How to Front Stretch Kick

The front stretch kick is an invaluable kick even though it isn’t really a kick–it’s a stretch. Without countless repetitions of front stretch kicks, your kicks will never develop height, snap or speed. The front stretch kick actually serves multiple purposes. It stretches the hamstrings and lower back, it strengthens the abdominals and hip flexors and it helps develop the balance to stand on one with leg while the other leg goes from the floor to above head height in a split second.

Every kicking session should start with front stretch kicks after you have warmed up and stretched. Don’t throw kicks until you do a set of 10 with good form on both the left and right sides. This kick warms up the hamstrings and hips, besides priming the body for the stretch reflex. This kick also greatly strengthens the hip flexors and lengthens the hamstrings and lower back over time. Each repetition you throw should be slightly higher than the one before it until you are at your true kick height max and ready to throw snapping kicks, placing much higher actual strain on the hamstrings, lower back, knees and hips.

Remember, start every kicking session with the front stretch kick! The side stretch kick is a good kick to follow up with before starting to throw actual kicks in a practice session. Or you could go with front kicks or axe kicks. It’s up to you!

How to Perform the Front Stretch Kick

  1. Assume a fighting stance. Feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, hands up at about eye level and in front of the face, body turned at about a 30 degree angle with one leg forward and one leg back, lightly balancing on your toes (heels off the floor) with your body weight equally distributed between both legs.
  2. Keeping the knee locked but definitely not hyperextended, as you swing your entire leg up, trying to touch your own chest or shoulder with the straightened leg’s knee. Your foot should be at about a 90 degree angle to your shin. Extending your foot while kicking can get a few more inches of height in. Pulling the foot back can stretch the hamstring more. At the same time you are kicking, swing your hands down and to the side to help force your kicking leg to go as high as possible.
  3. Once your leg reaches maximum height and stretch, let the stretch reflex pull the leg down and back. No need to add extra force to the leg coming back down–that would make it an axe kick. Be particularly careful to not let your heel land hard on the floor as the leg comes back down. That can easily break your heel.
  4. Return to fighting stance in the same position and orientation you were in.

Diagnosing Problems with Your Front Stretch Kick

Weak muscles

The primary muscles used are the abdominals, hip flexors and to a small extent, the quadriceps. Strengthen your abs and hip flexors by doing leg lifts, twisting situps, crunches, etc. Your quadriceps are fighting your hamstrings in this kick so increasing the length and flexibility of the hamstrings will help them.

Tight hamstrings

You should be stretching daily. The hurdler’s stretch, touching your toes, front splits and variations of these will stretch your hamstrings and actually lengthen them over time.

Poor balance and stamina

The only real solution for these is throwing more front stretch kicks. Follow up front stretch kicks with each of the four variations of the axe kick–regular, outside-inside, inside-outside and the Olympic axe kick. The axe kick uses all the same muscles as the front stretch kick and the first half is an identical motion, so the more axe kicks you throw, the better your front stretch kick will get and vice-versa.

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