Flexibility is an essential component to Kickboxing. Flexibility is the range of motion in a joint and varies from joint to joint.

There are two types of flexibility:

  1. Static Flexibility – refers to the range of motion in a joint while it is held in a stationary position.
  2. Dynamic Flexibility – refers to the range of motion in a joint while it is engaged in movement.

Most of us associate building flexibility through stretching. When done properly, stretching can do more than just increase flexibility. Other benefits of stretching include:

  1. Improved physical fitness
  2. Increased ability to learn and perform skilled movements
  3. Enhanced development of body awareness
  4. Reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles, and tendons
  5. Reduced muscular soreness and tension
  6. Improved suppleness due to stimulation of the production of chemicals which lubricate connective tissue

 It is necessary to perform consistent stretching exercises in order to increase flexibility.

 There are four components to successful flexibility training:

1. Frequency of stretching:      

At least three times per week to achieve long term results.

2. Duration of stretching:       

Stretches need to be held long enough to allow the muscle to relax. This is typically between 15-60  seconds. The longer a stretch is held the more relaxed the muscle becomes.

3. Intensity of stretching:

Stretches need to be performed slowly with control and without pain. If the stretch is taken too far the muscle will contract. If the muscle contracts, it will tighten, this means a loss of flexibility. Stretching too far will have the opposite effect and can decrease flexibility.

4. Increase in muscle temperature:

An appropriate warm-up needs to be done before stretching. Warm-up prevents the likelihood of over-stretching or injury. Warm-up allows decreased muscle tension and allows easier stretching.

Methods of Stretching

  1. Active Stretching
  2. Passive Stretching
  3. Dynamic Stretching
  4. Static Stretching
  5. Resistive Stretching

Active Stretching

The person stretching moves himself or herself into the stretch position.

Passive Stretching

Involves the use of an external force to stretch. This external force could be another person (partner stretching), a wall or bar, the force of gravity, or the force of a different set of muscles (using your arms to lift a leg being stretched). The key factor in passive stretching is that the muscles being stretched are relaxed while the external force is being applied.

Dynamic Stretching

Two forms: ballistic, which involves active movements such as kicking and rhythmic bouncing, and dynamic, which involves slow controlled movements that take the joints through their full range of motion (such as slow arm circles). In ballistic stretching the rapid increase in the length of muscles that initiate the stretch leads to a high risk of injury compared to other forms of stretching. For these reasons, ballistic stretching must be done carefully, when thoroughly warmed-up. It is important to understand that both forms of dynamic stretching tend to result in temporary increases in flexibility due to temporary increases in tissue length. Positive effects of dynamic stretching will last for the duration of the activity to follow, such as a class or a tournament, but will not result in permanent gains in flexibility.

Static Stretching

This is slow controlled stretching where the person stretching holds the stretch for a period of time, usually 15-60 seconds. Static stretching can be done as either an active stretch or a passive stretch. Static stretching allows for a slow and gradual increase in tissue length and this appears to have more permanent effects. Static stretching is the type of stretching recommended to make permanent increases in flexibility. The warmer the muscles are when undergoing static stretching the more likely a permanent gain in flexibility.

Resistive Stretching

This stretching technique involves a passive stretch followed by a contraction of the muscle, then relaxation from the contraction, and then an increased stretch. This stretch-contract-relax-stretch process enhances muscle relaxation increasing flexibility. Most of the time this form of stretching requires a partner’s assistance.

The following is an example of resistive stretching:

1 Stretch – the muscle is held in a passive stretched position – helper student holds the stretching student’s leg up in front kick position as high as is comfortable.

2 Contract – the muscle contracts against resistance provided – the stretching student pushes his or her leg down hard in the opposite direction of the stretch against the arms of the helper student who is holding up the leg.

3 Relax – the muscle is allowed to relax for a moment – the helper student lowers the stretching student’s leg to a level where there is no stretch and the stretching student can relax for a moment.

4 Stretch – the muscle is passively taken to a position of increased stretch from the original stretch – the helper student raises the stretchers leg up in front kick position as high as is comfortable – this will now be higher than at the time of the first stretch.

This process can be repeated several times to achieve considerable increases in flexibility.

Consistency is the most important part of any martial arts training. Remember not to compare yourself to other people in your class. Each student has a different body, and for some, flexibility will develop more quickly, and others more slowly. Discipline and perseverance will help ensure your success.

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