Stretching for high kicks

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Van Zandt, Aug 13, 2009.

  1. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    The majority of questions posted on this forum seem to be regarding developing the ability to kick high. If that is your goal then you need to do two things:

    1) Develop the ability to do the splits, so that your kicks are "safe".
    2) Build strength in your kicking agonists (prime movers)

    I will divide this post into two parts: the first will deal with what exercises to do, and the second will deal with how to arrange them in sequence and when to do them in a weekly cycle.

    Part 1 - "How to"

    The first part of this post will tell you what exercises to do, and how to do them. Note that I will only provide basic guidelines here. For a more indepth explanation you can visit the stickied "Beginners guide to flexibility" (Link).

    1.1 Doing the splits

    Want high kicks? You need the splits, it's as simple as that. The height of your kicks is determined by your level of dynamic flexibility, however your dynamic flexibility is determined by your passive flexibility. Splits are display of your level of passive flexibility. The ability to do the splits will prevent your kicks (and also your dynamic stretches) from becoming ballistic movements. To do the splits you need to do three types of stretching:

    1) Dynamic stretching.
    2) Relaxed stretching.
    3) Isometric stretching.

    1.2 Dynamic stretching

    Dynamic stretching improves your dynamic flexibility. Dynamic flexibility determines the height of your kicks. If you want high kicks then you must do dynamic stretches.

    Here are some basic guidelines to doing dynamic stretches:

    • You must do dynamic stretches twice per day.
    • In the morning, you must start dynamic stretches within 15 minutes upon waking.
    • 12 repetitions is the optimal number per set.
    • Increase the range and speed of movement gradually, over several sets.

    Here is a video demonstrating some dynamic stretching exercises:

    [ame=""]YouTube - Basic WuShu Kicks as Dynamic Stretches[/ame]

    Note that the demonstrator in the above video is a Wushu practitioner, and is holding his arms out as per the forms/kata from his art. You do not need to do this. Nor do you need to walk forwards while doing your stretches. You can even hold on to a chair if you like - if holding something for support helps you increase the height of your dynamic stretches, then do so.

    1.3 Relaxed stretching

    Relaxed stretching is probably the type you are most familiar with, which involves moving into a position and holding it. Relaxed stretches are beneficial because they return muscles to pre-training length, thus aiding recovery; they also augment the progress of other stretching methods.

    There are three methods for doing relaxed stretches:

    1) Stretch as far as comfortably possible, wait until the tension dissipates, increase the stretch, hold it, and so on. Repeat this increase/hold cycle until you reach your maximum limit. Hold the final position for 30 seconds.
    2) Stretch as far as comfortably possible and hold the position for 30 seconds. Come out of the stretch, rest for 30-60 seconds, then repeat the stretch again. Continue this cycle until you reach your maximum limit.
    4) Stretch as far as comfortably possible, hold the position for 2 seconds, increase the stretch, hold for 2 seconds, increase etc., until you reach your maximum limit. Hold the final position for 30 seconds.

    Here are some basic guidelines to doing relaxed stretches:

    • You must do relaxed stretches every day for them to be effective.
    • Do as many sets as necessary to reach your maximum limit for the day.
    • Generally speaking, once per day is enough - but more won't hurt.
    • You do not need to warm up before doing relaxed stretches.
    • Experiment to find out which method works best for you.

    Here are some examples of relaxed stretches:










    These images are arranged in the optimal sequence in which to perform them. Note that there is only one stretch per muscle group - that is all you need. Aim to do all of them to promote musculoskeletal balance.

    1.4 Isometric stretching

    Isometric stretching is just like relaxed stretching, except you simultaneously tense the stretched muscles. The optimal positions in which to do these are the front split:


    and the side split:


    The process for doing isometric stretches is simple. Stretch as far as possible, tense for 5-10 seconds, relax, increase the stretch, tense, relax, increase, etc., to your maximum limit. When you've gone as far as you can go, tense the muscles for a final 30-second contraction.

    Here are some basic guidelines to doing isometric stretches:

    • They hurt, so be ready.
    • Build up the tension over 3 to 5 seconds, reaching its peak by the 5th second.
    • Do as many sets as necessary to reach your limit for the day.
    • Never do them when sore.
    • If you hit a pleateau, tense harder, or longer, or both, and add resistance by wearing a rucksack containing weight plates.
    • Never do them when sore. (Yes, I put that in twice.)

