Purple Belt
Oct 13, 2002
Reaction score
I need help. I can't do stretch wide very far or side stretches either. any ideas on how I can limber up. I was looking around the class tonight and I'm the only one with this problem. I know I shouln't be comparing myself to others but I want to be more limber. Any exercises or books or ideas would be helpful. Thanks
When I was in TKD, we did 2 exercises:

In class exercise:

You and your partner sit on the floor facing each other. Stretch your legs out to the side (still sitting). Line your feet up with your partner's. Grab each other by the hands and pull yourselves toward each other (easily).

Outside of class:

This is more of a game than an excersize, but it helped me a lot.
Stand facing your partner. Get a knife or a screwdriver (I recommend the screwdriver) and throw it no more than 1 foot away from one of your partner's feet. Your partner moves his foot to the screwdriver position, picks up the knife, then does the same to you. The person who give up or who doesn't stick the screwdriver in the ground (or who sticks it into your foot) is the loser.

This game also comes in 2 versions: sideways and forward, depending on what you want to work on.

This one helped me more than the first, but it wasn't sanctioned by our instructor.
Just for clarification:

When you're doing the screwdriver game, you and your partner alternate turns. You guys will eventually reach the floor. When you reach the floor, you have 1 throw to put your opponent down to the floor. If you are both in "full splits" position, its a draw.

Its a fun little game. You usually want to play more than excercise, but the results are the same.

Getting limber is a good goal, but it takes time. Be consistent about stretching every day and I'm sure you'll limber up. But be careful as well: just as in anything physical, you can injure yourself if you push yourself too far. For a stretch to be effective, you have to "feel it," but if you get all the way to feeling true pain, you've probably gone too far.

Also, remember that every body is different. At some point you might find that at your most limber you still can't stretch as far as someone else in your class. There's nothing wrong with that.

Just my opinion,

Before I ever took a martial arts class, I limbered up for years just by kicking at the air, doing lots of high kicks for practice. It really pays off for being able to stretch them, get into a split, etc. Lots of high kicking should really loosen the legs up.
I would make one minor adjustment to Senfeng's in class stretch;
stretch one at a time, the person helping the other to stretch
should put their feet on the lower thighs, just above the knees
of the person stretching and apply light pressure, hold their belt
if they have one.
Any force below the knees can really mess up the knee, they
aren't meant to bend that way...
We also put our lower leg on a partners shoulder, have them
start in a low horse stance and stand up higher as you get
more flexible. This can be done in front kick or side kick

Try some dynamic stretching. It will help improve your kicking in a shorter amount of time than static stretching. :)
couldn't agree more with the dynamic stretching...

in case you're wondering what you can do for a dynamic strech...simple leg raises twic a day will do just fine. they will improve you leg speed and explosiveness, and will actually increase your splits if you're interested in that sort of thing.

raise your leg to the front, side, and back for about 8 to 12 reps with each leg. another way to raise the leg is to stand with your feet parrallel, then turn one foot out 90 degrees to the side and raise it like you would raise it for a front raise and then do the opposite with the other leg. (that one is easier to show than explain).

start fairly low with your first rep of 8 to 12 and work to a higher level by the time you reach the last one. try not to max out the height because that may be detrimental to your progress. do this excersie once in the morning when you wake up and once before you go to bed. also do this excersise before doing any stretching or taking a class. just by doing this simple and quick routine you will notice great improvement i think.

you asked about a book...there's only one that i would recommend. Tom Kurz's "Stretching Scientifically." extremely detailed, and will give you a good understanding of the different types of stretching and show you how to do them safely and effectivley. it will also educate you on the dangers of partner stretching.
Ask yourself how far you actually /need/ to be able to stretch!

Sure, you need to stretch at the start of the class so you don't pull any muscles, but, you don't need to be able to kick up to head height when you're just starting out, as long as you can get your leg up to about the solar plexus, that's fine.

There's no magic trick to becoming more flexible, if you train regularly it'll just come over time (if you train once or twice a week, you'll notice a real difference after about a year).

There are some machines you can use to stretch your legs further, but to be honest I've always though they looked like a really bad idea, better to do it naturally, and gradually!

Originally posted by jeffkyle

Try some dynamic stretching. It will help improve your kicking in a shorter amount of time than static stretching. :)

In a little over a month I went from kicking about groin level to being able to get my toes up to eye level.....It works and Im not a flexible guy by any means!
A year to do something you can accomplish in half the time...or even less???

