Balance and Flexibility

BrandonLucas

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I've been back in to class for almost a month, and I can already tell a difference in my techniques, kicks, and stamina.

I keep having 2 problems, though:

1. No matter how much I stretch in class and at home, I'm still not able to kick high due to soreness in my hip flexors...it feels like they just won't loosen up at all. I do have to "pop" my hips throughout the day, and I've often wondered if it could be attributed to that, but I seriously doubt that it is. I have been "popping" my hips for the last 12 years, and I used to be able to kick well above my own head.

2. It's getting better, but I'm still having an issue with staying in balance, especially when kicking from the front leg and when spinning. Skipping kicks give me alot of trouble, because I'm throwing my weight forward and kicking with alot of force. Spinning is harder than it used to be, but I think that will just come with time. Actually, the whole balance issue will probably come with time. Most of the problem is that my center of gravity is different...I weigh alot more than I used to when I would deliver the same kicks. So I think it's more of an issue of finding the correct center of balance than anything else, but it could be something else.

The main thing I'm not sure about is my hipflexors. It's not that they're dangerously sore, or I'm going to hurt myself when I kick. It just doesn't seem like I can get really stretched out and warmed up to be comfortable kicking high again.

Is this just due to me being out of TKD for so long and I just need to shut up and stretch? Has anyone else who started back after several years of being out ever had this kind of issue?
 

morph4me

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You should probably have that checked out by a doctor to make sure you aren't doing damage to your hips. Listen to your body, you may be pushing yourself too hard. It sounds to me as if you may be overextending your kicks in an effort to kick with alot of force, try keeping your supporting leg bent slightly and working on relaxing your kicking leg to get more speed, you power will come from throwing the kick with speed, not force.
 
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BrandonLucas

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I don't think it's necessarily a doctor visit type of thing. It just feels like it won't stretch out. There's not really any pain involved, not like it would be if I landed wrong, or if something was out of place.

I'm trying to do the kicks slower, too...but this is where the balance problem really comes into play. Chambering my kicks is fine, but extending my leg to complete the kick itself is when the balance if off...and this is also when it really feels like I'm not stretched out. The problem is that I sit around the house in a butterfly stretch most of the time, and I try to stretch when I'm not doing anything else.

The only time during the day when I can't stretch is right now, while I'm at work. I work at an IT company, and I can't do any stretches from my computer chair without having management crawl me. Could that be the problem?
 

Dinkus Mayhem

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This seems like an interesting thread discussion, hopefully some others can post some helpful answers to your question.

As a new student to TKD, I am finding that my 34 year old body is reluctant to move in some of the ways required but am hoping that with daily stretching and exercise (neither of which I have done in years) I can remedy that in time.

I will be paying attention to this thread in hopes of hearing some advice that will help my situation as well.

:)
 

SJON

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Brandon,

Its important to realise that a lot of what is done in TKD classes (in my experience) is not particularly efficient for producing usable kicking flexibility, and can even be quite harmful.

Basically, being able to stretch and hold a particular position like the side splits (static stretching) does not necessarily mean that you will be able to achieve that same height in a kick (dynamic stretching), nor does kicking height depend on static flexibility. For example, I am not naturally flexible, and struggled for years with the leg/hip-centred static stretching exercises in TKD classes, with no great improvements in kicking height. I then started doing Yoga and dynamic stretching, and now I can kick high with no warm-up, although I still cant do the splits.

Yoga is good because it stretches your whole body particularly your back and not just the legs and hips. This gives you a good overall range of movement in a static stretching context, and serves you much better than just working on your splits.

Dynamic stretching i.e. fast but controlled forward, side and rear leg raises will give you big improvements for kicking height.

Gentle repetitive short-duration static stretching within your range of movement is good at the beginning of a warm-up to wake your muscles and joints up. Moderate static stretching is good for recovery after a workout. Yoga and dynamic stretching are done practically without warm-up, and this translates into cold flexibility.

Cheers,

Simon
 
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BrandonLucas

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Brandon,

Its important to realise that a lot of what is done in TKD classes (in my experience) is not particularly efficient for producing usable kicking flexibility, and can even be quite harmful.

Basically, being able to stretch and hold a particular position like the side splits (static stretching) does not necessarily mean that you will be able to achieve that same height in a kick (dynamic stretching), nor does kicking height depend on static flexibility. For example, I am not naturally flexible, and struggled for years with the leg/hip-centred static stretching exercises in TKD classes, with no great improvements in kicking height. I then started doing Yoga and dynamic stretching, and now I can kick high with no warm-up, although I still cant do the splits.

Yoga is good because it stretches your whole body particularly your back and not just the legs and hips. This gives you a good overall range of movement in a static stretching context, and serves you much better than just working on your splits.

Dynamic stretching i.e. fast but controlled forward, side and rear leg raises will give you big improvements for kicking height.

Gentle repetitive short-duration static stretching within your range of movement is good at the beginning of a warm-up to wake your muscles and joints up. Moderate static stretching is good for recovery after a workout. Yoga and dynamic stretching are done practically without warm-up, and this translates into cold flexibility.

