Bruce Lee and Flexibility

Stretching has a time and place. The research today indicates that stretching is not best for all sports. For instance, it shows that static stretching diminishes a muscles’ springiness contributing to a decrease in your speed and explosiveness when running, sprinting, and jumping. On the other hand, Bruce Lee said that flexibility is essential for a martial artist. It is definitely required for kicking. With that being said, let’s understand Bruce Lee’s flexibility routine and his five important reasons it is essential to be a part of your routine

Bruce was ahead of his time in the 1960s. He was his own research as he experimented on himself all the time. Bruce Lee believed that:

1. Stretching improves your health and fitness.

He believed that stretching combined with strength was one part of your fitness. Bruce was right. Increasing flexibility with strength is essential. Too much flexibility leads to hypermobility. Hypermobility- loose joints, leads to flimsy ligaments, muscles, and tendons. And, too much strength leads to immobility. Both roads lead to soreness, pain, and strain in a martial artist when not appropriately balanced to maximize power through full range of motion.

That is why stretching with resistance bands, training the full range of motion, or using slow eccentric training in your strength movements like a squat or press, for example, works great. It provides resistance for muscles along with stability and tension, to move and stretch maximally, properly, and effectively through full range.

So, you cannot overlook the importance of strength and how it pertains to flexibility, which often happens today.

2. Bruce believed that stretching reduced the risk of injuries.

This is probably true in martial arts. However, according to research today, stretching does not prevent or decrease your chance of injury. Since flexibility is essential for martial arts, it fits perfectly in the world of martial arts to avoid strain and muscle tears, more than for other activities like running.

3. Stretching provides an excellent warm-up and cool-down after training.

Bruce often stretched throughout the day. He would stretch on the film set during breaks. And he would stretch before and after his training. But, he did not dedicate hours to stretching. He used stretching according to his need. He also believed it allowed him to recover faster and have less soreness.

4. Stretching will enhance and boost your athletic performance.

Bruce believed that a supple, more flexible martial artist would have an advantage over his opponent who is tight and immobile.

5. When you stretch properly, it is enjoyable.

Bruce said that stretching makes you feel good when you wake up in the morning. However, Dr. Stuart McGill, a well-known doctor in biomechanics said, wait about 30-45 minutes for the fluid to move into your spine and joints when you wake up before stretching. Without the fluid, you can injury your spine.

Bruce’s Advice

Bruce said that you must find your individual flexible stretching zone to stretch and improve your flexibility. Everyone is different and you cannot force the stretch. You must find your zone and when you find it, you will know what you need from your stretch. This is where you will receive the most benefit.

How to do the Exercises

Bruce’s flexibility exercises were average. However, his flexibility using those exercises was superior, and he could generate high amounts of force through large maximal ranges of motion.

  • Bruce says take 30 to 40 seconds to ease into each stretch.
  • When you feel pain, back off slightly until the pain diminishes.
  • After that, hold the stretch in that new position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Over time try to work up to one or two minutes holding your stretches.

The body needs to be flexible, resilient, supple, and strong. You need to find the balance between stretching and strength that maximizes your martial arts performance. You can’t just stretch and neglect the stability and strength of your flexibility.

Understand why you need flexibility and how training methods like slow eccentric motions and resistance bands will provide a better result than static stretching. You will get flexible fast and instantly, and, at the same time, maintain the springiness of muscles and tendons to be explosive.

The five reasons for flexibility are from the book: Bruce Lee- The Art of Expressing the Human Body- compiled by John Little, Tuttle Publishing.

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