Muscle strength VS Flexibility

I believe that training in the gym (lifting weights) helps develop your strength in sparring, for any Martial Art. However, I have always avoided doing leg weights (squats, calf raises and leg press etc) because I do not want to lose flexibility in my kicking.

So firstly, do you think you lose flexibility if you build up the muscles in your legs? And what would you suggest for developing kicking power/leg strength without losing flexibility?

Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

3 thoughts on “Muscle strength VS Flexibility

  1. Jonathan

    You’ll lose flexibility if you don’t stretch. Being more muscular doesn’t mean you’ll be less flexible. I suggest stretching a lot, at least 15 mins in the morning after a warm up, and throughout the day. I think strengthen the legs is very important for a martial artist, don’t train like a body builder though, train like a fighter. Have you been to

  2. Chris

    Hi JC,

    Weights and squats do not reduce flexibility as Jonathan said above its got much more to do with not stretching, form whilst stretching and inherent flexibility. Some people are just more flexible than others. I guess in TKD when you are padded up and not allowed to kick below the waist emphasis is on kicks above the belt. In Muay Thai however devastating leg kicks can only be mitigated by more muscle mass so you can receive as much as you can dish out.

    Finally as Jonathan mentioned, dont train like a body builder. Train for functionality.

  3. Kevin

    Both commenters don’t understand how muscles really work. If you work out with a short range of motion, like many muscle-heads at the gym do, you will only have the flexibility of that range, however strong you become. It can become even shorter than that, if the balancing muscles are not worked out, such as is common with many a gym rat’s focus on working out the chest, but not back, which can result in a concave chest.

    Isometric stretching without an increase in strength will do little for permanence. Even worse, if you do something like bounce or force the stretch (as is very common with martial arts studios), you will shorten your capabilities. This is a response of your nervous system.

    A lack of flexibility is the body’s way of protecting itself. If you can’t get up out of the splits, or straighten up from a toe touch without pulling something, your body is very likely to prevent the movement by prematurely tightening the muscle.

    It is possible to work your muscles in an active way, squeezing the muscle that you’re attempting to stretch for a bit (say 10sec), then relaxing and deepening the stretch, then repeating until the stretch cannot be deepened, whereupon your squeeze should last a little longer (say 30sec or so). This is a good way to increase your stretch. But it will take a while to do, since you are building strength very slowly.

    The fastest method for increasing your flexibility, is to strengthen the muscle at the same time you increase your range of motion. To increase your forward splits, increase the strength in your forward lunge (with straight back leg), and squat. For the side splits, work on side lunges (one leg straight, one leg squatting), and wide-leg squats. Do these with free-weights or a weight-vest. To prove this works, see what your warmed up stretch is (aerobics til you break a sweat, then check your split. Then try doing a couple sets of lunges, and see what happens to your split.

    Now kicking high takes more than just flexibility. Ignoring balance (a bit out of scope for this post), it also takes the strength to lift your leg (hip flexors for front kicks, gluts for side kicks and back kicks, and of course all your core muscles to hold up your upper body). These muscles should be trained progressively, and with heavier and heavier weights, to max contraction (shortest muscle length possible). There is no need to worry about range-of-motion here, since if you train all this you will hit the maximum and minimum muscle lengths. There are techniques for this, just read any body-building magazine.


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