It is important for people to stretch their muscles on a daily basis so they don’t become stiff, but it is absolutely critical for martial artists and athletes alike. Stretching increases flexibility, keeps the muscles strong, and helps to build stamina. Also, it will boost one’s energy levels and athletic performance.
ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee is a lifelong martial artist and athlete who knows all about the importance of stretching. After all, the 20-year-old’s dynamic flexibility has aided her tremendously in her ability to pull off some of the most impressive submissions in the world.
Lee, who has been able to effortlessly perform splits since she was a child, is an expert when it comes to the art of stretching. Here are just five tips from the champion on the importance of this crucial, yet underrated activity.
#1 Stretch Before And After Working Out
Stretching before exercising is absolutely paramount. It will limber up your muscles, making it safer to work out and help to prevent injury in the process. Also, stretching after a workout will aid in recovery, as it reduces stiffness and fatigue. However, be sure to engage in some light exercise before beginning your stretching routine.
“It is very important to never stretch cold. You should always be a little bit warm before you stretch,” Lee says. “Also, after your workout when you are still warm, it is important to stretch.”
#2 Push Yourself Just A Bit More Every Day
When stretching, it is crucial to challenge the muscles and stress them to the limits. That is key to increasing one’s mobility and performance.
“It is important to push yourself, but not to a point where you are going to get hurt, especially if you are doing splits. Keep working at it, day by day, to try and get lower than you were previously,” Lee says. “Flexibility is something that is totally underrated. Not a lot of people think it is that important, but it can really help you, especially for martial arts.”
#3 Stretch Your Entire Body
Almost every physical activity you do requires the use of the entire body, in some form or another. So when you stretch, do not neglect a particular muscle group. Flex them all out.
“I do a full-body stretch. I start on my feet and I will rotate my arms and shoulders, then stretch my mid-section and work my way down to the legs,” Lee says. “I try to get a really good full-body stretch because when you pull a muscle, it is the worst feeling in the world. Stretching definitely helps to prevent those.”
#4 Take Your Time
Stretching should not be rushed. People should take their time stretching so they can maximize the muscles’ elasticity and contractibility, all while avoiding fatigue. Lee suggests people spend at least 10 to 15 minutes stretching out the muscles before they start exercising.
“You cannot really get a good stretch in if it is anything less than that. It really depends if you like to take your time with each position and stretch. Then, by all means, stretch longer,” she says. “But for me, I like to get a good 15-minute stretch in before my workout, so my muscles are all warmed up and ready to go.”
#5 Try The Sauna
With the muscles already warmed-up, go the extra mile and stretch inside the sauna. That is where you may see your best results yet. Plus, your body will detoxify itself in the process. Lee, herself, is a big advocate of this heated activity.
“I love to stretch in the sauna, because you are already warm and sweating, but then you can get a better stretch when your muscles are all warmed up,” she states. “If your body is warm and your muscles are warm, then it is going to be easier to stretch. You cannot stretch when you are cold.”