30 Days to Greater Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the holy grails of martial arts ability that will improve your performance and increase your resistance to injuries such as muscle and ligament tears.

Flexibility is one of the holy grails of MMA ability that will improve your performance and increase your resistance to injuries such as muscle and ligament tears. People who are more flexible enjoy multiple benefits. They are able to kick higher and move with a wider range of motion. They are able to target more areas during a competition match and therefore increase the confusion they are able to induce in an opponent. They are also able to attempt moves that less flexible people cannot, such as a crab-leg takedown.


Most importantly, people with great flexibility have fantastic reach. They can push off the rear leg and send their hips far forward without raising them. They can lift their knees and unload a kick with sometimes as much as two feet greater stable range while stepping in. If caught, they are far less likely to lose balance or be injured. If they overstep or slip and fall, they are more likely to recover without harm.

Many will scoff at flexibility. Those people are not flexible.

You can improve your flexibility greatly in only 30 days by performing a very few, simple exercises for just a few minutes a day every day. It truly is not that difficult. It simply requires discipline on your part.

Types of Flexibility

There are two major categories of flexibility: Static and dynamic. Static flexibility involves slowly moving into a wide ranging motion. For example, lowering yourself slowly into a full split is static flexibility. You are able to gently assume a position and hold that position with great range of motion.

Dynamic flexibility involves the ability to move body parts quickly, and perhaps even violently into positions which require great range of motion. For example, dropping into a full split and landing on your crotch as hard as you might land on your feet after a jump.

Of the two, MMA players are best served by dynamic flexibility.

Warming Up vs. Post Workout Static Stretching

The best way to build dynamic flexibility is not to sit on the floor pulling on your ankles before you work out. That builds static flexibility, and there are those today who argue that stretching before you work out is a foolish waste of time. The belief that stretching before you exercise somehow will prevent injury or otherwise help you warm up is false.

Warming up involves raising the core body temperature. That’s why it is called a “warm up.” You might feel looser after you stretch sitting on the floor, but this is a matter of mental conditioning. If you instead adopt the practice of jumping rope for five minutes before you start working out, you will stop feeling that stretching before you train is necessary. In fact, you will be able to skip stretching before your MMA workout without ill effect.

My favorite way to warm up is to perform leg swings. I simply put one hand on a wall, and then I swing my leg up in front of me with care higher and higher – as much as is comfortable – 20 times on each side. I do this sideways into a side thrust kick position. I also do inside out and outside in round leg swings in front and to the side. By doing these, I not only build dynamic flexibility in my hips where I need it, I warm up the specific muscles around my hips that need it most.

Static stretching, the kind where you pull on your leg and try to touch your nose to your knees, is best performed after you work out. Sit on the floor in a half split, pull right, pull left, pull into the middle. Then put your feet together and pull your nose into your knees. Pull your feet in and perform the “Butterfly Stretch” forward. Try a full split, and you are finished. You only need 20 to 30 seconds per position to stretch effectively.

For ankle flexibility, simple adopt a stance and hold it where the ankle is stretched, and then step from one foot to the other very, very slowly so that the supporting ankle is pressurized for 20 seconds or so. That may be be all of the flexibility you really need for most MMA movements.

A lot of people wrongly believe that stretching before a workout prevents injury. It does not. Stretching before you warm up and work out is the cause of many exercise related injuries. So many people live under the false belief that stretching before you exercise is a good idea. Flexibility itself is what will protect you from injury. Flexibility is best gained by stretching after your workout, not before.

So, next time you hit the dojo floor, try warming up by doing leg lifts, squats, pushups, and jumping rope. Stand in place and rotate your hips. Do kata slowly and lightly. Bounce around. Do some leg swings to do some dynamic stretching and warming up at the same time. You will be ready to go in five short minutes without ever sitting on the floor and pulling your nose to your knees.

A 30 Day Plan

I know a guy who doubled his flexibility in a month. Here’s how he did it: He stretched, statically, for 5 minutes every morning before breakfast and 5 minutes every evening before dinner. Literally, he did 5 stretches for about 50 seconds each – the ones I described – and that’s it. He gave himself 10 seconds between each one. He did this 7 days a week. He did not strain, he did not endure pain. He simply stretched until slightly uncomfortable, held that position, and went farther if he could as he continued to breath out, relax, and pull himself gradually further.

That’s all there is to it. Want to be as good at stretching as you are at walking? Then stretch the way you walk: frequently. Unlike weight lifting type exercises, you do not need to rest between stretching sessions as long as you do not overdo it or tear any ligaments or muscles. These stretching sessions are a lot safer if you warm up first. That’s right – exercise before stretching, not the other way around!

Take it easy, go slow, and do it very, very frequently. The more often, the better.

An Experiment

Perform a full split and have a friend (a really good friend) measure the space from your rear to the floor.

Sit in a half split and reach forward stretching a tape measure out in front of you that you are sitting on.

Measure your progress every day, and see how many inches or cm you can add to your flexibility in 30 days. You might be amazed at how easy it is if you scope your work down to four or five simple stretches from a huge routine of hurried positions.

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