Flexibility issues for older MAists

Discussion in 'Flexibility Training' started by aaradia, Oct 16, 2017.

  1. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Hi all,

    Was chatting on FB with another member here. And we were talking about flexibility issues when getting older. He mentioned it might be good to have a thread about this.

    I am hoping this thread can be a place for all sorts of discussions centering around the idea of how to maintain and increase flexibility when doing MA's at an older age.

    I started at 38 and am now 52. I know there are certain realities about limitations when older. But I also know that my CLF instructor pushes me and doesn't let me use age for an excuse to do things like kick higher. I can do some kicks higher than I could ever imagine. Even higher than some younger students. Others, I am working on. But I don't want to just give up and not try with the excuse that I am not young.

    I know from fellow students and talking online to other older MAists. that issues come up as we get older. How do others deal with this? For those that started younger, how have your routines changed as you have aged? Does anyone find they are in the middle of outdated routines with science suggesting the way we did things ages ago isn't the best way? (For Example: I used to do way more static stretching at the beginning to warm up. I had trouble changing to more current ways of thinking.)

    One fellow student said that I should stretch for longer periods of time when doing static stretches when you are older. She is a massage therapist, so I did that. But now I wonder if that is really true?

    I hope others talk overall about this topic and about specific issues they may have as they get older.

    I have known a few students who say they will just switch to TCC after a certain age. But we have a couple doing CLF and they are both close to 80. And our GGM Wong Gong is in his 80's. Sure, they have slowed down some as they have gotten older. But they are still at it! So I think those students are putting limitations on themselves when they don't need to.

    And to the instructors on here. Do you have approaches to older students that are different? Do you change your approach to developing flexibility with your older students and if so how?

    So I know this is all a little vague. I hope it is enough to get some sort of discussion started on this topic though.
  2. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    I am going to bring up one thing from that conversation and hope the person elaborates on it here. I hope you don't mind me bringing up the idea here from our private conversation.

    The person said..........
    Can you elaborate on this please? Or anyone else who has ideas based on this, can you explain? Thanks!
  3. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    The main problem aging people will face is age-related changes to the ratio of elastin and collagen fibres in soft tissues, and to the quality of those collagen fibres. These changes are inevitable but not disabling, so it is important to be flexible (pun intended) in your approach to training, and to be determined enough not to give up. There is much evidence that highlights the mind's influence on flexibility.

    Static stretching will always have a place in flexibility training. But the focus from adulthood onwards should primarily be on methods that regulate muscular tension and which build strength through the full range of movement.

    Recently there has been a surge in social media "experts" promoting mobility training (e.g. mobilisations, foam rolling) over stretching. But in reality there is no significant distinction: mobility is just another word for dynamic active flexibility and mobilisations are just another word for dynamic stretches. Foam rolling has many benefits, but it alone will not make you flexible. Methods that have been around since the early 1990s (dynamic, isometric and relaxed stretching) still work just fine.

    Generally speaking, holding a static stretch for a long period of time (>5 minutes) will cause the same adaptive changes as sitting with poor posture; muscles get 'long' and weak. As a general rule of thumb, static stretches should be held at most for 2 minutes per set to safeguard against maladaptations.
  4. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin Supporter

    I'm looking at developing different warm ups for my students who are older, rather than different stretching as such.

    My typical warm ups are very typical TKD; lots of running and stepping variations to get the body warm and the legs moving, lots of press ups, squats in increasingly wide stances, leg raises, squat thrusts, etc etc. All good stuff but some of it can be hard on the joints, knees and ankles especially.

    What I'm looking at is something that produces the same benefits, without the same impact on knees etc for the over 50's, but this is for warm ups rather than stretching specifically. I'm looking to get the joints ready to work without impact.

    As far as flexibility specifically goes, I try to incorporate 10 minutes of stretching, often with a partner, at the end of class. I use partner stretches because we haven't got wall bars or anything to pull against, and we hold for 30 seconds to a minute, often in sets of 3. So maybe get to a comfortable stretch, hold for 30 seconds, increase the stretch, hold for 45, increase the stretch, hold for 1 minute.

    To be fair, I should revisit the research, because those stretches are the ones I've done for years, and I might be guilty of just doing things the way I always have.

    On a personal it takes me much longer to get over injuries and the everyday niggles you get from training. I've found that my best bet is a longer, more thorough warm up that begins gently and takes me through lots of rotations and movements before I get to kicking folk.

    axelb likes this.
  5. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu Supporter

    I've been active in martial arts since I was 5. My flexibility training throughout had never been more than a warm-up until I started kungfu in my 20s.

    Even then, a lot of stretching I would say now is dated, and probably caused more injury than good (to the point I could not walk for a few days at a time).

    Over the last 10 years, I have progressed better in flexibility in my 30s, than in my 20s following a better structured approach, and investing in strength more - @Van Zandt thread is gold for a good plan for those that don't have one;

    I started following a similar plan before coming across his plan, and even though I hadn't stuck focus to it (I focused on running and lifting more) I am still able to get full front split and 4inches off a side split at 37 years old, although the latter takes a while to peak due to my day job position causing weak hip flexors/glute Mede.

    This year I have brought a focus back towards flexibility, but I definitely feel it needs to be taken slower as you get older when pushing to your peak.
  6. Kicksider

    Kicksider New Member

    The best flexibility training I ever got was from a seminar with Jean Frenette from Canada. He was one of the top creative forms competitors of his time. I can highly recommend his teachings. I am sure it can be found somewhere on YT or similar.
  7. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I am not doing MA for long enough and (I hope) I am not old enough to have much personal experience. But for general flexibility, if older, I might want to try yoga, because of an example set to me by my grandma. She practises yoga by herself every day, used to go to classes in the small village that she lives in and now she even has student from a nearby city coming to her village to get classes from her. When I was younger and she was maybe around 70, she showed me some of what she could do. Like sit down with bent knees and soles on the floor, while she bent forward and got both her shoulders under her knees. I was quite ashamed, as a teenager, that I couldn't do that no matter what. The only thing I could always do and I found out my grandma couldn't, was the lotus position (cross-legged with feet up). And when I visited a year later, she welcomed me with: "Come here, look what I've learnt!". I admire her quite a bit for that. For her diligent practise and for how flexible she is, though you would never be able to tell at first sight.
    axelb likes this.
  8. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    One thing I avoid for people who have yet to develop strong muscular knee support is bringing the knee past the ankle. I cringe every time I see personal trainers in the park getting newbies to do lunges.

    Low intensity kicking is a great dynamic warm up if you start low and incrementally raise the targets. It is really good for strengthening stabiliser muscles, which over time will allow for greater range of motion without risk of injury or strain.

    A lot of people end up doing "warm up" exercises that are actually higher impact than the exercises they are warming up for :confused:
    axelb likes this.

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