    1.5 Building strength for kicking

    The best way to build strength in your kicking muscles (primarily the iliopsoas, tensor fascia latae and glutes) is to, well, kick! The key is to do them slowly. There isn't much to know about doing them, so here is a fantastic video for you to follow:

    [ame=""]YouTube - Superfoot Wallace training for high kick with the chair[/ame]

    And that's it for the first part of the post. If you have questions, please post them below rather than PM me in case the answers are beneficial to other users. Thanks :cool:

    Part 2 - "When to"

    This second part of the post will teach you in what order to do your stretching and kicking exercises in a workout, and how to arrange your workouts in a weekly cycle. Not doing your exercises and workouts in the right order is one of the primary causes for lack of success.

    2.1 Early morning workout

    You need to do dynamic stretches twice a day. In the morning, arrange your workouts as follows:

    Method 1
    1) Joint rotations
    2) Dynamic stretches
    3) Relaxed stretches

    If the dynamic stretches are causing you pain, or after five to six weeks you're still getting nowhere, try the second method.

    Method 2
    1) Joint rotations
    2) Mild relaxed stretches (about 60-70% max stretch)
    3) Dynamic stretches
    4) Relaxed stretches (about 80-90% max stretch)

    Do either method 1 or method 2 every day. Skip a day and you're back to square one.

    2.2 Evening workout

    Arrange the exercises for your evening practice as follows:

    1) Joint rotations
    2) General warm-up (e.g. jogging on the spot)
    3) Dynamic stretches
    4) Technique training
    5) Speed training
    6) Strength training (slow kicks go here)
    7) Isometric stretches
    8) Relaxed stretches
    9) Cardio
    10) Relaxed stretches

    Some basic guidelines about the above:

    • Remove 4, 5, 5/6/7, or 8, as necessary.
    • Only do 7 and 8 if you do 6.
    • If you must do strength (6) and cardio (9) in the same workout, wait one hour between relaxed stretches (8) before doing cardio (9).
    • If you do strength (6) and the isometric and relaxed stretches that follow (7 & 8), but you take out cardio (9), you do not need to do the additional series of relaxed stretches (10).
    • If you do strength and cardio in the same workout, then the two sets of relaxed stretching serve different purposes. # 8 augments the progress you make in the isometric stretches, and # 10 returns muscles to their pre-training length after cardio.
    • When doing slow kicks as part of the strength portion of your workout, ensure you do the slow kicks before any other exercises e.g. prior to squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.

    2.3 Weekly sequence

    Ideally you should follow this weekly sequence:

    Day 1: Technique and speed
    Day 2: Strength
    Day 3: Cardio
    Day 4: Rest
    Day 5: Technique and speed
    Day 6: Strength or cardio
    Day 7: Rest

    If you require more strength training, then try this weekly sequence:

    Day 1: Strength
    Day 2: Rest
    Day 3: Strength
    Day 4: Rest
    Day 5: Strength
    Day 6: Cardio
    Day 7: Rest

    If you require more cardio training, then try this weekly sequence:

    Day 1: Cardio
    Day 2: Rest
    Day 3: Cardio
    Day 4: Rest
    Day 5: Strength
    Day 6: Cardio
    Day 7: Rest

    Note that on the rest days, you can do the morning workout in the evening too. Likewise, if you simply can't be bothered doing technique/speed, strength or cardio in the evenings, just do repeat your early morning workout instead. The key is to change it up until you find a sequence that works best for you in terms of your personalised goals.

    Important - whatever you choose to focus on, always do technical, speed, strength and cardio in that order, whether in a single workout or in a weekly series, i.e. strength days always come before cardio days, never cardio before strength, etc.

    This is the end of part 2, and of this post. If you have any questions, please post them below.

    Yours in health,

    Last edited: Aug 14, 2009
    Waleed Nassef likes this.
  2. Shaky

    Shaky Valued Member

    This should be made a sticky, excellent post, you really do go above and beyond, you're a credit to this forum mate.
  3. Rajveer

    Rajveer Valued Member

    Excellent post! A quick question, the video shows Wallace doing static-active stretching, I thought that was a strength exercise right? It's just that you've got it under the section talking about slow kicks, so in your evening workout would it come under "Strength training" or "Technique training (slow kicks go here)"? Or does "Technique training" specifically refer to static-active kicking, and "Strength training" refer to other strength exercises e.g. weight training?

    Oh another question, near the top you mention that "Splits are display of your level of passive flexibility", but in another thread (the leg stretcher/inner thigh one) you say that "Doing splits and other such floor stretches will not improve your kicking-specific flexibility anywhere close to what standing stretches will". So for kicking is it still necessary/beneficial to develop the ability to do the splits if you have a partner available to help you with standing stretches?