Cheers,

Simon

You have a very good point...I haven't considered that. But does that mean that I should rely on that more than static stretching? Should I do static stretching at all?
 

Sylo

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You should take more phone calls. (inside work related joke)
 

tae-kwon-tad

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I have pretty much the same problem. I'm naturally pretty flexible, almost double jointed really, but still feel pain (mostly in my left hip) when kicking high. Done some research here online, and one chinese kung-Fu master (Dr. Yang jwing Ming) mentions in one of his dvds that modern people have weak (or weaker) joints in their legs than back in the day due to the fact that we walk a whole lot less. This makes perfect sense to me, so I guess my expansion on this question would be: besides stretching and yoga (both of which I do frequently, and help!) does anyone know of ways to strenghten said joints?
 

SJON

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I would suggest the following:

2030 minutes of Yoga every day or at least 5 days a week, performed from cold. First thing in the morning is good. Buy a book and get yourself a basic program going.
2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions of leg raises (front, back and side), first set gentle, then increasing to full speed but without forcing, preferably from cold or early in your warm-up.
A short Yoga-type stretching session after your work-out, but not trying to increase flexibility.

The above really works. I have entirely done away with all those horrible, painful, dangerous, time-consuming exercises that I suffered for years. As I said, I still cant do the splits, but if I feel that way inclined (which I almost never do), I can kick high without a warm-up.

Static stretching is important in order to achieve a good range of motion and iron out muscle tension, which means you get injured less as you get older while doing everyday activities, sitting for hours on planes, training, etc. The key is not to limit it to the legs and hips.

For strengthening (i.e. stabilising) the joints, I would include regular body-weight exercises like Hindu squats, Hindu press-ups, crunches and some kind of back exercise (I do back bridges, but some people consider this dangerous and I am not necessarily recommending it). Hindu squats really helped my TKD-induced left knee pain. I do this at the end of my TKD work-out, just before the final stretching.
Proper, strength-oriented barbell training is also good for joint health, but thats a whole other topic.
 

SJON

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Regarding balance in kicks, there are a number of issues, including:

making sure your centre of gravity is far enough forward (people tend to fall backwards, especially with slow kicks or kicks against thin air).
realising that there is a subtle but important difference in weight shift depending on whether or not youre expecting resistance to the kick this is why learning to demonstrate perfect form for gradings and learning to kick hard against a heavy bag or a person are two different things (a side kick is the clearest example of this).
in spins, keeping the spin as a tight rotation of the hip about an axis, rather than a circular motion of the whole hip around that axis try generating the whole movement from a sharp hip twist rather than allowing the upper body to initiate the spin.
 

zDom

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My thoughts are that, yes, you are going to have work on flexibility (a lot of great advice already give above on this subject).

But ALSO you are going to have to regain the hip and leg strength you used to have. Could the soreness you are feeling in your hip flexors be soreness from exertion, from rebuilding muscle strength in those areas?

Strength for kicking you used to take for granted when you were active before has, no doubt, atrophied during your break.

I would also caution: do NOT kick as hard as you can because your connective tissues are probably not ready for it yet. Be patient, give yourself a good six months to rebuild your body to where it was.

Your nervous system probably "remembers" how to deliver much more power than your body can take at this point.


Also, regarding balance: your balancing muscles will also need to get back in shape. Maybe some slow motion kicking will help in this area.
 
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BrandonLucas

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I'm going to definitely get into building a routine with yoga...I tried it before, and it was really fun, and I've borrowed a yoga instructional dvd that I'm going to start using for that.

And I think you're right about not kicking with max strength, zdom. I think that could be another reason why my balance is off as well, although I do think that it has more to do with simply being way, way out of practice.

It's just hard to not expect myself to jump right back into where I left off in practice. I guess it's just hard to admit that I'm out of practice....but it's just another goal to shoot for, and I think it's a realistic goal...that is, to get back to the point I was at when I left.

I thank all of you for the hints and suggestions. I will put them to good use, and hopefully I'll be able to regain my footing, so to speak.
 

Kwanjang

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Some very nice advice! Brandon my hips pop- when I say my hips-I am refering to the back near the hamstring attatchment. I can place my hand on the area durring the POP and actually feel the tendon move back in place. sometimes it hutrs-and feels good at the same time.

I thought Sjon and zDom had some great advice. Hope it works out for you!

One of the balance execises I do is hold my leg at extenion (usally a side kick) concentrating on holding shoulders in line. Sometimes I use the wall to help with the strengthing and..... w/o support for balance and strength.
 
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BrandonLucas

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Some very nice advice! Brandon my hips pop- when I say my hips-I am refering to the back near the hamstring attatchment. I can place my hand on the area durring the POP and actually feel the tendon move back in place. sometimes it hutrs-and feels good at the same time.

I thought Sjon and zDom had some great advice. Hope it works out for you!

