When you hear people talk about flexibility in the martial arts world the first thing that comes to mind is a full set of splits. The most plausible reason for this association is from all of those old school TaeKwonDo guys showing off their splits and high kicks. While a full set of splits is nice for show it isn’t the end all be all for success in mixed martial arts. If you train in MMA then good flexibility will give you an advantage over your opponent and prevent some injuries in the long run.
The most common display of good flexibility will be shown in the fighters kicks; how high and how strong. You don’t have to be able to kick your opponent in the head to be a successful fighter, but having the ability to do so doesn’t hurt your chances of catching him off guard. One great way to achieve this ability is through the use of stretching machines. Flexibility in your hip muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves will determine the path that kick will take when you launch it. The more you work on the flexibility (and strength) of these muscles the faster, higher and stronger you will be able to kick your opponent, hopefully landing that knockout blow.
Another overlooked area of flexibility is the torso. Athletes can get so distracted by building muscle that they forget the importance of stretching the torso, back muscles and chest muscles. These areas are all going to play an important role in the development of a strong punch.
The final area that needs to have good flexibility is the shoulder complex. Mixed martial arts fighters rely on the upper body for the clench, punching, and ability to control their opponents when the fight goes to the ground. It’s important to achieve good flexibility so that you can use your upper body to it’s fullest potential.
In mixed martial arts a key aspect is the ground game and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which in order to be successful at requires above average total body flexibility. Your shoulders are going to get torqued and twisted by your opponent, ankles and legs will be stretched to the max, and without good flexibility you will wind up tapping long before you should. Lower body flexibility will aid in movement on the ground, your ability to control your opponent, and determine how good your guard will be.
The next time you hear someone talking about flexibility for martial arts don’t limit yourself to thinking that it only involves a flashy set of full splits. Flexibility for MMA is more than that and will affect every aspect of your game and determine how far you could get in the sport.
You can also follow The MMA Zone on Twitter here.