One word : STRETCH.
Stretch every day, several times a day, and also before and after your training (should it be Taolu, Sanda, or conditioning).
It should be common sense for most of you who have the chance to train with good teacher and / or have a certain level of practice and understanding of basic body mechanics. But you would be surprised of the number of people that are lost in their practice and unfortunately don’t have proper guidance even through basics like flexibility. Don’t worry the Wushu community is full of great people, always happy to help !
Of course you don’t have to be able to have a perfect front split to be a world champion or a Qigong master. It takes more than just that. It doesn’t matter if you practice modern or traditional Wushu, Taijiquan or Sanda, keep in mind that if you want to improve your technique in general, then make flexibility a key aspect of your training. it should have been like that since the day you started. Point.
Below are 3 basic rules that I guarantee will get you more flexible. 100%.
Rule #1 : Stretch every day
I will never repeat this enough. We are asked this question almost every day.
YES you should stretch every day. The only time you should not stretch a muscle is when the muscle, nerves, or bones of the area you wish to stretch is/are injured. Then you should rest / massage / do rehabilitation, etc, depending on the situation > ask your sport doctor for this part.
You can find many exercises online. You can focus on the area(s) you need, BUT we strongly recommend you stretch your entire body every time you stretch. If your arms are super flexible but your legs are stiff, do more / longer exercises for your legs, but do not abandon your arms. Your entire body has to be flexible to move like water / have proper Wushu “Shenfa” 身法 .
We also recommend you to massage your muscles and tendons while / before stretching, especially when you don’t do a proper warm-up or that your muscles are sore from training (or anytime you have free time).
We strongly advise that you warm up your joints first. It helps relaxing your body, and tendons that link your muscles to your bones and joints and avoid “stupid” injuries.
We actually recommend you always warm up your joints before any muscle warm up and stretching.
Below are the most common types of stretching being used by Wushu athletes.
Ballistic Stretching (ONLY after a proper warm-up)
This is a type of stretching Wushu people practice a lot after a good warm up as we need “explosive” muscles capable of quickly stretch then relax. We mostly use it to stretch the legs. It is the one you do or should be doing in class before the main training begins. You stretch a muscle and “bounce” / move / push / press towards it while counting 1 to 10 (or more).
Bounce into (or out of) a stretched position, using the stretched muscles as a spring which pulls you out of the stretched position.
Again, and this is very important – Never do ballistic stretching without a proper warm-up before, or it will lead to injuries.
Example picture of classic Wushu Ballistic Stretching Exercises :
*Wukong advice : For the legs, See on the picture how she puts her heel on the edge of the wall / barre / … this is the proper way of stretching, or else you will injure your Achilles tendon, and loose in efficiency. Also, always point your toes toward your head, AND you can hold your foot with your hand(s) to increase stretching efficiency).
For the shoulders / arms waist ballistic stretch, keep looking forward.
The opposite of Ballistic Stretching.
When doing passive stretching, you assume a position and hold it with some other part of your body, (usually hands). You DO NOT BOUNCE.
This is typically a type of stretching you can do after waking up without warming up in the morning, or a the end of your Wushu class. You may also mix ballistic, passive and
Perform this stretch slowly and relaxed. It’s quite good to cool down and reduce muscle fatigue and soreness. It may also be done used to stretch injured muscles BUT check and confirm with your sport doctor first.
A variant of Passive stretching, called Static stretching, is pretty similar, except that you don’t use your hands or other body parts to hold the stretch position. You just use your body weight or gravity or external force (bring by apparatus or training partner).
Splits on the ground are a good example of passive / static stretching. Except if you are super flexible, NEVER perform splits without a proper muscle warm up before.
Example picture of classic Wushu Passive Stretching exercises :
*Wukong advice : See on the picture how she puts her heel on the edge of the wall / barre / … this is the proper way of stretching, or else you will injure your Achilles tendon, and loose in efficiency. Also, always point your toes toward your head, AND you can hold your foot with your hand(s) to increase stretching efficiency). You can do this stretch on the ground too.
Basically, stretch “all” your body. Not literally of course since you’ve got 650 muscles. But the ones you need the most for Wushu + the ones you feel you need to stretch. Again, first perform a quick joints warm up before proper muscle warm up and stretching :
- Abdominal truss
- Hamstrings – Quads – Adductors – Abductors
If your goal is to move easily and smoothly like a master / pro-athlete, then stretch like they do : at least twice a day.
This is one way to achieve passive and dynamic stretching in the same day. For example, do passive stretching in the morning and / or before going to bed and / or after Wushu class. Do ballistic stretching after a proper joints and muscle warmup before / during your Wushu class.
- Do both passive and dynamic stretches
- Stretch before and after your training
Rule #2 : Explore
Stretching is not limited to above 2 methods. These are only the ones most commonly used by athletes for their average efficiency in regards to Wushu. Several other methods exist such as Isometric and PNF stretching.
Everyone has a different body, different needs, injuries and goals, so go ahead and try different types of stretching. Keep in mind that it’s always better to warm up before stretching even if not necessary for static or passive stretching. If you are not sure about the way you should stretch, ask your coach !
Also explore different heights and difficulties to focus on different muscle parts and improve your motion range and overall flexibility of one muscle.
Rule #3 : Listen to your body
This rule is very important.
When I tell you to listen to your body, I mean be conscious / aware of your weaknesses : Which muscle is more stiff than the other and needs the more attention when stretching ? Is your Mabu really high and ugly, or is it your Pubu ? Are you injured and where ? Does it hurt like a stretch or in a weird way ?
Especially if you are a beginner (in Wushu you can be a beginner for a few years depending on how often and with who you train), it may be really hard to understand which pain is normal and which isn’t. Remind yourself that the action of stretching is usually never comfortable, and it can even make you cry to some extent when you’re being stretched by your coach / training partner(s) – Attention : NEVER do such stretches without a proper warm up and with people you’re not confident in. If you are not sure of the person, teach them clearly how to do it.
What feels comfortable is after the stretch. It frees endorphins into your body and simply make you feel relaxed and more flexible. And after you get used to stretch, you will be happy to see your progress and flexibility improving.
When you will be used to stretch and train, you will know which stretch works best for you and you will develop your own stretching routine that makes you feel comfortable to continue your training.
Example of full legs stretching routine with different stretching heights and difficulties, and splits :