I remember like it was yesterday.
A fresh faced teenager mulling around at the back of the class line up, gawking at the majesty of the front row. Their kicks were just awesome. I wanted to do that. I also remember how laboriously difficult it was even attempting to get my leg up to hip height. Never mind higher.
I wanted to nail the specific focus levels during Tul/Kata, holding your leg up to a breaking board at the right height. Plus the plain old satisfaction of being able to at least look like you know what you're doing. Over the years, I've learned a thing or two.
Mine is better..
Cliff Notes: Reasons why you're not improving leg control -
Flexibility Levels aren't adequate.
Mobility levels aren't adequate.
Stability Levels aren't adequate.
No progressive overload.
Not enough volume. (Amount of work applied)
Joint angles are wrong.
Structural limitations - Deep hip sockets, short femoral necks.
Capsular restrictions in the hip joint.
Structural Deformities - Cam/Pincer Deformities.
You wore red on Tuesday.
You're using a screwdriver instead of a hammer.
It's a lot of potential balls ups and/or things to think about. Some stuff you just can't change and ought to recognise as such. Take my mention of using a screwdriver instead of a hammer - Using the wrong tool for the job - You can end up ramming bone against bone for years which develops Cam/Pincer deformities. When really what you needed was lateral hip strength work.
Cam/Pincer Deformities develop as a result of consistent, long term FAI (Femoroacetabular Impingement) AKA Ramming your upper leg bone against the hip socket.
Let me explain the scenario. Jane Doe has stretched and stretched and stretched. She's got amazing flexibility on the floor, better than most around her. Yet, she just cannot hold her leg up. So Jane Doe gets frustrated and really presses into those stretches with bouncing.
When you run out of flexibility work - Your muscles are as flexible as they can possibly be - You inevitably run into bone. Bone doesn't stretch, but it will deform if you keep at it aggressively for several years.
Jane Doe didn't need more flexibility. She needed to develop strength to be able to control that passive range of motion. Just because you can get into the positions on the floor (Passive flexibility/mobility) doesn't automatically mean you can hold it up (Active flexibility/mobility) That strength primarily comes from these bad boys.
When attempting to strengthen these, your joint angles (The way you position yourself for the work) are extremely important. Since strength is joint angle specific.
Let's break down the rest - Strength -> Stability -> Mobility.
“It is important to always remember that strength causes stability – stability allows for mobility – and mobility improves the speed and accuracy for which strength can be executed.”
- Kevin Mullins CSCS.
In other words, if you're not strong enough in the right places. Then you won't be able to access the mobility you have available to you. The main takeaway? You need to get strong. As strength creates stability, and the body loves letting you reach greater ranges of motion if it feels safe/stable enough to do so. This way, you can really kick some ass like Agent Smith.
"Hello, Mr Anderson."
Working hard enough
It's not lost on me how some clients don't seem to improve their leg control. Yet it turns out it's because they're not working hard enough with their leg raises, or any kind of muscular leg control work.
"Hello Mr Client, you look ravishing today sir if I do say so myself. Now, pertaining to the pressing matter of improving your side kicks, I must clarify. How many times per week on average over the last 3 months do you spend working on the exercises I gave you?"
"Errrrhhhhh. Once... Sometimes Twice?"
"Ahhh ok! Excuse me one second."
"Have you seen my coach, James?"
It's about two things. Progressive overload, which states you must increase the physical challenge over time. Plus volume, which is equal to the amount of work done in a given week. So once per week, while still doing the same 12-15 repetitions on each side is not going to get you to the next level.
For strength, you should be at the teeth gritting end of exertion. Maximum effort and squeeze with zero momentum in your movements. Pure muscle work. Think of them as bicep curls for your hips. How do you know if this is you? Well, if you can get into the positions of a high kick on the floor but can't hold it out? This is exactly what you're missing.
There's no other way to put it. Sometimes, you just suck.*
Wrapping it up
There's stuff you just can't change and need to respect.
There's stuff you can change, and need to maximise.
Strength in the hips.
Flexibility (Usually not the issue over the long term.)
Strength to create stability to allow for mobility. (Weak core = reduced hip mobility)
Using the right tool for the job. Everyone will be limited for different reasons.
As is customary, this is not a self diagnostic tool. So please, if this blog resonates with you and you're looking for that solution. Reach out so I can help, It's what I'm here for.
*Just kidding. You don't suck.