Treating Muscular Imbalances From Martial Arts Training

Posted on: 13 January 2016

With all the punching, kicking and tumbling, martial arts can be highly demanding. Training schedules are often tough and exhausting, leaving little time to let the body recover. Many martial arts gyms teach practitioners to "work through the pain," which often leads combatants to loose sight of when it's the right time to stop.

One of the most common issues among martial artists is developing an over-dominant side of the body. While dancers are trained to develop both sides by choreographers, martial artists are trained to make more instinctive movements that rely on muscle memory. This can result in strength imbalances, overuse of the dominant side, and ultimately, injury. If you are suffering from muscular imbalances, incorporating a post-event sports massage into your rest phase and performing hip flexor stretches in your downtime could be highly beneficial.

Massage Your Dominant Side

Make sure you adequately cool down after your training session. Your post-event massage should last for between 30 and 45 minutes if you want a full body massage or 15 and 20 minutes if focusing on one particular area. Massage therapists will usually perform light, gentle strokes, such as the petrissage (kneading) and effleurage (circular movements), as they provide a suitable contrast to the dynamic movements used in martial arts.

Before you begin, tell your masseuse whether you're an orthodox or southpaw fighter. When correcting imbalances, the attention should be focused on your dominant side and the muscle group which was worked the hardest. For example, if you were practising side kicks during your training session, your dominant leg and hip will require the most work.

Stretch Your Hip Flexors

While sports massages can help you recover, they will not correct muscular imbalances. To do this, you must try to increase the strength and range of motion on your weaker side. Almost every martial arts technique requires the use of the hip flexor muscles – kicking, punching, grappling. Tight hip flexors are the biggest contributor to muscular imbalance and poor posture.

The twisting motion of punching generates power from the hip flexors and abdominals, the sudden impact of kicking shocks the hips, and almost every grappling technique requires significant hip flexibility to perform. Fundamentally, almost every martial arts technique causes the hip flexor to become hyperactive; therefore, in your downtime, you should stretch them. Kneel on your right knee (cushion your kneecap with a towel), place your left foot in front of you, keep your back straight, lunge forward until you feel the stretch on your right side, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch on both sides.

With a combination of massage therapy and stretching, you can treat muscular imbalances that have derived from martial arts training. While having a dominant side is perfectly normal, if you are serious about training and/or plan on fighting competitively, it's imperative – to both your performance and health – that you train both sides of your body equally. For more information, work with your instructor and massage therapists in your area. 


Massage as a health strategy

I have a medical condition that causes me chronic pain all over. It makes it hard for me to go about my day-to-day life. I try to avoid taking painkillers everyday as I know how easy it would be to become totally addicted and let the need for pain relief take over my life. I find that regular massage is an important part of managing my pain and minimising the amount of medication that I need. This blog is a way for me to share my thoughts on the usefulness of massage and which massages strategies can help the most with different types of pain.

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