The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Improve Stretch and Strength With Better Kicking

Thai boxing (Muay Thai) kicks are among the most devastating and effective kicks in the world. Thai fighters spend hours a day kicking heavy bags and posts, and years toughening their legs and shins for kicks and blocks by bashing them with pipes and against coconut trees. A blow from a Muay Thai fighter's leg is like a blow from a club.

When you practice moves that lift the leg for martial arts training, for self-defense, for dancing, or for exercise in an aerobics class, watch for several bad habits that increase strain on muscles and joints, and reduce effectiveness of the kick. It is not the point to kick someone else and wind up injuring yourself.

1. Look at the photo, above left. The teacher is holding his hip and neck straight. The blocking student is not. The orange arrow at the student's leg shows how, when the student lifts the left leg, the right leg pulls forward instead of remaining straight at the hip. This is a sign of tightness at the hip and poor technique. He needs to stretch the front of his hip and retrain kicking and blocking technique to prevent this common bad habit. Read more on this in the posts, Is Bad Martial Arts Good Exercise? and Common Exercises Teach Hip Tightness When Kicking, Stretching, and on the Stairs.

2. Next, check the white arrow at the student's belt line. It is tilting up in front. The teacher's hip remains level as the leg is raised. Curling the back and letting the hip roll under, as shown by the white middle arrow is another sign of tight hip muscles in the front and back of the hip, and poor movement habits. When you raise one leg to kick, block, prepare to kick, do a knee strike (whatever), check if you curl your hip or round your back. Hold your back straight and upright for more exercise, a built-in hip stretch, and more effective technique.

3. Third, note the black arrow showing how the student rounds the upper back and neck forward, instead of holding straight. With practice, the student will learn to hold the neck straight as the teacher is doing.

For all the exercise you do (kick, block, ascending stairs, whatever is done raising one leg), keep healthful positioning. Yes, rounding the back is taught, and done for fighting, but you will be beating yourself up in the long run. You can still be an effective fighter and at the same time, prevent hurting yourself with common strains from unhealthful technique, plus get more exercise with healthier ways.


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Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.