Stretching is one of those things that can be a pain and easy to neglect. Before training, it’s tempting to just get straight into punching and kicking things. Afterwards, you just want to get home to shower and eat. But stretching is essential.
Ever since my ballet days when I was younger, the importance of stretching has been drummed into me. Not only to prevent injury, but also to improve performance. If you want to be able to execute head kicks and knees, it is vital to have good mobility in your hips and legs. To achieve better mobility for Muay Thai, I use three stretching techniques.
Dynamic stretching warm up
After running and skipping, I do some dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching usually refers to a series of movements that you perform to activate the muscles that you will use during training. The main ones I do before Muay Thai training are vertical and horizontal arm swings, shoulder rotations, leg swings and hip openers. The Wai Khru Ram Muay actually contains a range of dynamic stretches to prepare the fighter for battle.
Static stretching after training
After training, static stretching is a good way to cool down and ensure your muscles recover nicely. Ideally you want to cover a range of stretches for the entire body. But if I’m short on time, I make sure I at least do a few stretches targeting the hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and calves. For me, they are the muscles that I feel need it the most after training. Hip flexors in particular. I aim to hold each stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. If you hold them for less than 15 seconds, I find the muscles just spring back to being tight.
Deeper stretching with Yin yoga
I previously wrote about why I’m a fan of Yin yoga. With the stretches being held for prolonged periods of time, Yin style yoga gives you a deeper stretching experience that softens not only the muscles, but the connective tissue as well. I make sure it’s part of my routine and aim to do it at least once a week, often at home right before bed.