Building Leg Strength

ben

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Before the site crashed someone had asked about ways to build leg strength for their Tai Chi practice. Several people contributed some good information, and since I don't think it's possible to overemphasize the importance of leg strength in the internal arts, here's what I remember of that thread.

1. Lower and Slower. When you practice your forms start doing them lower and slower. If you are not dripping with sweat by the end of your form you are not going low enough or slow enough. (Dont go so low that you cannot keep good structural alignment. If you go to low to soon you can injure yourself.)
2. Spending 1 or 2 minutes to do a squat should be easy to work into even the busiest persons schedule. The key is to do 1 every day no matter what and go slow. Use at least 1 full minute for one squat. 30 seconds down and 30 back up. Keep your back straight, stay relaxed, never stop moving and breath. Never do more than 1. Just work on going slower and slower.
3. Use your legs every chance you get. Pay close attention to what yo do during each day and look for any times that arent using your legs when you could be. Never lean over to reach something. Instead do a squat. Stop sitting down to eat, watch TV, work on the computer or whatever. Instead pick a low stance, any one you like, and use that instead for as long as you can.
 

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I like this kind of training and have been studying a Chinese martial art for a while and so have been carrying some of this out but I am not quite sure what it does for your legs.

I know from experience that it allows you to hold stronger stances for longer and thus improves your technique and strikes become more powerful through this, but does this slow your legs and make it harder to tense your thigh muscles more reluctant to move quickly?
 

Xue Sheng

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I know from experience that it allows you to hold stronger stances for longer and thus improves your technique and strikes become more powerful through this, but does this slow your legs and make it harder to tense your thigh muscles more reluctant to move quickly?

Not if you do it right.

You want to see quick, explosive and powerful just watch a traditionally trained Xingyiquan person, and traditionally trained in Xingyiquan means a whole lot of stance training, Wuji, Zhan Zhuang, Santi Shi, and a few more that are more advanced and a whole lot of forms work.

And 20 minutes per side in Santi is just a beginner and we are talking years of standing not minutes, days weeks or months…years

If you want leg strength and stamina in CMA it is stance training and forms. In Taiji you can do the form, you can train any posture as a standing practice you can do the qigong that is related to your specific style and all will help leg strength and stamina but again you are talking a long time training.

If you are training CMA correctly you have to except that there are very few things that come quickly. But IMO it is worth the wait
 

JadecloudAlchemist

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Also if you are practicing an internal art there is a difference between just sitting in Ma bu and actually sinking.

This holds true in Santi especially what makes the stance difficult IMO is not so much sitting in the rear leg with 70 percent but sinking and relaxing into the rear leg which IMO gives internal pressure(the lava like feeling running down your leg) which gives you that quick movement. I feel this is one of the reasons Xingyi stresses Santi because of its offensive approach,Santi training allows for such quick movement.
 
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ben

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...I am not quite sure what it does for your legs.

One of the things this does is it builds the tendon and ligament strength. When you go slowly and relax the muscles as much as possible you force the tendons and ligaments to support more of your body weight and get stronger. The stronger your tendons and ligaments are the less you need your muscles to support your body weight. This allows you to be more relaxed and move more freely with less tension and less effort.


...does this slow your legs and make it harder to tense your thigh muscles more reluctant to move quickly?


No it does the opposite. This makes it much easier to move quickly and effortlessly. If you are using a lot of tension to hold yourself upright your movement will be stiff and awkward, and you are wasting a lot of energy just to stay upright. If your legs are strong enough to be relaxed no matter what position, posture or stance you find yourself in then moving will be quick and easy.

Maintaining good muscle mass and leg strength is also a critical part of staying mobile and active as we age.
 

mograph

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Maintaining good muscle mass and leg strength is also a critical part of staying mobile and active as we age.

Absolutely. It is said that if you can get out of a chair without using your arms to push yourself up, you should continue to do so for as long as possible. This will help you stay mobile as you age.
 
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ben

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That reminds me of another drill although it's not really a Tai Chi drill.

Find a nice hard surface. lay down then stand up. and repeat.

don't use your hands, lay down differently each time and make sure all the movement is soft, smooth and extra slow. never ever stop moving.

you could do this quickly with lots of jumping and rolls if you wanted to although that wouldn't be a very Tai Chi way of doing things.
 

Xue Sheng

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That reminds me of another drill although it's not really a Tai Chi drill.

Find a nice hard surface. lay down then stand up. and repeat.

don't use your hands, lay down differently each time and make sure all the movement is soft, smooth and extra slow. never ever stop moving.

you could do this quickly with lots of jumping and rolls if you wanted to although that wouldn't be a very Tai Chi way of doing things.

As long as you are using the body as a single unit and not depending on muscular strength alone... fast... slow... does not matter. There are fast sets and some styles of Taiji and fast movements as well.

 

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Wow, amazing replies there. I can't think of a single question that isn't answered, although I have hijacked the thread in a manner of speaking I think anyone could benefit from the answers so its worth it.

I'd love to know more about "sinking" and "centering" but I assume these are things that have to be experienced and learned and are too complex to distill easily into instructions.
 
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