There's a belief in the West that the only way to flexibility is through static stretching but latest research shows that the way Shaolin Monks warm up and stretch is the way to get maximum performance from your workout.
"Dynamic stretching may be the most important element of a warm up... it involves moving and waking the tissues that will be called upon during the subsequent exercise." The First Twenty Minutes.
At the Shaolin Temple we do two types of stretching: static and dynamic. The Shaolin dynamic stretching we do are the Five Fundamental Kicks, and the Five Fundamental Stances. These movements open the hips and warm up the leg muscles. We've stretched and warmed up our muscles this way for thousands of years.
Want to gain the flexibility of a Shaolin Monk? Follow these simple steps below.
7 Steps To Maximize Your Flexibility
1. Stretch am and pm
My early morning sessions at the Shaolin Temple always began with a mountain run then we would take time to stretch our muscles before beginning our kung fu training session. Stretching in the morning is harder than in the evening but it's one of the best ways to increase flexibility.
2. Always stretch after your workout
Your joints and muscles are warm, which means you can go further with your stretch. It also helps to decrease the build up of lactic acid in your muscles. Not stretching after a workout leads to stiff muscles.
3. Do the Five Fundamental Shaolin Kicks
These kicks increase flexibility to not only the legs but crucially the hips. Start off in a relaxed and loose way, kicking from the hip rather than from the leg. Stretch in between the kicks to loosen the leg and kick again. When you move into the splits you'll be surprised how much further you can go.
4. Do The Five Fundamental Shaolin Stances
These stances open the hips, stretch out the legs including the calf muscles, and make the whole body move as one. They are an excellent way to increase strength in the muscles while stretching them at the same time.
5. Find creative ways to include stretching in your day-to-day life
If you like to watch TV then find a way to stretch while you watch TV. On the escalator, place your left heel a little off the step and stretch out your calf muscle.
6. Alternate your stretching
Our bodies quickly adapt so alternate your stretching and consistently challenge your body.
7. Focus on Optimal Flexibility for you
We all need to have a certain amount of flexibility but remember we are all different. It's crucial that you never push yourself too hard and you work with your own body. If you want to get your head on your knees, don't strain to get there or bend your legs in the process. Remember there never should be any pain when you stretch only patience. Even if you can't so the splits. They're a good stretch to do on a daily basis as they open the hips and legs.
I teach warm up, stretching, The Five Fundamental Kicks and The Five Fundamental Stances in my Kung Fu book and DVD.
I teach warm up, stretching, and The Five Fundamental Stances in my book, Instant Health: The Shaolin Qigong Workout For Longevity.