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K31

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Being relatively new to the MAs, I picked up a book on stretching in which the author stated that you really couldn't gain dynamic flexibility through static stretches. News to me since in class we mainly do static stretches before and after class (splits and other floor exercises). Just a little while ago we started doing front stretch kicks as part of our warm-up with one of the junior black belts.

So, I concentrated on doing dynamic stretches on my own to improve the height of my kicks. The instructor even remarked that I was kicking higher.

Just last night however, at home, I used a divding wall in my living room that is about hip-high to do static stretches of my legs to the front and sides. I didn't do this for very long just about 60 seconds at a time. I felt a little sore in my lower back this morning but that was all the ill effects.

But when I worked out today I could swear that I could kick a full foot higher doing stretch kicks!

Was this an anomoly or just a one time thing because I hadn't really done this type of stretch before? Should I continue with this or could there be adverse effects?
 

Carol

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What specifically were the motions you took to do your stretches?

On a different note, a great deal of athletic performance depends on athletic performance and stretching. You could feel like you are kicking higher doing your stretch kicks because of your stretching last night, or you could feel like you are kicking higher because you are attempting your stretch kicks at a point in your warmup cycle when your body is more fit and more warmed up.
 
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K31

K31

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What specifically were the motions you took to do your stretches?

Basically I just rested my foot and ankle on the top of the wall (with the other foot on the ground, legs pretty much at right angles to one another) and leaned in that direction to the point where I could feel the muscles stretching but I was not hurting them and held that stretch for about 60 seconds. I did that about two or three times per leg front and sides.

On a different note, a great deal of athletic performance depends on athletic performance and stretching. You could feel like you are kicking higher doing your stretch kicks because of your stretching last night, or you could feel like you are kicking higher because you are attempting your stretch kicks at a point in your warmup cycle when your body is more fit and more warmed up.

I did my side stretch kicks at the end of my workout like I usually do. The fronts ones I did after the sides. I usually intersperse those throughout the workout with some back stretch kicks.
 

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Dynamic stretches are okay once you have warmed up - but if you do them too soon, when your muscles are cold, you're much more likely to injure yourself than you are with static stretches. Static stretches should be done at the beginning of a warm-up, along with mild aerobic activities, such as jogging in places for 30-60 seconds, or doing jumping jacks.

Stretching at the beginning of class is not really intended to improve flexibility - it's intended to warm you up and keep you from hurting yourself. If you want to improve your flexibility, stretch after class, when your muscles are warmer and looser. It will also provide a cool-down if you don't already do one.

The other thing to remember is that when kicking, height for the sake of height is not the only - or even the primary - goal. I can kick over peoples' heads... so what? There's nothing to hit there! I have students who are hyper flexible (13 and 14 year old girls) - but they have trouble hitting targets that are below their shoulders, because they habitually kick too high.

Stretching is great - it helps prevent injury - just remember, if you ever have to defend yourself, you won't be able to say to your attacker "could you hold on just a minute while I stretch?" - you're going to have to be able to hit your target (wherever that is) the first time... and the face is not the best target... knees, now, those are a good target... and there's not a whole lot of flexibility needed to hit them, either.

Finally (sorry, I'm rambling), if you haven't been stretching regularly, then you're going to see a big increase in flexibility fairly quickly no matter what you do - but it will level off fairly quickly too.
 

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The other thing to remember is that when kicking, height for the sake of height is not the only - or even the primary - goal.

Amen to that. High kicks can leave you immensely vulnerable - especially if your attacker is trained.
 

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Stretching at the beginning of class is not really intended to improve flexibility - it's intended to warm you up and keep you from hurting yourself. If you want to improve your flexibility, stretch after class, when your muscles are warmer and looser. It will also provide a cool-down if you don't already do one.
I completely agree with this statement, and I think this is why you noticed the changes that you did in flexibility. If you want flexibility and strength for higher kicks, then do the dynamic stretches, preferably at the beginning of your workout (or just after the aerobic portion, as Kacey pointed out). In order to have higher kicks that are effective, you must have full control and power throughout the entire range of motion of your kick. From what I have read and experienced, you cannot achieve this combination with static stretches alone. Furthermore, static stretches at the beginning of your workout will decrease your strength and speed, so that your training for technique will be hampered for the next half hour (making static stretches some of the worst things to do prior to a martial arts technical training workout).

Dynamic stretches are okay once you have warmed up - but if you do them too soon, when your muscles are cold, you're much more likely to injure yourself than you are with static stretches. Static stretches should be done at the beginning of a warm-up, along with mild aerobic activities, such as jogging in places for 30-60 seconds, or doing jumping jacks.
I agree in part, but disagree about the place for static stretches.

