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Different types of stretching for kickboxing and martial arts

A large part of many martial arts systems is stretching which enables you to use techniques safely and to their full potential. Here is a brief guide to 5 different types of stretches practiced within local kickboxing classes and other martial art groups.

They are Relaxed, Static Active, Dynamic, Ballistic and Isometric stretching.

Relaxed Stretching is where you would relax your body into a stretch using no other force then your body weight. An example would be reaching down towards the toes for example.  Light relaxed stretching can be useful for relieving sore muscles, however you should only stretch as much as you think is necessary as muscle soreness can be a sign of muscle damage.

Static Active stretching. An active stretch is where you would assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance other than you own muscles. An example would be holding your leg out in a front kick position and then holding the position by just using your legs muscles. Static Active stretches of this type are difficult to hold for long periods of time, not only will they increase your static flexibility but also your muscle strength.

Dynamic Stretching can be confused with ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching uses limb movement but does not go beyond the range of motion, rather it takes you up to the limit of your “R.O.M” There are no bouncy or jerky movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be a straight leg swing and holding your arm our straight then making contact with your hand using your foot in a smooth and steady motion. Dynamic stretching is usually done as part of a warm up. Dynamic stretching increases your dynamic flexibility which is important of course for martial arts.

 Ballistic stretching while to a beginner could look similar to dynamic stretching the difference is that with this type of stretching you use uncontrolled movement such as throwing a high kick to thin air with nothing to make contact with at full speed and kicking past your normal range of movement. Another example would be ‘bouncing’ your limbs to try and take you lower into a side split. Ballistic stretching can be dangerous.

Isometric stretching is considered to be the fastest way to develop static flexibility and is more effective than doing static & static active stretches alone. However care should be taken as it can place great stress on muscles. Isometric stretching involves the resistance of muscle groups through contractions and tensing of the stretched muscles. An example of this would be going into a box split or side split position until your maximum range of motion is reached, you would then tense the insides of the thighs almost as if you were squeezing a beach ball in-between your legs holding this tensed position for 5-10 seconds and then relax the stretch for a few seconds before increasing the legs out further, you would typically do this for about 3 reps. You should thoroughly warm up and perhaps do some dynamic exercises before attempting isometric stretches. Isometric stretches should not be done every day, and you should make sure your muscles are fully recovered before attempting any more.

Great care should be taken when doing any types of stretching, it is very important to warm up thoroughly and do them in a relaxed manner. If you are unfamiliar with the stretching types mentioned you should seek advice from your instructor or coach before attempting them for the first time.

Lee Jones