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 methods. (Taekwondo roughly interprets to “the artwork of kicking and punching.”)
“Within the very starting, my dad and mom put me within the sport as a result of I used to be simply actually shy, and I feel they might inform that I wanted one thing,” says Vallandingham, who lives and trains in Los Angeles. “Instantly, I simply beloved it. I felt at house, and each single day, as an alternative of watching Dora, I wished to go to the dojo.”
“As an alternative of watching Dora, I wished to go to the dojo.”
Vallandingham credit her success, largely, to her consistency through the years, and that features commonly hitting the health club. “It’s a lifestyle,” she says. “It is not solely educating your physique actions and being in synchronicity along with your physique, but in addition identical 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 leap kicks, plus punches, to be able to take down an opponent, isn’t straightforward. (Understatement.) It takes an amazing quantity of energy, flexibility, and energy. “Of the three, I feel energy and adaptability are the highest two,” Vallandingham says.
Sadly, she discovered the arduous means that there isn’t a 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 might drive flexibility by pushing previous your finish vary of movement. “We used to have individuals stand on my legs and drive my knees to come back 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 method to her coaching that helps her keep on prime of her recreation, whereas avoiding harm.
How a taekwondo world champion builds leg energy and adaptability
Earlier than Vallandingham even thinks about selecting up a weight, she takes time to stretch by doing a dynamic heat up, a sort of stretching that helps increase her physique temp and elevate her coronary heart fee, rising blood move to her muscle mass, so that they are ready to fireside up as soon as she will get transferring.
When she’s energy coaching, Vallandingham says she likes to concentrate on supersets, which entails performing two strikes back-to-back that concentrate on the identical muscle teams to be able to double down on their positive factors. 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 energy.) Then she’s able to elevate.
One in all her favourite workouts for sturdy legs is a goblet squat. To arrange for it, Vallandingham will stand along with her toes shoulder-width aside, fold ahead till she will slide her palms beneath her soles (you might additionally maintain your ankles or calves), then bends her knees, decreasing 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 primary occasion, holding a weight in her fingers whereas bending down right into a deep squat.
The best way to carry out a goblet squat:
One other means Vallandingham likes to coach for flexibility, mobility, and energy concurrently is by performing workouts on an unstable floor. “I like using a Bosu ball—they’re just about in each single health club,” she says. She likes to face on one whereas executing lower-body actions like squats or deadlifts (in addition to kicks) because the shakiness they create causes her muscle mass 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 energy and velocity. So when Vallandingham is coaching for lower-body energy, she switches up her tempo when performing workouts, in order that she’s transferring sooner on the hassle and slower whereas resetting for the subsequent rep. Say she’s doing goblet squats, for instance: This might appear to be decreasing 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 methods to generate energy overlook—sustaining management throughout it’s so vital.”
Why Vallandingham saves flexibility coaching for after her exercises
When you took a frozen spear of asparagus and tried to bend it in half, it’d break—however should you allowed it to thaw out first, you might fold it over, no drawback. This similar rule applies to your physique and adaptability coaching—analysis exhibits that holding stretches (the easiest way to work on flexibility) is the worst factor you are able to do when your muscle mass are chilly. “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 skilled and co-founder of Delos Remedy, beforehand informed Effectively+Good.
For this reason Vallandingham saves static stretching for after the remainder of her exercise when her physique is already warmed up. One in all 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 drive something.”
Above all else, should you’re trying to lengthen and strengthen your leg muscle mass, Vallandingham says there’s one factor you need to follow diligently: perseverance. “Consistency is a lot extra vital than depth for attaining most positive factors,” she says. “Benefit from the journey. Do not be overly arduous on your self; do not apply an excessive amount of stress.” And never simply to your joints.