Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stretching for Martial Arts

There is a nice post on stretching for martial arts over at The Tai Chi Notebook. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Static stretching vs dynamic stretching – which is best?

I’ll be the first to admit that stretching isn’t the most exciting topic for most people, but it’s kind of important, so I should cover it. Plus, I’ve recently found a video by Ryan Hall that gives some extra insights into common stretches we do before BJJ:

Ryan gives some really valuable little tips on how to do each stretch correctly. Since you generally learn these stretches by just following along in class, with little to no additional information, it’s all too easy to miss the little details. For example, the first stretches he shows are the shoulder stretches you do by pulling the arm across the body (see 9.08 in the video). These are really common stretches used in all sorts of sports, yet the little detail he gives that you should be taking the shoulder down and back while pushing the chest out as you do them makes all the difference. Now you’re actually working the shoulder joint, which is the point of the stretch. Just yanking the arm across the body on its own won’t do squat.

Look at the ‘sprinters stretch’ at 24.26 – everybody I know will reach for that foot (including myself) but as Ryan points out, the point of the stretch is to get really comfortable getting your head to your leg – that’s where the focus needs to be.

What’s also nice about the video, is that Ryan puts each stretch in context – so you can see where it fits into BJJ as a whole. So, he’ll show you why it’s useful to be flexible.

And yet, he’s doing it all wrong. We all are. Or are we? You need to decide this for yourself after reading the latest research into dynamic vs static stretching, which I’ll point you towards here.

Ryan is showing what are called ‘static’ stretches, where you move into position then hold for 10 seconds. The current thinking is that ‘dynamic stretches’ are a better way to warm up. Dynamic stretches don’t involve holding the position at all, you simply take the joint through a range of motion, without holding the position at any point.

The reason of why dynamic stretching is better for you as a warm-up (than static stretching) seems to come down to two things. Firstly, the purpose of a warm-up is to warm the muscles and tendons, ready for the work that’s about to be done. In martial arts the work that is about to be done doesn’t usually involve holding stretched positions in extended periods (although if you’re getting stacked in your guard in BJJ, then it might!) Generally though, we’re about to use our muscles in an explosive way while putting our joints through their full range of motion. This is very different to the experience of a static stretch.

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