Here's the 'skinny' from what I've been able to study/read/experience on the subject (will search up references on request, although Thomas Kurz's 'Stretching Scientifically' gives an excellent summary of most of them):

1. Start with enough of a light aerobic workout to raise your body's core temperature at least two degrees (literally, to 'warm up' your body). You should break into a light sweat. Jumping jacks, marching in place, jogging, brisk walking are all good choices.

2. Next start with joint rotations. An easy way to make sure you hit everything is to start from the top and work down, bottom and work up, or from the center of the body and working outward (cover all major joints including head/neck, waist/torso, knees, ankles, shoulders, forearms, wrists). This will stimulate your body's production of sinovial fluid, the lubricant that fills the cavities in your joints, and your body's own natural 'shock absorber' system.

3. Then move to dynamic stretches. These stretches should be of the same type (i.e., same range of motion, same muscles involved, same basic movements/coordination of movements) as whatever you will be practicing that day. It will 're-set' your muscle memory so that you are ready to move in the directions in which you will be training.

Side Note: If you do just this in the morning, you can warm-up very quickly when you get to class later in the day, with just a short warmup and some more dynamic stretches.

4. Finish your basic workout, including your technical and/or strength training, then cool down with either some isometric stretching (no more than 3x a week, since when it's done correctly isometric stretching provides a significant strength workout) and/or relaxed (static) stretching.

Your most noticeable gains in flexibility will be made AFTER your workout, when your muscles are fully warmed. Use the prolonged-hold static stretches at this time.
 

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Ninjamom, I don't disagree with anything you said - I was getting ready for class, and typing faster and less completely than I should have.
 

Laurentkd

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Everyone here has given lots of good information.
I recently graduated college with an Exercise Science degree, and I can tell you- the science of exercise is changing quite rapidly as we are just now looking at it as a serious study (and not just teaching people how to teach PE). In fact the perceived value of Gatorade went from con to pro just in the four years I was in school!

That said, you will find a LOT of books out there with bad information, bad only because it is outdated. What they thought worked then, they have found better ways for now. Dynamic stretching used to be the hip thing, now they say PNF stretching is (I also prefer this, but maybe that is because of my education in the current trends). Basically, dynamic, static, and PNF stretching can all be beneficial. You will just find different people at different times will argue the different types. The one that NO ONE likes any more is ballistic stretching (where you bounce in the stretch). Unfortunately this to was once thought to be the best stretch (not too long ago) and a lot of martial art schools, PE teachers, and coaches for other sports, think this is still the best way to stretch. Talk to anyone in the "field" though and they will argue against it vehemently. Of course... you can still always find someone who swears by it (my instructor included- he has always stretched that way and still has full splits at 37 years old). Those are the hard people to convince otherwise (lucky for me he trusts me and we don't stretch that way any more. I told him "just because you didn't wear a seatbelt and survived, doesn't mean we should tell people not to wear them." In the same way, just because it didn't injure him doesn't mean it won't injure someone else).

Overall, just pay attention to what you read, when it was put out and who put it out. Try to be as educated as possible. And then find what gives you the best results. I would definitely check into PNF stretching though. There is a lot of information on it out there, but let me know if you want a step by step walk through.
 

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Lauren, I'm not familiar with this acronym.

What meanest 'PNF' ?

Thanks!


Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (you see why PNF is used instead!)

The basic idea is based on the fact that of two opposing muscles, when one is contracted the other must be relaxed. For example, when you are using your triceps, your biceps are relaxed and vice versa.

So, for PNF stretching (again basic idea) you would stand up against a wall facing away, and have a partner lift your leg as high as possible (for a good hamstring stretch) after holding the stretch for about 30 seconds, you would then push against your partner for 5-10 seconds. Imagine you are trying to push your leg back to the floor, but your partner doesn't allow it. After that your partner should be able to stretch you a couple more inches. You basically contracted the opposing muscle (quads), which forced the one you are trying to stretch to relax (hamstring) and thus allows you to stretch farther.

I belive the biggest problem when people try to stretch is tensing up rather than relaxing. PNF stretching helps negate this.

PNF stretching is a fairly intense stretching method, and you should be sure you are really warmed up before doing it. It also isn't recommended for someone new to stretching. Use static stretching first, and then use PNF stretching once your body is used to stretching and you have conditioned your body for it.

Hope that helps. It is really hard to explain online, hopefully that just gives you an idea. I'll try to find some decent sources on it in the morning and post them here (I am pretty sure Sang H. Kim's Ultimate Stretching book has a good explanation, but I'll have to double check).
 

