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In Random Training Notes 16: Heavy Bag Tips, I mentioned the importance of regular feedback from hitting bags etc. in the fighting artist’s training regimen. As important as hitting is, it cane be over done. And without stretching and conditioning, excessive bag work can lead to muscular imbalances that in turn lead to avoidable injuries and performance impairments. So what should a practitioner of a fighting art or combat sport do to stay balanced?
Stretches For Strikers
- Avoid extensive stretching immediately before engaging in heavy striking work. A light pendulum stretch can activate the rotator cuff muscles and mobilize the superior thoracic outlet and sub-acromial space, which may be tight from training/fighting in a “hunched” posture.
- Subscapularis: Shoulder internal rotator. There are also ways of performing this using a stick or towel for assistance, but starting out in the lying position makes it easier to monitor the head of the humerus (upper arm) to ensure that it is not rotating forward.
- Teres Minor and Infraspinatus. Shoulder external rotators. Notice that she is not forcing her arm down. If the head of the humerus wants to bulge forward and the shoulder up off of the table, don’t push it past this point.
- Rhomboids: Retract and elevate scapula. These may lengthened and inhibited from the forward shoulder “hunched” posture common to fighting and training.-Pectorals : Flex, internally rotate and adduct shoulder arm at shoulder, pec minor specifically pulls the scapula forward and down. Do one at a time, avoid the double arm “hanging” doorway stretch.
- Levator Scapulae: Scapular elevator and medial rotator, neck rotator and lateral flexor. This muscle attaches the cervical vertebrae to the upper medial aspect of the scapula. The upwardly rotated, “hunched” position that many fighters adopt during bag work and fighting can shorten and tighten this muscle.
- Triceps: Extends forearm. This muscle is heavily used in straight-arm punches and strikes.
- Biceps: Flexes and supinates forearm. Used heavily in hooks and uppercuts, as well on the return to guard from a strike.
- Upper Trapezius: Assist in elevation and retraction of scapulae. This region of the trapezius may be tight from forward shoulder “hunched” posture common to fighting and training.
- Latissimus: connects the humerus to the thoracic spine, adducts, extends and internally rotates arm at shoulder. These are often tight in people who kick a lot or engage in excessive “air punching.” Hint: if you can’t do a squat with the arms stretched overhead and keep the hands in line with your ears, or can’t help but fold at the waist as opposed to the hips, the lats need serious stretching attention.
Many powerful karateka have trouble keeping their butts tucked when they extend their arms. The same people often have trouble making large movements from their shoulders instead of their elbows. In many cases the cause of this is simply that from all of the effort they have made to connect their arms to their bodies they have developed overly tight lats. Here are a couple of relatively easy and painless stretches that may help.
Keep in mind that karate people tend to have tight hip flexors from kicking and poor stretching habits and this can also cause or contribute to “shelf butt” . Look for an upcoming post on stretching the hip floexors.
By John Shepard
Published on the Peak Performance web site.
And, (read this even though it is about softball rather than karate, the points made by the author apply to all power sports)
Softball Training – Are You Still Using Static Stretching for Warm-Ups?
by Marc Dagenais
Published on the Softball Performance Blog
43 (4): 276 — British Journal of Sports Medicine
Gretchen Reynolds has an interesting article posted on the New York Times site that discusses problems associated with static stretching. It is called “Stretching the Truth” Click here for the article.
Follow link below for a useful article on stretching.
Note that the “hurdler’s stretch” (which happens to be pretty ubiquitous in karate classes) is listed as a risky stretch about two thirds of the way down the page.
Click here for article.