This post takes a look at why proper stretch routines are a must for any athlete, in particular for taekwondo practitioners. If you are an athlete yourself, you can probably subscribe to the notion that a careful warm-up and warm-down including stretch exercises is a prerequisite for performing your best, preventing injuries, etc.
Nevertheless, many athletes seem to forget this from time to time – they either stretch inadequately, half-heartedly or skip it altogether. Read on to find out why that is a really bad idea, and how proper attention to stretching, on the other hand, benefits you in a number of ways.
Stretching and sports
Some sports obviously involve more intense physical activity than others. You are more likely to break a sweat during a soccer game than during a trip to the local golf course or bowling alley.
However, no matter what your sport of choice is, a careful warm-up is always advisable. It is both inhibiting and annoying to contract a muscle cramp or an injury, and a key element in preventing that from happening is proper attention to warming up, including stretching.
Even professional e-sport practitioners (gamers) and chess players do physical warm-up exercises, as they alleviate stress and fatigue issues that can arise from simply sitting down and concentrating for hours.
Stretching and taekwondo
With its emphasis on high kicks, jumping/spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques, taekwondo is certainly a sport that demands pronounced agility and suppleness of its practitioners.
A taekwondo fighter delivering e.g. a front kick or dropkick to the head of his opponent is virtually doing a split in an upright stance (take a look at our logo, then you get the idea). Obviously, nobody should attempt that kind of physical exercise without a proper warm-up, including a thorough stretch routine.
Taekwondo really puts your physique to the test. Many taekwondo moves and techniques put your body into extreme positions, so the importance of stretching as part of your warm-up before a taekwondo training/sparring session or fight cannot be overemphasized.
Apart from giving your body pliancy and flexibility, a careful warm-up also increases your heart rate, which enables your heart and lungs to supply oxygen to your working muscles more efficiently.
The objectives of warming up/down
During periods of inactivity your muscles, tendons, and ligaments contract and lose some of their flexibility. The objective of warming up is to gradually prepare your body for physical activity. This includes stretching to allow your body to move more freely and to not be overstressed by e.g. heavy lifts or quick moves.
Likewise, the objective of warming down is to return your body to its resting state in a controlled fashion. A warm-down is less intensive than a warm-up, and its primary focus is to allow your heart rate to return to normal, while at the same time providing for the removal of lactic acid from your muscles.
The length of your warm-up and warm-down depends on the length and intensity of your physical activity. The more demanding your activity, the longer your warm-up and warm-down should be.
Have you ever woken up in the morning after a day of physical activity, aching all over because you did not properly attend to your warm-down? That is both unnecessary and annoying. You should always warm down after physical exercise, even though you may be exhausted and just want to hit the showers most of all.
Finally, not only do stretch exercises in connection with physical activity help prevent fatigue, overload, and injuries as discussed above. They also increase your general well-being, so you may even become a happier person!