Dynamic Stretching and Muscle memory are keys to good kicks. Just having flexibility doesn't help much if your muscles aren't trained to execute the kick properly. It is just like training to do a punch correctly and getting your muscles to work properly when doing so. But the legs are always harder to train than the arms. :)
Read Jean de Frenette's sick little Canuck book on stretches.

He stresses--as everybody good I've ever heard/read on the subject does--that the key to stretching is daily work, gradual increase, avoiding of things like "bouncing," on a stretch, and patience.

I'm afraid I don't agree with the quick improvement school of thought. First off, I'm just too darn old for it. Second, there are physiological consequences to some of this stuff. Third, some of the ability to stretch is built into the body and can't completely be changed.

And fourth, why not just do the sets, the forms, with real stances? Stance Set 2 WILL stretch you out.

Thanks: an interesting discussion.
I noticed that kicking series beginning low, then going higher as we warm up) worked rather well for me, better than static stretches. Nonetheless, after the kicks we always did some static stretches as well.

But of course, you should begin with low kicks or some more static stretches before trying going head level to avoid injuries.
stance set 2 ???? Need to get it down first!!!! (learning it)

I could see kicking set really improving the range of motion.
But I desperatly need a greater range of motion for my kicks!
Dynamically stretching has helped me greatly.
It is important to separate stretching from limbering. If you are looking to actually increase your basic stretch capability of your muscles, then long, slow, steady stretching is best, this also leverages muscle memory if done correctly.

Dynamic exercises are typically best for limbering, where you wish to warm up your muscles and have them 'recall' your stretch limits. I think using dynamic stretching, especially bounce type stretching, to try and increase your stretch capability introduces the risk of torn muscles, ligaments, etc. So it may be quicker, but can have a higher long term cost.

The splits is one of the hardest things to improve on once you are an adult, but it can be done. It is best though to go for all around flexibility, this will also reduce your risk of injury and help increase your perceived fitness (since many physical things will be easier).

Try working on your calves with the classic runners stretch - face and lean on wall, one leg in front near wall and bent at knee, one leg behind (2-3 feet) with heal on floor and straight, now push hips down to stretch rear leg calf. Remember to breath and stay in position for 1-2 minutes to relax into stretch.

This stretch will relieve your hamstrings somewhat, which you can work on next.

Hamstrings are best done seated and one leg at a time. Keep one leg tucked in (foot to thigh) and the other straight in front, toes up. Lean body over straight leg and reach hands towards foot. You can use a belt to loop over arch of foot and pull yourself down (don't pull on tops of toes though, as tenses calf). Now make sure your back is straight by looking up and trying to push your chest forwards, this will increase stretch on hamstring and prevent damage to nerves in your lower spine (common fault on this stretch). Remember to breath and hold for 1-2 minutes.

These should both help increase front kick flexibility.

A few things to remember for any stretching:

1. Never over do it, the possible damage can be far worse than being inflexible (BTW been there done that!)
2. Remember to breath deep, this feeds oxygen to the muscles and also you can usually stretch further on a breath out.
3. Hold for a good 1-2 minutes, this helps let the muscles actually relax (tense muscles do not stretch well!) and helps enduce muscle memory.
4. Try and avoid bouncing as it can tear already stressed (i.e. stretched) muscles.
5. Make sure you are warmed up if trying intense stretching. Either do some light dynamic exercises for 5-10 minutes, or take a hot bath.
6. Try not to heavily stretch the same muscles two days in a row, muscles need time to recover from any exertion (as in weight training). Apparently Vitamin C can help muscle recovey(??)

One last thought is to look into Yoga which includes many very good stretching exercises.

Hope this helps and good luck.
I'm not an expert / doctor / physical therapist etc., but here's what I've learned and read:

1) To increase flexibility, you must:
a) Strengthen / exercise your muscles
b) Increase their range of motion during exercises

The fibers in your muscles get lengthened (thus improving flexibility) as they are repaired after such a workout.

2) You must balance your muscles for maximum flexibility

If your hamstrings are tight, then you need to exercise BOTH the hamstrings AND the quadriceps for maximum benefit. This will help improve speed, too.

3) For stretching to be beneficial, your muscles must be warm

I was taught that stretching AFTER working out was far more beneficial than stretching BEFORE a workout for increasing flexibility.

I haven't read Tom Kurz's book, but it may be worth checking out.

Hope this helps....

I trained in TKD for 3 yrs and when I first started I had a hard time getting my split past a certain point. I went ahead and bought a StretchMaster machine, I know alot of people that don't like them because it is easy to go too far with one, but it really worked for me. I dropped to nearly a full spit in just under a month. The great advantage was being able to relax the rest of my body and sit in the stretch for several minutes at a time, I almost forgot I was stretching.

Latest Discussions