Editor: For this article, we are going to talk about the science behind stretching and why you should be doing it. We will discuss the best approach for the best results along with a few Muay Thai stretches that will help you improve.
Stretching is one of the more misunderstood aspects of fitness. If you go online, specifically on fitness pages on social media, you’ll see about 10 different answers on the effects and effectiveness of stretching for people. By people who aren’t exactly qualified to talk about it.
This can make it really hard to know how to stretch, in what way or even to stretch at all.
We are going to be busting some of the myths that are associated with stretching, especially with regards to Muay Thai.
For this article, we are going to be focusing on what is generally known in scientific literature as Static passive stretching.
This is commonly referred to simply as static stretching which is the most common type of stretching people talk about in terms of mitigating pain and increasing flexibility. For the sake of the article, we are just going to say either static stretching or stretching.
Muay Thai Stretching Myths
There are a lot of myths associated with stretching that has become generally accepted in today’s fitness realm that has no real scientific backing.
To focus this mainly on Muay Thai, those who are against stretching state that it doesn’t actually help increase flexibility. They also think that stretching can even make you weaker.
This myth comes from two factors. The first being that stretching doesn’t actually provide more flexibility, it just tells the central nervous system (CNS) to relax more.
This is not entirely untrue as the CNS does play a factor in flexibility and it can provide more relaxation for more flexibility. Flexibility in a muscle that largely relies on that muscle’s own flexibility.
The second is that stretching weakens muscles, thus making you less powerful for Muay Thai. This comes from studies showing that very intense stretching immediately before performing strength training exercises (e.g. squats) made the areas that were stretched weaker.
What people who don’t like stretching don’t talk about is how that weakening effect is very temporary and that the stretching was very intense beforehand. This will obviously make it hard to express full power for a limited amount of time afterwards.
How To Stretch For Muay Thai
There are mainly two scenarios in which people stretch for Muay Thai. The first being as part of a warm-up to help increase flexibility for training. This is done after a quick jog or skipping for the best results.
For this kind of stretching keep it nice and light in terms of volume, intensity and time on each stretch. Keep it to around 10-30 seconds on each stretch and don’t go above about a 3 out of 10 in terms of intensity.
Remember to keep the number of stretches that you do to a minimum, focusing on just one for each of the main muscles for Muay Thai.
Post-training stretching or stretching to increase flexibility in the long term require a different approach. These sessions are going to be longer, have more stretches overall and will be more intense.
Stick to around 15 – 20 minutes overall for this session and stick to 30 seconds per stretch with about 2 -3 sets per stretch. In terms of intensity, these are going to be higher level being anywhere from 7 – 10 in terms of intensity.
Keep in mind that you always want to be warm when stretching. One way to warm up is to take a hot shower or go for a slow jog.
You are going to want to stretch as many muscles as possible to help mitigate any tension. In terms of specific stretches for Muay Thai, you are going to focus on the muscles that need to be flexible so you can kick high.
These are going to be the hip adductors, hip flexors and the hamstrings and we’ve got some stretches for each muscle to get you kicking as high as possible in the next section.
Muay Thai Stretches
Muay Thai stretches target specific groups of muscles for better performance. Below are the three main muscle groups and the stretches relevant to them.
NOTE: Remember to not force into the stretches and go only as far as it remains within acceptable discomfort but not pain. Overstretching can cause microscopic tears in the tissues to full tears of muscles, tendons or ligaments.
The hip adductors, aka your groin muscles, are probably the most important muscle to have flexible. They are even more crucial than your hip flexors when it comes to those high roundhouse kicks.
The challenge is that they are also probably the most uncomfortable muscles to stretch, even for more flexible people.
This is a great beginner stretch to help open up the groin and prepare for more intense stretches.
This is another more beginner-friendly groin stretch that is a similar position to the splits position. The advantage is that it takes some of the pressure and bodyweight off.
This is a great stretch for your hip adductors as well as your hip flexors.
Centre Splits (also Middle or Side splits)
The ultimate groin stretch is also the best one to show off with. Even if you can’t do the splits, go as far as you can in this position. This is going to really help with your high roundhouse kicks.
The Hip flexors help with getting your leg up faster and with less restriction for kicks, especially for teeps.
This one targets the hip flexors of the rear leg.
The front splits are great as they stretch the hip flexors of the rear leg and the hamstrings of the front. It can also be seen as a progression of the lunge stretch.
Great for your hips, glutes and groin, a perfect stretch all around.
Hamstring tightness is a common problem for many people training Muay Thai. Hamstrings aid in high kicks and those nasty face teeps.
Standing Forward Bend
This is a very solid basic stretch for loosening up the hamstrings.
Great for focusing on each leg’s hamstrings.
You need to start to be good. Taking time to do these Muay Thai stretches will boost your performance. Just set aside 30 minutes a day and you are guaranteed to achieving your high-kicking goals in time to come.
If you want to learn more about the different kinds of stretching and the science behind improving flexibility checkout flexibility.research on Instagram, as that’s where a lot of the science-based information in this article is coming from.