One of the balance execises I do is hold my leg at extenion (usally a side kick) concentrating on holding shoulders in line. Sometimes I use the wall to help with the strengthing and..... w/o support for balance and strength.

I'm going to try that exercise as well, I'll just use the wall for support more often right now, until I feel more confident with my balance.

The way my hips pop is slightly different...I think it is, anyway. Mine pop mostly when I'm sitting down...I can brace my knee, and twist my hips opposite from my leg, and the hip actually pops at the connection point...well, I guess it is where my hamstring is, and it pretty much feels like you describe; it feels good, but hurts at the same time.

I equate the feeling to popping my knuckles on my hands....so it's not a bad thing, per se.
 

Kacey

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This was touched on slightly - but it's only been one month. Flexibility, like fitness, is a long-term goal. While you may see quick results in both fitness and flexibility at first, as you change your activity level, you need to build slowly for long-term results. Yoga is a great way to stretch, and the slow dynamic movements are also very good for improving balance - just remember that the key idea is slow and steady, for flexibility and fitness.

Good luck!
 

terryl965

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Remeber slow and steady is always the best course to avoid injury. We always want it fast but those that take tthe right road benefits more in the long run.
 

tko4u

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I've been back in to class for almost a month, and I can already tell a difference in my techniques, kicks, and stamina.

I keep having 2 problems, though:

1. No matter how much I stretch in class and at home, I'm still not able to kick high due to soreness in my hip flexors...it feels like they just won't loosen up at all. I do have to "pop" my hips throughout the day, and I've often wondered if it could be attributed to that, but I seriously doubt that it is. I have been "popping" my hips for the last 12 years, and I used to be able to kick well above my own head.

2. It's getting better, but I'm still having an issue with staying in balance, especially when kicking from the front leg and when spinning. Skipping kicks give me alot of trouble, because I'm throwing my weight forward and kicking with alot of force. Spinning is harder than it used to be, but I think that will just come with time. Actually, the whole balance issue will probably come with time. Most of the problem is that my center of gravity is different...I weigh alot more than I used to when I would deliver the same kicks. So I think it's more of an issue of finding the correct center of balance than anything else, but it could be something else.

The main thing I'm not sure about is my hipflexors. It's not that they're dangerously sore, or I'm going to hurt myself when I kick. It just doesn't seem like I can get really stretched out and warmed up to be comfortable kicking high again.

Is this just due to me being out of TKD for so long and I just need to shut up and stretch? Has anyone else who started back after several years of being out ever had this kind of issue?

sounds like you need to let your muscles relax for 2 to 3 days. as far as the balance, the best advice i can give is to keep your shoulders over your hips, last, relax when you do stretch. your muscles cant tense up when you kick or stretch, they should relax, it should feel natural, thats when i feel that it is done the best.
 

exile

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Good advice all round!

Brandon, here's another take on it, from my own personal experience. There is a feedback relationship between balance, strength and flexibility. You need good balance to be able to get your leg high enough for long enough that your hip flexors will be challenged and therefore increase in strength. But you need to be strong enough to be able to get your leg high enough to improve your balance skills to the point where you can keep your leg that high for any length of time. Finally, you need to be flexible enough to get your legs into the necessary positions so that strength and balance can both be stressed and therefore improve... these three factors plug into each other, so where to start?

The point of entry for me was to increase the height of my chambered leg position, in good balance&#8212;especially with the kicking leg in its 'folded' position rotated so it's parallel to the floor, ready to swing around in a hip-driven roundhouse or thrust straight out in a classic rear-leg sidekick. Just stand on the balance leg and bring your kicking leg knee up, then rotate it as you pivot on the turning leg.... and hold it in position for 10, 20, 30 seconds. Then a minute. This exercise is the most effective one I've ever found for putting stress on the hip flexors so that their strength increases, and it does great things for your balance abilities at the same time. After a certain point, thrust the chambered leg out a little, slowly, and try to keep it there for 5 seconds, then 10... and so on. When you can get up to about 20 seconds at each bit of extension, try going a little further next time, slowly. Over a few months, you'll probably find you can do full extensions (always bearing in mind that a 'full' extension should probably be only 85&#8211;90% of a literally total extension). Eventually, you'll get to the point where you can do a middle&#8211;to-chest height side kick, hard or slow, and freeze in full extension for at least half a minute. At that point, you'll be pretty much where you want to be.

The slow extension part is important because it trains your upper body to compensate with an appropriate amount of lean off the vertical as your leg's weight is projected further and further from the axis of your body. If you do the extension too fast, you'll have a much harder time training your kin疆sthetic sense to recognize where your torso needs to be given the distance your kicking foot has been extended.

I don't have naturally great balance skills, and while I do a lot of heavy, high intensity weight training, the hip flexors are not the kind of thing leg presses or squats challenge particularly well. But the exercise I described (which is partly based on an exercise Shesulsa once described in a post last year) is very effective for this purpose&#8212;I can vouch for it! :)
 
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0425

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Fantastic post. This describes it perfectly. I'll start doing this exercise.

Thank you.


Kevin
 
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