In this post I wanted to share some stretches that I like to incorporate into my training, mainly for Capoeira. Please note that this isn’t a “how to stretch” instructional, it’s just some ideas that you might like to discuss with your trainer or coach.
The movements below all aim to enhance your external rotation, so it’s important to complement these with stretches that promote good internal rotation – which I’ll share in my next post.
When stretching, my goal is to be both flexible and strong, not flexible and weak. A good example of this is when John Call (Jujimufu) recently posted a video of himself on Instagram doing the Van Damme middle split on two chairs. He actually said he didn’t need to warm up his legs to do this at all, just his upper back.
I can relate. Being a Capoeira teacher, it’s important for me to be able to kick without warming up (a Capoeirista is always ready)! As Ido Portal says, “I want to be able to walk out of a freezer and kick you in the head”.
Having said that, I make sure I’m warm before doing any kind of stretching or flexibility work. I typically pick two to three different movements, and focus on them for about 20-30 minutes each day. I like to hang out in each stretch for about a minute, then I relax into them further.
Middle split (no hands)
Stand in a deep horse stance, and slowly start to walk your feet away from your body. Hips in line with feet, knees locked out. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
Side split/Front split
Lunge forward with one foot, keeping both feet hip width apart. Slowly start to slide/walk your front foot further away from you, ensuring you’re up on your toes on your back foot, and weight through the heel of your front foot. Your hips and shoulders should be square and your front knee should be locked out. You should feel a stretch in the front leg through your calf, into the glutes, and in the back leg from your quads down.
Couch stretch (hip flexor)
Made popular by Kelly Starett, the couch stretch is a really effective way of stretching your quads and hips. Start on all fours, close to a wall, slide one leg back and place your knee in the intersection of the wall and floor. Now raise your upper body, so that your front leg is at a right angle to the floor – squeeze your glutes to support your lower back.
Sit on the floor with your legs in a straddle position about 90°. Reach forwards with both arms, and walk your hands away from your body. The goal is to compress your hips to get your chest, and head to the ground.
Bridge (high and low)
For high bridge, start by lying down on your back with your feet close to your bum, and your hands by your head, a little wider than your shoulders. Start to push your hands and feet into the floor, with straight arms, so that your body forms a smooth arc – there shouldn’t be too many right angles with this one!
As you can see, I am still very tight through my upper back and shoulders.
If you’re not particularly mobile you can place your feet onto a box.
For low bridge, jam your heels underneath your bum with the weight going through your toes and ball of your foot. Push your knees forwards and down (your south), head and shoulders touch the floor, and you can choose whether to use your hands or not. Squeeze your glutes!
Depending on where you are tight, you may find one easier than the other – it’s ideal to be able to do both, especially for Capoeira!