One of the most common questions instructors get asked by students relates to increasing kicking height. While flexibility of the kicking muscles is important, there is so much more to be concerned with.
"Sensei, I have to throw a head kick on my test... how can I get my foot up that high?"
I have heard it, and when I was younger I would constantly ask the same question. "Why can't I do it?"
I did exactly as I was told. I stretched. A lot.
It did some work - I started feeling less pain when kicking, and I was able to straighten my leg on kicks.
That glorious head kick for the highlight reel knockout was ever elusive.
At one point I decided that I guess I just was never going to get a head kick, or at least not one that did any good. So, I decided putting on serious meat was the answer.
I pumped iron all day, every day, for about a year.
Then one day at class, with doing little more than warm-up stretching, I dropped into an almost full split. Granted, I had been doing my regular stretching, but this was new.
You can imagine my surprise...
I remember hearing at one point that weight training and stretching were opposing ideas; that lifting weights and stretching worked against each other. Weight training made muscles shorter and thicker while stretching made them longer and thinner.
I had to be stunned at my new found flexibility, so I dug a little deeper into these ideals.
Essentially, the concept is wrong.
If you read about kinesiology and physiology, having a substantial amount of muscle in an area helps you increase its flexibility. The whole body operates in tandem.
Stretching before lifting makes you bigger and stronger faster, and stretching after lifting gets you more flexible and faster in shorter time periods.
Much inflexibility is not caused by tendons that are tight because they are not stretched out, but by being atrophied, because they have never been used.
You need to use the muscle to build its flexibility - attempting to stretch an unused muscle spells out an increased risk of injury, and little observable increases in your kicking height.
That being said, why doesn't everyone do some muscle building exercises for their legs?
"Sensei, I don't want to go to the gym!"
If you don't want to go to the gym, then don't.
Do weightless squats, jump squats, calf raises, and other non-resistant leg exercises at home. You don't need to get built like a linebacker, you just have to condition the muscles so that they are used to activitiy. So, just do it!
"I don't have time!"
It is not a big time commitment. Seriously, give it 4 minutes of doing a tabata assault on your legs and you will be begging for mercy. And your legs will be primed to be stretched out at this point!
"I need to practice my technique instead!"
If you are leaning way over to kick because your kick as not as high as you want it, this is bad technique. Practice makes permanent, whether the practice is done properly or improperly. It is better to spend the time ensuring that your strength and flexibility is improved so that you can kick higher without sacrificing your technique.
Basically, this is helping your technique practice. Trust me!
Take these words and concepts to heart, and I can promise you will see improvement!
Until next time, train hard, show humility, and become what you were meant to become!