In the regular Kickboxing classes we will do a general stretch out during the warm up, usually tailored towards the kicks we will be focusing on during that session. But if you want to work on flexibility of particular muscles or to improve a specific kicking technique, I have put together a handful of stretches you can work on your own. If you are only training & stretching once a week then by adding 1 or 2 extra stretching sessions at home you can significantly improve your flexibility in just a short time.
Remember, when you are stretching, focus on the muscles you are working at the time, it should be a little uncomfortable but it should never be painful. Hold stretches for between 20 and 30 seconds at a time to try and give your body a chance to get used to that position, and don't compromise your form thinking you will get quick gains, you'll just risk injury and wiping out any progress you've made.
First up, while most kicks need all the major leg and hip muscles I'm going to run through the basic kicks and give you the muscles to focus on stretching out to improve the height and effectiveness of that kick.
Crescent Kicks – Glutes & Adductors
Round Kicks, Hook Kicks & Side Kicks – Hamstrings & Adductors
Spinning Back Kick – Adductors & Quads
Hamstrings – (the rear of your thighs)
Probably the most popular well known of hamstring stretches. Feet together, knees as straight as possible, pivot at your hips and drop your chest in towards your thighs. Keep your back straight to avoid compressing your spine and putting pressure your lower back.
You can level up this stretch by gripping your ankles or calves and pulling the stretch deeper, but remember to keep your back straight. You can also focus on one leg at a time by crossing your feet at the ankles to lock out the back leg.
High Toe Touch
Another good hamstring stretch that focuses on one leg at a time, you'll need a sturdy wall or platform for this. Left one leg and place your heel on the platform (or flat of your foot against the wall), keep both the raised leg and the standing leg straight, and reach towards the toes of the raised leg. Remember to keep your back straight and lead with your chest, and pull your toes towards you to increase the stretch and also engage the calf muscle.
Adductor - (the inside of your thighs)
Put your hands and knees on the floor, knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders, keep your back straight. Keeping your knees at right angles, let your knees slide apart and drop your hips to the floor. As you get lower, also drop your body towards the floor, lowering on to your elbows, always keeping your back straight.
High Side Kick
Like the High Toe Touch stretch, you'll need a platform for this one. Putting one foot up on the platform with the toes pointing at the wall, your hips pointing in the same direction, and instep towards the floor. Keeping both legs straight try to keep your body upright and lean over towards your raised leg, try to also keep your back as straight as possible.
If you don't have a platform high enough to test you, you can bend your standing leg and lower yourself towards the floor to increase the stretch, remembering to keep your balance under control and your back straight.
Quads - (the front of your thighs)
Standing Quad Stretch
From standing, bend your knee and pick up one foot behind you and hold the middle of your foot. Keep your knees together, your back straight and your shoulders back, push your hips forward to feel the stretch down the front of your thigh. You can hold onto something with your other hand to help you with your balance. Be careful not to let your hips rotate backwards as this will take the strain off your thigh and curve your lower back. Pull in your core to help keep your hips in the right place. You can also help to keep your hips in the right position by bending your standing leg and dropping into a shallow one leg squat.
Glutes - (your backside and outside of your hips)
Also called the figure 4 stretch, for this one you'll be lying on your back. Bend and twist one leg so your ankle rests on the knee of the other leg and your bent knee points out to the side. Then bring the knee of the other leg up towards your chest and with both hands, grip and pull the thigh in towards your chest. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor and your neck neutral.
Half Lord of the Fishes
OK, so this one has a very strange name, but it's very effective. Sitting on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you, bend one leg and place your floor flat on the floor just to the outside of the opposite leg. The higher up you can put your foot towards your hips the deeper the stretch will be. Keeping your back straight, twist and look over your shoulder the same side as the bent leg, and you can use your elbow/upper arm to push on your knee to take the stretch a bit further. You can chose to bend your lower leg as in the image to the right. This stretch also helps to stretch out the lower back and can help with symptoms of sciatica.
Calves - (the back of your lower leg)
Wall Calf Stretch
The calves are involved in every kick, mostly in the standing leg, and always worth keeping stretched out. Standing up facing a wall, put one foot forward and place your hands against the wall. Bend the knee of your lead leg and drive the heel of the rear leg into the ground to feel the pull on the rear calf muscle. Keep the toes of both feet pointing forwards.
Blogs on both these subjects coming soon..