Martial Art Train Without Pain
By Deb Russell
Purpose of stretching:
- Reduce muscle tension
- Increase the movement of joints and muscles so that the body can work more efficiently
- Prevent muscle soreness and muscle tears
- Prevent muscle inflammation and facilitate recovery from soft tissue injuries
- Improve exercise technique by extending the range of motion
- Lengthen the muscle after use
Whenever a muscle is stretched, the stretch reflex action automatically contracts the stretch muscle, in order to protect it from being over stretched. Bouncing, or ballistic stretching, does more damage than not stretching at all. During each bounce, the muscle shortens which is the opposite result of what you are trying to achieve.
The muscle responds by lengthening slowly as in performing a static stretch. Hold the stretch still for a minimum of 20 seconds. Stretches should be slow, gentle and not forced. The stretches you choose should be related to the kind and type of activity you are going to perform. Stretch daily if you wish to increase your flexibility.
Remember not to compete during stretching exercises. You should not compare your progress to that of another person if you're in class. Stretching beyond your limits can lead to injury and loss of any gains you will have made. You should always alternate your stretches from one muscle group to another, ensuring that they are progressive. If you are an exceptionally flexible person, you should take a great deal of care not to stretch too far because there is also a danger of injury through dislocation.
Cool Down/Post Training Stretch
When we stretch correctly, most of our muscles are loose and flexible. As we train, we exert force on these joints and these muscles tense up and contract to protect the improper rotation of joints, and soon these muscles can be even tighter than before we began our initial stretch. This tightening of small motion joints is particularly important in our back. Whenever we kick the heavy bag in martial arts training our body's joints adjust to compensate for the force load. Vertebrae shift to take up the shock of our feet/legs striking the bag or when we train with weights.
The main reason we stretch should not only be to prevent injury but to enable us to gain flexibility and to restore the looseness of the muscles we have caused to tighten. The post exercise or a cool down stretch ensures this. The proper cool down is to gradually decrease the amount of physical activity but to continue to do enough to generate heat in the main muscles you had been using. You then allow those muscles that are already loose to contract slowly while you loosen up the contracted muscles. When we do not stretch out these muscles and ligaments, they naturally tend to shorten, and with time and age this eventually causes a decrease in flexibility! Stretching facilitates recovery by regulating muscle tension, relieving muscle spasms and improving blood flow into your muscles.
Some martial artists are more prone to injury than others. Those that have weaker joints may require extra strengthening exercise to protect the ligaments in their joints. Those that are prone to muscle pulls and tears will need to work more diligently to ensure adequate warm-ups and thorough stretching. Prior injuries will weaken an area of the body and additional strengthening may be required. Some martial artists compete at high levels, which increases their chances of physical strain and injury.
This Martial Arts stretching flexibility article is continued in the following sections:
Stretching flexibility is an important part of your martial arts training. Learning proper technique will increase your stretching flexibility which in turn will improve your kicking techniques.
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