Rayna Vallandingham began doing taekwondo when she was 2 years previous. By age 6, she’d earned her first black belt. Right this moment, at 20, she’s a 13-time world champion of the Korean type of martial arts identified for its punching and powerhouse kicking strategies. (Taekwondo roughly interprets to “the artwork of kicking and punching.”)
“Within the very starting, my mother and father put me within the sport as a result of I used to be simply actually shy, and I believe they might inform that I wanted one thing,” says Vallandingham, who lives and trains in Los Angeles. “Instantly, I simply liked it. I felt at house, and each single day, as an alternative of watching Dora, I wished to go to the dojo.”
“As a substitute of watching Dora, I wished to go to the dojo.”
Vallandingham credit her success, largely, to her consistency over time, and that features recurrently hitting the gymnasium. “It’s a lifestyle,” she says. “It is not solely instructing your physique actions and being in synchronicity together with your physique, but additionally similar to the psychological facet of it.”
Mastering the artwork of taekwondo, which entails the flexibility to carry out head-high kicks, in addition to spinning soar kicks, plus punches, so as to take down an opponent, just isn’t straightforward. (Understatement.) It takes an amazing quantity of power, flexibility, and energy. “Of the three, I believe power and adaptability are the highest two,” Vallandingham says.
Sadly, she discovered the laborious method that there isn’t any quick monitor to the kind of leg muscle extensibility (or elongation) required to excel at her sport. She remembers a time, early in her coaching when, just like ballet dancers, the college of thought was that you possibly can power flexibility by pushing previous your finish vary of movement. “We used to have folks stand on my legs and power my knees to return down in butterfly stretch,” she says. “I’ve everlasting injury to my physique—I’ve tendonitis [because of this].”
She now has a a lot extra sustainable strategy to her coaching that helps her keep on high of her sport, whereas avoiding harm.
How a taekwondo world champion builds leg power and adaptability
Earlier than Vallandingham even thinks about selecting up a weight, she takes time to stretch by doing a dynamic heat up, a type of stretching that helps increase her physique temp and elevate her coronary heart charge, growing blood stream to her muscle tissue, so that they are ready to fireside up as soon as she will get shifting.
When she’s power coaching, Vallandingham says she likes to concentrate on supersets, which entails performing two strikes back-to-back that concentrate on the identical muscle teams so as to double down on their good points. First, she’ll do a mobility train to take all of the joints she plans to load up by means of their full ranges of movement. (FYI, mobility is product of flexibility and power.) Then she’s able to raise.
Considered one of her favourite workouts for robust legs is a goblet squat. To arrange for it, Vallandingham will stand along with her ft shoulder-width aside, fold ahead till she will slide her palms beneath her soles (you possibly can additionally maintain your ankles or calves), then bends her knees, reducing her butt towards the ground whereas lifting her chest, coming right into a deep squat. She’ll bend and prolong her legs a number of instances on this place. Then, it is on to the principle occasion, holding a weight in her arms whereas bending down right into a deep squat.
Learn how to carry out a goblet squat:
One other method Vallandingham likes to coach for flexibility, mobility, and power concurrently is by performing workouts on an unstable floor. “I like using a Bosu ball—they’re just about in each single gymnasium,” she says. She likes to face on one whereas executing lower-body actions like squats or deadlifts (in addition to kicks) for the reason that shakiness they create causes her muscle tissue to activate greater than if she did the identical issues whereas standing on the ground.
The key to Vallandingham’s explosive kicks
Energy is a product of power and velocity. So when Vallandingham is coaching for lower-body energy, she switches up her tempo when performing workouts, in order that she’s shifting sooner on the trouble and slower whereas resetting for the subsequent rep. Say she’s doing goblet squats, for instance: This might appear like reducing down in a depend of three, then snapping again up in a depend of 1.
“If I am constructing energy, I am additionally sustaining management of my actions,” she says. “That is the factor I really feel like lots of people who’re studying the way to generate energy overlook—sustaining management throughout it’s so necessary.”
Why Vallandingham saves flexibility coaching for after her exercises
If you happen to took a frozen spear of asparagus and tried to bend it in half, it’d break—however in the event you allowed it to thaw out first, you possibly can fold it over, no downside. This identical rule applies to your physique and adaptability coaching—research reveals that holding stretches (one of the best ways to work on flexibility) is the worst thing you can do when your muscles are cold. “Any time you begin to stretch [cold muscles], that causes a stretch reflex that will get your muscle tissue to activate a protecting mechanism to not over-stretch,” Eric Owens, musculoskeletal professional and co-founder of Delos Remedy, beforehand told Well+Good.
Because of this Vallandingham saves static stretching for after the remainder of her exercise when her physique is already warmed up. Considered one of her favourite methods to work on lower-body flexibility is by mendacity on the ground along with her legs up the wall after which permitting them to open out right into a facet break up. “I let gravity do its work as a result of that is my physique telling me, okay, that is the place we’re at,” she says. “My hips are opening on their very own, and I am not having to power something.”
Above all else, in the event you’re trying to lengthen and strengthen your leg muscle tissue, Vallandingham says there’s one factor it’s a must to follow diligently: perseverance. “Consistency is a lot extra necessary than depth for attaining most good points,” she says. “Benefit from the journey. Do not be overly laborious on your self; do not apply an excessive amount of strain.” And never simply to your joints.
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