The best fitness instructors and sports trainers in martial arts will always insist that participants adequately stretch before starting any martial art training session or competition.
Surprisingly there are still a significant number of amateur martial art practitioners that do not understand the importance of stretching in martial arts.
This guide covers what stretching does to improve your health and martial arts performance.
The Importance of Stretching in Martial Arts
Before excising you should always stretch as this is extremely important for the sport of martial arts as it helps to loosen muscles, minimize risks of sustaining or aggravating injuries, and improves your range of motion for better performance.
Stretching helps to increase the supply of blood to muscles and is important to cope with the strenuous activity of martial arts. No matter what form of martial arts your are in whether you are an amateur or professional boxer in Jiu jitsu or Judo, Kickboxing or Muay Thai, or even Karate or Taekwondo, you can benefit extremely just from simply stretching.
Since there are in excess over one hundred martial arts activities it is difficult to give exact advice on which stretches to perform but there are still sensible everyday stretches you should do to maintain performance.
The muscles which are used most in martial arts, like your legs, need to be stretched correctly include core muscles including the internal and the external obliques, the spinal erectors, hip flexors and your abs and core.
Other muscle groups commonly used are the leg and hip muscles – the hamstrings, the quadriceps, adductor group and abductor group muscles, the lower legs, and soleus muscles in addition to the gluteus.
The muscles of the upper torso and shoulder girdle are also important which includes the lats, shoulders, and chest.
Arm muscles such as triceps, biceps in addition to hand muscles as well as forearms and wrists need to be considered and finally the neck muscles which provide cervical spinal protection.
If you don’t maintain correct stretching then these are some of the common injuries:
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament, Medical Collateral Ligament and other Knee Sprains
- Sprained wrists and/or ankles
- Strains in the groin
- Rotator cuff strains or tears
- Other muscle contusions
- In addition to muscle bruises
Injury Prevention – high kicks, hard strikes, grappling and so on
Stretching helps to maintain the correct posture at all times of your martial arts exercises and can help counter act bad posture sustained through sitting and walking.
Another added benefit of stretching in martial arts is that it can help improve your focus on keep you alert which is particularly beneficial for competitors.
Best practice is to properly warm up in advance of competition and training. Also allow sensible cool down periods. You should follow sensible cardiovascular training and strengthen muscles that provide support to the knees and ankles to avoid common sprains.
Take up activities that improve flexibilities in your muscles and joints to prevent strains and exercises to improve proprioception, balance and agility as this will support the ankles and knees.
Always practice in controlled environments to mitigate accidental injuries whilst wearing appropriate protective sportswear as well as adequate padding.
Stretching Allows for better movement – Higher leg kicks, Better flow, Better Grappling
The lower body and also your core muscles help for balance and to form a solid base for delivering blows and participating in counter attacks making it extremely important for you to stretch these muscles.
For the upper body take into consideration that these muscles are needed to deliver and block blows but also be flexible for maneuverability.
Helps with Muscle Soreness
Another huge reason that martial arts fighters need to be stretching is because it can help drastically with after training muscle soreness. As an MMA fighter muscle soreness is not your friend, it is your enemy.
Stretching before and after any type of grappling, bjj training, punching bag workout or any other martial arts practice is extremely beneficial and could be the difference of you showing up the next day or taking a day off.
Do I Need to Stretch Before or After Martial Arts Training? Or Both?
Many martial arts fighters are confused on whether they need to be stretching before and after or just before.
Before and After
Stretching before allows you to prevent injuries and allows you to get a better more powerful range of motion which can mean a victory or loss in MMA.
Stretching is something that every boxer or MMA fighter should do before they even put on what they are gonna wear.
But stretching after, is what may help you drastically reduce the muscle soreness that you would otherwise have if you did not stretch after your training session.
How long should you stretch before martial arts training?
You should stretch before every session and spend between 10 and 15 minutes on warm up activities before conducting martial arts training.
Don’t overdo it
When you stretch excessively you can cause injuries so the best practice is to warm up before conducting any stretches and before starting any type of martial arts training as the increased warmth from warming up your muscles will allow for increased flexibility and also further causes reductions in the risks of sustaining injuries in martial arts and other exercise activities.
Stretching after martial arts
You should always spend a portion of your session to conduct post exercise stretches as this helps to cool down after intense activities as is often the case in for martial arts.
This also helps if you have constricted your muscles into positions that you found too difficult and the post training stretches will help to loosen those muscles and prevent muscle fatigue.
Another advantage for stretches post MMA training is the benefits it has on the mind by helping you to feel more relaxed and rejuvenated.
Best Stretching Exercises for Martial Arts
Here are three of the best stretches for those participating in martial arts training
The Standing with high leg bent knee hamstring stretch.
This is one of the best leg stretching exercises. Although leg stretching machines help tremendously, all stretching exercises can be done without one.
For this you stand with one foot raised onto a surface such as a table whilst keeping your leg at an angle all while leaning your chest towards the knee that is bent.
Squatting with your leg out whilst stretching your groin and adductor
This involves standing whilst feet are kept wide apart. One leg is kept straight with toes forward whilst one leg is bent and toes are turned to the side. The groin is lowered towards the ground and your hands are rested on the ground or on the knee that is bent.
The reverse assisted chest with simultaneous shoulder stretch.
For this stand with the back facing a bench and put your hands on the edge of said bench whilst bending arms and lowering the body slowly.
The best martial arts trainers and fitness instructors insist that adequate stretching activity takes part before any competition or session to minimize risks of sustaining training or competition damage.
Stretching will increase supplies of blood to muscles to cope with strenuous martial arts activities.
If you don’t maintain the correct stretching procedures then common injuries include sprained wrists and ankles, sore legs, Knee Sprains, groin strains, dislocations, subluxations, rotator cuff strains or tears, other muscle contusions as well as bruises. This is something that no MMA fighter wants to have to deal with.
Other advantages of properly warming up and stretching for martial arts are that it helps to improve focus.
Best practice is to properly warm up, stretching, and cool down when competing and training in Martial Arts.
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