    Sorry if my questions are worded confusingly, I need sleep :/
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2009
  4. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Thank you :cool:

    Fixed for you. That's what happens when you try typing a serious post at 11.00pm with one eye shut and three glasses of whiskey in your system ;)

    You're right, slow kicks are static-active stretches, which build strength. You should do them in the same workout as other strength exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc., but do them before those exercises.

    Standing stretches will improve your kicking-specific flexibility far greater than what splits will. However, the majority of people who ask for advice don't have a partner to work with. If you have a partner, then you can crack on with standing stretches and skip on the splits. However, it should be noted that splits are still very beneficial and you will probably develop those [splits] faster than your flexibility in standing stretches (due to greater leverage giving you stronger tensions when doing isometric stretches). Personally I would do both :D

    Again, it's one of those things where you have to try both and find out which one works best for you :cool:
  5. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    Have you updated your original post to reflect this SF?

    Plus, can you just quickly nip back in time and post this 3 weeks ago to save me the several hours watching Kurz' video and trying to write something coherent from it? :D

  6. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Done :cool:

    Think of it as a rite of passage ;)
  7. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    lol, that first clip on stretching is one of the students from the club I used to teach at. I see this vid all the time in stretching questions. Was a good method of stretching and I always advised doing it with the hands on the hips to make sure you keep your hips aligned when doing straight kick stretch, the hands to the side are something to aim for when you do outer cresent or inner cresent kicks.
  8. Rajveer

    Rajveer Valued Member

    Hah, sounds like me in a few hours time...hopefully :D

    Thanks for clearing up those questions. I agree with the others this post needs to be stickied, it's like you summed up everything I've been learning the past few months in a single post :jawdrop: Excellent work, thanks!

    TKDMitch: haha I love your sig :D
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2009
  9. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    No problems, I hope you and others find it useful. And thanks man, but it's up to the mods if it gets stickied or not.
  10. Alek

    Alek Valued Member

    Can you give details for speed training and strength training?
    Is it like clapping push ups and fast reps of clean and presses (etc..)
    and heavy lifting as fast as possible for strength?
  11. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Speed training is things like reaction pad work, fast kicks, etc.

    Strength training is squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc., whether done fast or slow.
  12. Alek

    Alek Valued Member

    Isnt cardio supposed to reduce the gains from strength if its right after it?(I suppose maybe 24h rest is enough?)
    Also : Doesnt heavylifting increase speed? why train speed seperately?
    Will speed training help against hypertrophy? ( a bit unrelated)
  13. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    If you plan your training right, then cardio won't have much of an impact on your strength gains. Some forms of cardio can even augment the gains you make in your stretching and strengthening workouts (such as running with a long stride can build flexibility). If you follow one of the three optimal weekly sequences I posted you should be ok.

    Again - it's about experimenting to find the method that works for you.

    The speed training I was referring to was primarily developing reaction time in your strikes. The way I've found to be most effective - for both myself and people I've taught - is to try and keep speed and strength workouts separate. Try it yourself and see what happens.

  14. TheAngle

    TheAngle Valued Member

    Interesting post.

    Some questions for dynamic stretching.

    Must do them within 15 minutes of waking, 2 times a day and 12 reps is optimal.

    Is there a research to back that up?
  15. Exether

    Exether Valued Member

    sooooo only do isometric if i do strength training? Pretty much all I do is stretch every day and go to martial arts 2-4 times a week. I strength train with weights about every other day but I do that at around 8 pm and I do not stretch till about 10pm. So don't do isometric? I was going to continue doing the stretch routine you told me to do and add isometric around every other day? Would that be sufficient?

    thanks again :-D
  16. liero

    liero Valued Member

    one question...

    12 reps is optimal.

    is that 12 reps on each side?
  17. GaryT85

    GaryT85 Super Gario

    yep :cool:
  18. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    You have learned well, my apprentice! :evil:

    Sorry, always waited for that Emperor Palpatine moment.
  19. Matt B

    Matt B Valued Member

    This is going to be the dumbest question yet (I think!)...

    I understand a ballistic stretch is a swing and a dynamic a lift, but what constitutes swinging the leg? Presumably a rising straight leg (for a stretch to the front) from a legs together position, e.g. traveling c90 deg to go to waiste height is dynamic, where ballistic could start with one leg forward?
  20. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Ballistic is any uncontrolled movement, but you're correct in your assumption that starting with your feet together will keep your stretch a dynamic one.

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