There are many different factors that affect stretching and flexibility in Taekwondo.
One of the main things I see as a Strength & Conditioning (S&C) and Taekwondo coach is different levels of flexibility. Some kids, as soon as they enter the gym, can stretch right down into box splits. Others have to train for years to barely touch their toes.
On the other hand, there are those who have virtually no static flexibility at all but excellent kicking ability, with great height, range of motion (ROM) and technique and others who seem to be ‘hyperflexible’ with little or no kicking technique.
So what are factors that affect our flexibility and why are some individuals more flexible than others?
In ‘Mobility Training for the Martial Arts’, Tony Gummerson states that mobility (or flexibility) is affected by the following factors:
- the type of joint (some joints simply aren’t meant to be flexible)
- the internal resistance within a joint
- bony structures which limit movement
- the elasticity of muscle tissue (muscle tissue that is scarred due to a previous injury is not very elastic)
- the elasticity of tendons and ligaments (ligaments do not stretch much and tendons should not stretch at all)
- the elasticity of skin (skin actually has some degree of elasticity, but not much)
- the ability of a muscle to relax and contract to achieve the greatest range of movement
- the temperature of the joint and associated tissues (joints and muscles offer better flexibility at body temperatures that are 1 to 2 degrees higher than normal)
- the temperature of the place where one is training (a warmer temperature allows you to stretch more)
- the time of day (most people are more flexible in the afternoon than in the morning, peaking from about 2:30pm-4pm)
- the stage in the recovery process of a joint (or muscle) after injury (injured joints and muscles will usually offer a lesser degree of flexibility than healthy ones)
- age (pre-adolescents are generally more flexible than adults)
- gender (females are generally more flexible than males)
- your ability to perform a particular exercise (practice makes perfect)
- your commitment to achieving flexibility
- the restrictions of any clothing or equipment
Some sources also suggest that water is an important dietary element with regard to flexibility. Increased water intake is believed to contribute to increased mobility, as well as increased total body relaxation.
Some factors that that affect flexibility levels such as age, sex and joint structure cannot be altered significantly by training whereas others can. Through all my years of training and coaching there are certain factors which are a must if you want to get more flexible and these will be covered in future articles.
Let me know what you think of this article in the comments box below. And as always, let me know your Flexibility and Stretching questions.