Category Archives: Stretching

Quads and Biceps

When I started weight training in the 1980’s we spent a lot of time working Quads and Biceps—lots of squats and curls (split 7’s, etc.). I notice in the gym today the same thing—lots of people do many sets of leg press, etc. and burn out sets of curls. It’s definitely important to work these areas, but I have learned after years of training and rehabilitating injuries that you can’t neglect the opposing and supporting muscles. Doing so creates imbalances in strength and flexibility and this leads to poor performance and injuries.

Today, my leg workout includes Stability Ball Dumbbell Squats (to protect back, knees and to decrease the trunk widening effect of regular squats), Leg Press and Leg Extension but also includes Seated Calf Raise, Calf Press using the Leg Press Machine, Bent Knee Flexion (for Hamstrings), Leg Curls (using prone and standing machines), Adductors and Abductors (using machines and cables) as well as mixing in TRX leg work. For the 4 to 6 sets I do for Quads I do 15 or more sets for the opposing and supporting leg muscles.

My arm workout has evolved over the years so that now I do minimal direct Biceps exercises compared to before. Biceps get so much work during Back exercises that I will usually limit Biceps Curls to 2 or 3 sets. I separate my workout into Push and Pull days so that I don’t work Biceps and Triceps on the same day to allow plenty of rest.

On Push days I do several sets for Triceps. Including the chest and shoulder exercises I do, my ratio is 3 to 2 for Triceps to Biceps exercises overall. Triceps make up a larger portion of the upper arm than Biceps, so it makes sense to spend more time on Triceps.

Whenever possible I do symmetrical work using dumbbells or using one leg at a time. I spend time after each workout stretching. I cover this and more in great detail with illustrations in my new book Martial Arts For Everyone.

Thanks and I will see you in the gym.

Stretching for MMA, Part V–Quadriceps Stretch

The order of stretching is important. After you have stretched your calves, glutes and hamstrings and have relaxed those muscles, you are ready to stretch your quadriceps. The side-lying stretch is good because you are in a resting position (not weight bearing).

Start by using one hand to secure your non-stretching leg (right hand to right leg or left hand to left leg). Use your other hand to grab your ankle/foot on your stretching leg. Move to the start position with your knees touching and activate your hamstrings to stretch. As your hamstrings can no longer move your leg, assist the stretch further (using your hand or a rope/towel/etc. if you cannot reach your ankle) and hold for 1 to 2 seconds.

Keep the rest of your body still during the stretch so that you isolate your quadriceps. Your non-stretching leg will have a tendency to try to move to make it easier, so hold that in place. Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and repeat sets as needed. Stretch both sides equally so you don’t contribute to asymmetry.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my upcoming book, Martial Arts for Everyone, which will be published very soon. Thanks.

 

Stretching for MMA, Part IV—Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part IV—Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch

Do the Bent-knee Hamstring Stretch first because it is easier to do than the Straight-leg. The Bent-knee variation relaxes tissue to prepare you for a deeper and more involved stretch. Remain in the supine position and straighten both of your legs. Rotate your non-stretching foot inward to stabilize your hips. Place the heel of your stretching leg on top of your other foot. This is the start position.

Keep both legs straight and your stretching foot dorsi-flexed (the opposite of pointing your toes), hold this position, exhale and activate your quadriceps to raise your stretching leg. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and return to the start position. Use a rope or towel to assist if needed.

Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed. This stretch gives a true measure of your hamstring flexibility. You may find at first that you cannot move your leg very high during this stretch. This is okay; you will increase your range the more you work on stretching.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in the second edition of my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power which will be published in the next few months. Thanks and look for part V, Quadriceps Stretch.

Stretching for MMA, Part III—Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part III—Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch

 

Once you have stretched your calves and glutes well, you are ready to do the first stretch for hamstrings. This is done supine (lying on your back) with your non-stretching leg bent and your foot flat on the floor for support. Your stretching leg is positioned with your upper leg at roughly a 90 degree angle in relation to your upper body (and the floor). Your lower leg is at a 90 degree angle in relation to your upper leg.

Snapshot 3 (12-6-2013 8-51 PM)

This is the start position. Keep your foot dorsi-flexed (the opposite of pointing your toes) in the same position, your upper leg still, and activate your quadriceps to raise your lower leg.

Snapshot 2 (12-6-2013 8-51 PM)

Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and return to the start position. If you find the stretch is too difficult, adjust your start position. Instead of starting at 90 degrees, start with your leg at 105 degrees or greater in relation to your upper body. Use a rope or towel to assist if needed.

If the stretch is too easy, decrease the angle of your upper leg in the starting position to 75 degrees.

Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd Edition, which I am working on now. Thanks and look for part IV, Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch.

 

Stretching for MMA, Part II-Glute Stretch

Hamstrings are a major area of injury for athletes. Healing this area quickly and/or preventing injury will keep you on the field. Previously I mentioned that utilizing a calf stretch first will help you to relax tissue so you can stretch your hamstrings. The next area to stretch is your glutes.

