body won’t supply the nourishment to your stretched muscles they need for proper recovery. With this in mind, you need to do your evening stretching workout at least an hour after you have eaten your evening meal. It is best to perform your evening flexibility stretches at least an hour prior to going to bed. You need to do your morning and evening stretching workouts six days a week. Be sure that each workout is short, only lasting 15-30 minutes.

Your intense main martial arts stretching workout should only be done 2-4 times a week. You do not want to do this work out more often than this because your body needs time to recover fully after each of these workouts. Make sure each of your intense workouts include a general warm-up. Your warm-up should consist of both cardiovascular elements and generic dynamic flexibility stretches. The intensity of these exercises need to be increased gradually so that your entire body gets loose and warm. After a general warm-up, you need to include a more specific warm-up. This warm-up needs to include movements that are similar to the movements of the particular martial art techniques you are trying to develop. Once you have completed both warm-ups, you need to move on to the main part of your martial arts stretching routine. This part needs to use modern stretching methods like isometric stretches, PNF stretches, and relaxed stretching techniques.

Make sure that you end each of your intense stretching routines with a cool down period. During this time you should focus on static type flexibility stretches. How often you do you main martial arts stretching workout, how long each workout is, and how much time you need to spend on each part of the workout (warm-up, main routine, and cool down) depends on how experienced you are and what your proficiency level is. If you are a beginner, you should have longer warm-up and cool down periods, accompanied by a shorter main routine. If you already have a fair level of flexibility, you can spend more time on the specific exercises and stretches in the main routine. If you have a high level of flexibility, you are able to have a shorter workout all together. Your main focus is to maintain your level of flexibility.

The type of flexibility exercises you want to have in your program will depend on your experience level and the type of sport or martial art you are practicing for. If you are a beginner, it is important to focus on generic flexibility exercises. For the intermediate and advanced level students, isometric, PNF and relaxed stretching methods are more important. You need to design these flexibility stretches around the muscle groups you need to be able to perform the specific technique you intend to use. For example if you are do a lot of high kicks, you need to concentrate on hip and leg stretching; if you are a grappler, you need to work on the flexibility in your arms, shoulders, back and torso; etc. By designing your martial arts stretching routing according to your experience level and your sport or art and keeping to your planned schedule, you will reach your flexibility goals faster than you would have thought.

Increase the benefits provided to you by your stretching routine by taking advantage of these martial arts stretching methods. You will be surprised at how fast you increase your functional flexibility.

If you would like more information on martial arts stretching methods, scientific routines and advanced flexibility stretches, visit us at www.MartialArtsStretching.com often. We are continually adding new content for the progressive martial artist.

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Stretching the groin is essential for Kung Fu mastery; learn Kung Fu split stretches taught at real Shaolin temples in this free martial arts video series.

Expert: Bruce Wen
Contact: www.shaolinca.com
Bio: Bruce Wen has studied in China with Tibetan monks and runs his own Shaolin Kung Fu studio in California.
Filmmaker: Nili Nathan

Duration : 0:1:13

[click to continue…]

Technorati Tags: arts, martial, Shaolin, stretching, tips, training

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Stretching Leg Issue!!?

by admin on October 21, 2010

I do yoga and once I stretched my left leg a bit more. Since then my muscle or my tendon hurts every time I do stretching. I’ve tried a bit of a paste supposed to heal it, but still hurts. Is it serious?

It is nothing serious don’t worry same thing happened to me. Jacuzzi and rubbing hurt place helps a lot if you cant get to jacuzzi than use a hot water in a tub.

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