How to Stretch and increase Flexibility to enhance performance

Rick Tew's Split Kick

If you do not have flexibility then it will be a challenge for you to kick high and perform advanced body movements.  So, I will say it once again, “Stretch.”

The question is, “How Do You Stretch?”

There are two specific ways of stretching:

  1. Static
  2. Dynamic

As a rule of thumb, you do Dynamic stretching before or during your workout and leave static stretches for after your workout.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is slow and constant and held (as far as the muscle will stretch) for up to 30 seconds – though many martial artists use leg stretchers and hold the stretch for as long as 30 minutes. Static or passive stretching uses an external force to hold the stretch in position.

Pro Static Leg Stretcher

Pro Static Leg Stretcher

Get the splits faster and increase your flexibility. Take a seat, adjust the stretcher to your current stretch maximum and enjoy the static stretch.

Rick Tew developed his splits at 15 after being introduced to this machine. His routine always included static stretching for at least 15 minutes while watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies or reading books on Ninjutsu.

When I was first developing my splits using Static stretching, I would use a Static Leg Stretcher or  brace my legs with a couch or coffee table. 

I would often hold this position while I watched a favorite TV show. I later turned it into an upside down drill and use motivational audio programs while stretching and have been known to go to sleep in what we call a wall stretch (only to wake up not too long later with my legs half asleep and seemingly frozen in place).

Rick Tew's Sleep Stretch
Rick Tew's Warm Up Static Stretch

Breathe in through your nose and then extend into the stretch as your breath out through your mouth.  Then hold the stretch as you focus on your breathing.

You can also work on tensing various body parts in order to increase your stretch or to tighten and relax (release).

When I am doing stretches like this, I am often pushing my legs in the opposite direction or working on variations of progressive muscle relaxation.  

Rick Tew's Split Stretch California

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. Unlike static stretching, the end position or stretch is not held.

Although we use both Static and Dynamic or Active stretching in our training, we have adopted the belief that Dynamic stretching is more beneficial as a warm-up for the Martial Artist and it is now the preferred method of training before or during a class.

holland_kaag_high_kick

Would you Rather be Static or Dynamic?

If you’re like most of us, you were taught the importance of warming up at in in PE class. If so, you have probably continued with pretty much the same routine ever since.

Rick Tew's CMS Students Hawaii

Science, however, has adopted some new beliefs. Researchers now believe that some many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time, but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — before a workout is incorrect. Some experts believe it could actually weakens them.

In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching. The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.

Rick Tew's Rock Climbing Splits Stretch

The Warm-Up should do two things:

  1. Loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints.
  2. Literally warm up the body.

When you’re at rest, there’s less blood flow to muscles and tendons, and they stiffen. You need to make tissues and tendons compliant before beginning exercise.

A well-designed warm-up starts by increasing body heat and blood flow. Warm muscles and dilated blood vessels pull oxygen from the bloodstream more efficiently and use stored muscle fuel more effectively. They also withstand loads better. One significant if gruesome study found that the leg-muscle tissue of laboratory rabbits could be stretched farther before ripping if it had been electronically stimulated — that is, warmed up.

Rick Tew Teen SplitsTo raise the body’s temperature, a warm-up must begin with aerobic activity, usually light jogging. Most coaches and athletes have known this for years. That’s why boxers break a light sweat before a fight and marathoners stride in front of the starting line. But many athletes do this portion of their warm-up too intensely or too early. A 2002 study of collegiate volleyball players found that those who’d warmed up and then sat on the bench for 30 minutes had lower backs that were stiffer than they had been before the warm-up.

Rick Tew Splits at 21 on the Beach in Holland

A number of recent studies have demonstrated that an overly vigorous aerobic warm-up simply makes you tired. Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery.

Rick Tew's Audio Stretch Upside DownIn the Martial Science we have a very easy to follow Warm Up that combines the Stances with Fitness Kickboxing to include various movements that involve lunging, kicking, punching, twisting and occasionally skittering, Ninja-like, along the mat.

While static stretching is still almost universally practiced among amateur athletes, it doesn’t improve the muscles’ ability to perform with more power, physiologists now agree. You may feel as if you’re able to stretch farther after holding a stretch for 30 seconds so you think you’ve increased that muscle’s readiness. But typically you’ve increased only your mental tolerance for the discomfort of the stretch. The muscle is actually weaker.

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion.

Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get “an excitatory message” to perform. Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific. You need range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead.

For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. For Martial Artists who need to move rapidly in different directions, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body.

Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions. A major study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, on the other hand, found that knee injuries were cut nearly in half among female collegiate soccer players who followed a warm-up program that included both dynamic warm-up exercises and static stretching. (For a sample routine, visit www.aclprevent.com/pepprogram.htm.)

A new research by Andrea Fradkin, an assistant professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, suggests that those who warm up are nine times less likely to be injured.

Light Static Stretching for the Splits

Warm Up Stretch by Sensei Rick Tew

A Few of the Best Dynamic Stretches

These exercises are good for many athletes. Do them immediately after your aerobic warm-up a (Fitness Kickboxing) and as soon as possible before your workout.

STRAIGHT-LEG MARCH
(for the hamstrings and gluteus muscles)

Kick one leg straight out in front of you, with your toes flexed toward the sky. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes. Drop the leg and repeat with the opposite limbs. Continue the sequence for at least six or seven repetitions.

SCORPION
(for the lower back, hip flexors and gluteus muscles)

Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm, then kick your left foot toward your right arm. Since this is an advanced exercise, begin slowly, and repeat up to 12 times.

HANDWALKS
(for the shoulders, core muscles, and hamstrings)

Stand straight, with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. “Walk” with your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands, then walk your hands forward again. Repeat five or six times.

SPIDERMAN
Drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall.

Naturally it’s best to just start stretching. If you would like to speed up the process, you should start implementing some of these key strategies stated on this page.

A technique I love to do which is great for stretching and becoming super flexible is the Dynamic 120 stretching. What you do is: every morning upon waking AND / OR before every workout, do 20 straight-leg-stretch-kicks each leg. Do sets for front kicks, side kicks and back kicks.

Remember, these are straight leg stretch kicks – meaning you just swing the kick as high as comfortable until loose (the knee does not bend).

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