In my experience as a Stretch Therapist at Triangle Triggerpoint Therapy (www.triangletrigger.com) in Raleigh, NC, the area in the lower body that I see the most problems for people is the glutes. I think this is simply because it is not an area most people think about stretching. This can contribute to lower back pain and people “pulling” their hamstrings.

The glute stretch that will give you the best results is done from a supine position (lying on your back). Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor for support. Move your stretching leg so that it stays at a 90 degree angle but rotate at your knee to bring your foot and knee close enough to grab with your hands. This is the start position.

Breathe out and use your inner thigh muscles and hip flexors to activate into the stretch while supporting and assisting with your hands. Keep your lower leg level and in the same position during the stretch and only move your upper leg. This will isolate your glutes. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and release.

Follow the technique illustrated on the Youtube video to perform 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd Edition, which I am working on now. Thanks and look for part III, Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch.

 

Stretching for MMA, Part I–Calf Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part I-Calf Stretch

This is the first of several installments on stretching for MMA, specifically to improve your kicking ability. If you stretch well enough that head kicks are easy and fast you will also help with many other techniques (i.e. Rubber guard, etc.). The major areas where you have to improve flexibility are calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, adductors, abductors, hips and low back. I will start with calves because relaxing the tissue in your calf will make it easier to stretch your hamstring.

For this stretch, sit on the floor with your legs straight. It is better to sit during a stretch instead of stand because when you sit you are not weight bearing and you will be able to stretch and relax your muscles more easily.

Move your non-stretching leg so that your ankle rests above your knee on the stretching leg. This holds your stretching leg in place and keeps it from moving during the stretch.

Next, lean your upper body forward. Your tendency will be to back out of the leaned position during the stretch, so pay attention and remain leaned forward. This happens because the human body naturally tries to make things easier. Leaning forward helps you to isolate your calf and get more out of this stretch.

Tibialis Anterior is the muscle located in your shin area on the front of your lower leg. Breathe out and use this muscle to activate into the stretch, moving your toes toward your knee (decrease the angle of your foot in relation to your leg). Hold the stretch for about 1 to 2 seconds and release. Move your foot far enough out of the stretch (by pointing your toes) so that you can rest in between stretches.

This is also an effective way to use your calf to stretch your Tibialis Anterior.

Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd edition, which I am currently finishing. Thanks and look for Part II, Glute Stretch.

 

Pain in the neck

I was walking out of the gym, and there were several young people sitting around waiting to be picked up. Each one of them was hunched over as if they had kyphosis, with their faces in their phones. The first thing I thought of was that we are going to have a whole generation of people with major neck, shoulder and back problems. I think this is already starting to manifest because I see too many young people coming in to get muscle relaxers and narcotic pain meds at my pharmacy.

The bad thing is, muscle relaxers and narcotic pain meds do nothing to correct the problem (NSAID’s do help with inflammation). They only mask symptoms while causing side effects and getting people addicted. Trust me when I say you want to save the road of medications and surgery as an absolute last resort because it is a dead end. You will get a much greater benefit from learning how to stretch as well as finding a great Neuromuscular Therapist or Deep Tissue Massage Therapist. We are very lucky in Raleigh, NC to have Triangle Trigger-point Therapy, where Teri Bellairs works her magic helping people.

As I have mentioned before, Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a great way to improve your flexibility while strengthening your muscles. It’s even better if you can find a partner who can assist you beyond your activating muscle’s limits. With AIS you hold each stretch for two seconds only, which is different from most other methods. If you don’t have a partner, you can use a rope, towel, martial arts belt or a wall to give you the extra stretch needed to release tension. Stretch periodically throughout the day for best results. The first chapter of my new book includes a detailed stretching regimen. Look for Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd edition later this year. Thanks.

Aim High

It’s great to see a knock out in MMA, but even better when it comes by way of a head kick. There are many reasons why we don’t see these highlight reel kicks more often. Skill, timing, ability, flexibility, situation, experience and knowledge are all factors that come into play. So, what can you do as a fighter to increase your success with head kicks?

The first step is to start improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the faster you will be and obviously the higher you can kick. I prefer using Active Isolated Stretching as a great way to get the best results. At the same time you also have to work on your wrestling ability so you will have better take down defense and better ability to get up after you are taken down. This also means you must train a lot of Jiu Jitsu so you can defend or get the submission if you run into an equal or better wrestler. Together, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu make you feel more comfortable doing head kicks because you aren’t worried about the take down.

The next step is timing drills. This involves working with several opponents with varying sizes and experience so you can learn when an opponent is open. Square off and have each opponent do any combos they choose. Watch and use your footwork to circle to the side and always be ready to throw the head kick counter. Repeat this until it becomes natural for you to kick when they are open, which is usually during or right after a technique.

For offense, you have to create openings. Work on your speed and ability to cover ground, and learn how to extend your hips so you can kick your opponent from deceptive distances. Use feints or throw a few low kicks before sneaking in the head kick. For more on this, look for the second edition of my book, FOCUSING MARTIAL ARTS POWER. Thanks.