5 Essential Martial Arts Stretches

Increase your flexibility and optimize your martial arts performance with this stretching routine.

Martial Arts Stretching

Martial artists require a higher degree of flexibility than most athletes. Even the sport's novice skills demand at least a moderate level of flexibility for correct execution. (See AJ Hawk's Functional Martial Arts Workout.)

During a match, a fighter moves in all three directional planes. By becoming more flexible, you'll increase your mobility, strength, speed and coordination. Consequently, you will be able to quickly block a punch, dive out of the way or deliver multiple rapid-fire kicks over your opponent's head (just like Bruce Lee).

The following five martial arts stretches should have a place in all fighters' stretching routines. They will help improve kicking and rotational striking performance. However, for optimum performance enhancement, fighters should also include other stretches based more specifically around their fighting style. (Football your sport? See How to Incorporate Martial Arts into Football Training.)

Martial Arts Stretching Routine

Standing Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand in front of a raised object (about hip height) and place your foot on it. (I've used a Smith machine in the past as it can adjust to various heights).
  • Bend your opposite knee and press down gently on your thigh.
  • Extend and lower your hips back as if sitting in a chair.
  • Make sure to keep your heel grounded.

Scorpion Stretch

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Create a straight line with your shoulders by stretching your arms with your palms facing the floor.
  • Raise your left leg and bring your heel to the opposite side of your lower back.
  • Hold your leg at the ankle with your left hand and pull the heel toward your butt. Make sure to keep your foot flexed.
  • Bring the leg back to starting position and repeat with your right leg.

American Splits

  • Start by standing upright.
  • Placing your hand for support, walk your legs out to the side as far as possible.

Chinese Splits

  • Start by standing upright.
  • Place your hands on the floor for support and extend one leg forward and one back.

Wall Inner Thigh Stretch

  • Face a wall and spread your legs out as wide as possible
  • Slide closer to the wall while spreading your legs wider.
  • The greater your level of flexibility, the closer your chest  will be to the wall.


Kim H et al. (2011). "Taekwondo training and fitness in female adolescents." Journal Sports Science. Jan 29(2). Pg. 133-138.

Chaabene H et al. (2012). "Physical and physiological profile of elite karate athletes." Sports Med. Oct 1(10). Pg. 829-843.


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