Just4Kicks

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That PNF stretching seems really interesting, I might have a go. And any further information on it would be great.

I believe that static stretches do work, I was not very flexible at first but doing static stretches has helped.
 

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We were doing PNF stretches last night in class, I got my legs whole foot higher than with doing normal stretches, I was amazed at the result!

The legs do bounce back though and you can't sutomaticaly stretch just as far the first time next time... but each time you do it the stretch gets that little bit better.
 

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4. Finish your basic workout, including your technical and/or strength training, then cool down with either some isometric stretching (no more than 3x a week, since when it's done correctly isometric stretching provides a significant strength workout) and/or relaxed (static) stretching.

Your most noticeable gains in flexibility will be made AFTER your workout, when your muscles are fully warmed. Use the prolonged-hold static stretches at this time.

Sorry for the double post but I just remembererd my question, can some one explain Isometric stretches to me please? I haven't a clue what they are.
 

Ninjamom

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Isometric is what we used for PNF, before there was PNF ;)

Basically, you will tighten your muscles in opposition to the direction you are trying to stretch, then relax. This will momentarily (3-4 seconds) suppress the body's reflex to tighten your muscles and fight against your own stretching.

Best way is with an example: Suppose you are working on a side split (box split, Chinese split, that split where your left leg goes left and your right leg goes right while you face forward). For an isometric stretch, you might go into the stretch as far as you can without your hands touching the floor. Then, you would tense your legs so that your legs/feet are pushing inward, towards each other, as if they were gripping the floor. (This would be tightening your leg muscles in the direction opposite to the split.) After doing this 10 to 20 seconds, relax your legs totally, and your split will extend another few inches.

This is why isometric stretching can be such a good strength workout (and apparently, why it works - thanks, Lauren, for the explanation of PNF; I think I understand!)
 

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Right sounds like a similar principal to PNF then, thanks Ninjamom and Lauren. In that case we use that too.
 
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K31

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All,
thanks for all the good replies.

Just to set the record straight, I have no illusions of using high kicks in an actual fight (Also having done some Judo in the distant past I would be loathe to stick my leg out to someone off-balance like I usually feel in a high kick). The only reason I am trying to be able to kick high is for class, testing, and sparring.

As a matter of fact, the owner of the school himself told me the day I started (TKD) that kicking high in a "street" situation was ill advised.

I am however, 6' 2" tall and I can't successfully kick at an opponents head of the same size in a sparring situation, such as the guys I am usually paired with in class. Others, it's not as much of a problem. Side kicks I can also not get nearly as high as forward kicks.
 

exile

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All,
thanks for all the good replies.

Just to set the record straight, I have no illusions of using high kicks in an actual fight (Also having done some Judo in the distant past I would be loathe to stick my leg out to someone off-balance like I usually feel in a high kick). The only reason I am trying to be able to kick high is for class, testing, and sparring.

As a matter of fact, the owner of the school himself told me the day I started (TKD) that kicking high in a "street" situation was ill advised.

This is correct, for most people. But as you note, there are other reasons to train high kicks, the main one being balance, I'd say. So far as high kicks go, I've heard that high kicks began to be used on karate, long before the TKD we know now as in existence, as competition rules changed to rule out lower targets like the groin. I don't know how credible this is, but it's certainly true that as competition in the MAs (not just TKD) has become more oriented to a television audience, technical changes have come in which increase the `flash' factor, complex high kicks being among the most flashy of these new moves. There are a couple of recent threads that talk about this development a lot (take a look at the evolution/tradition thread that kidswarrior started). It certainly wasn't combat efficiency that lead to spinning back kicks to the head...

I am however, 6' 2" tall and I can't successfully kick at an opponents head of the same size in a sparring situation, such as the guys I am usually paired with in class. Others, it's not as much of a problem. Side kicks I can also not get nearly as high as forward kicks.

My experience is, there are three factors that determine the height you can kick to. The obvious one is flexibility, which is why people think they need to learn to do the splits and worry about whether or not Kurz is really right about dynamic stretching and so on. But strength and balance are also heavily implicated in kicking height, and those tend not to get so much attention. Try doing the following: bring your better-side kicking leg up in the highest chamber you can for a roundhouse...and just keep it there, in that position, with the rest of your body in the right configuration to deliver the kick, for a full minute. Can you balance on the support leg in a completely unsymmetrical position like that for that long, or longer? Most people take years to be able to do that, and most people I know don't do balance drills like that. But no matter how limber you are or how strong your legs and hip flexors are, if you can't stay in balance, you can't kick.

Try that exercise, and also try throwing the kick super slowly, so that you aren't using momentum to maintain your balance dynamically, but are in `static' balance all the way through the roundhouse. Now try doing the same two kinds of exercise with the rear-leg side kick, and so on.

The other thing to work on is strength. If you do these exercises I mentioned with a couple of 10lb ankle weights attached to the kicking leg, you will definitely increase your leg/hip strength over a four-month period! Even if you're flexible and have good balance abilities, if you're not strong enough, you simply can't sustain a movement of your kicking leg at the height you're trying to train for. And strength training for the hip muscles isn't something you can easily do with free weights or machines...

If you start doing these exercises a few times a week, I would predict that in three or four months your kicks will be both higher and stronger, and far more stable.
 

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This is correct, for most people. But as you note, there are other reasons to train high kicks, the main one being balance, I'd say. So far as high kicks go, I've heard that high kicks began to be used on karate, long before the TKD we know now as in existence, as competition rules changed to rule out lower targets like the groin. I don't know how credible this is, but it's certainly true that as competition in the MAs (not just TKD) has become more oriented to a television audience, technical changes have come in which increase the `flash' factor, complex high kicks being among the most flashy of these new moves. There are a couple of recent threads that talk about this development a lot (take a look at the evolution/tradition thread that kidswarrior started). It certainly wasn't combat efficiency that lead to spinning back kicks to the head...



My experience is, there are three factors that determine the height you can kick to. The obvious one is flexibility, which is why people think they need to learn to do the splits and worry about whether or not Kurz is really right about dynamic stretching and so on. But strength and balance are also heavily implicated in kicking height, and those tend not to get so much attention. Try doing the following: bring your better-side kicking leg up in the highest chamber you can for a roundhouse...and just keep it there, in that position, with the rest of your body in the right configuration to deliver the kick, for a full minute. Can you balance on the support leg in a completely unsymmetrical position like that for that long, or longer? Most people take years to be able to do that, and most people I know don't do balance drills like that. But no matter how limber you are or how strong your legs and hip flexors are, if you can't stay in balance, you can't kick.

Try that exercise, and also try throwing the kick super slowly, so that you aren't using momentum to maintain your balance dynamically, but are in `static' balance all the way through the roundhouse. Now try doing the same two kinds of exercise with the rear-leg side kick, and so on.

The other thing to work on is strength. If you do these exercises I mentioned with a couple of 10lb ankle weights attached to the kicking leg, you will definitely increase your leg/hip strength over a four-month period! Even if you're flexible and have good balance abilities, if you're not strong enough, you simply can't sustain a movement of your kicking leg at the height you're trying to train for. And strength training for the hip muscles isn't something you can easily do with free weights or machines...

If you start doing these exercises a few times a week, I would predict that in three or four months your kicks will be both higher and stronger, and far more stable.


Great point! I totally agree. Flexibility alone won't make you a great head kicker. Wanted to rep you but can't yet. (Tough loss last night by the way.. I was rootin' for you!)
 

Laurentkd

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That PNF stretching seems really interesting, I might have a go. And any further information on it would be great.

I believe that static stretches do work, I was not very flexible at first but doing static stretches has helped.


Static stretches will definitely help, glad you have seen improvement! That is always motivating huh!

As far as more info on PNF stretching. I am pretty sure Sang H. Kim's Ultimate Flexibility has good stuff on it. (My master has it right now though... every time he gets a new book he says he'll "hold it" for me so that it stays looking nice and in the mean time "put it on display" with his other books in his office... eventually I think the majority of his books will really be mine!!) I also saw in the new Turtle Press catalog that Sang H. Kim has made a video based off of this book, which has several 20 min. stretching routines. I think this would be great just because most people don't hold stretches long enough (between 15 and 30 seconds is best- which is really a long time) and I think it would be good because it would really force you to give everything a good stretch (when I am stretching on my own I know I don't stretch everything like I should, but focus only on the muscle groups I care about at the time). PLUS the video is only 20 bucks, which I think is a good deal, the book runs for about 23 I think.

But really, there is a lot of info out there on PNF stretching. Check online (proceed with caution!) or check out your local library. Anything written in the last few years is sure to have a nice PNF explanation. Or, talk to a young trainer at a gym or a young PE coach. Again, if you talk to anyone that received training over 10 years or so ago there is a big chance they won't know exactly what you are talking about unless they have kept up with the research.

Good luck and anyone can feel free to PM with any further questions.
 

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Yes fantastic post Ex. I have found that doing slow then fast four directional kicks helps the balance and control too.
 

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