In the process of doing a round kick, or roundhouse kick, you need to turn your kicking leg over, to be perpendicular with your body. When I do this I loose significant height on my kick and can rarely get it above my waist level, which prevents me from obtaining optimal angles.

I normally feel a tightness on the outside of my leg near my hip joint. Properly warming up with splits and static leg stretches doesn't seem to help terribly. For example when split stretching on the ground I will feel a tightness in the side of my hip, I think the lateral rotator group, before the groin. Working though this doing a split stretch hasn't improved it much.

Has anyone else encountered this, or does anyone know, what exercises or activities do you recommend that I do to attempt to gain more lateral hip flexibility?

  • I'm not a good kicker, so I'm not providing this as an answer. If I were in you I'd train flexibility alone in the home, doing the correct form of kicking at the height you can reach (waist). Do it slowly and confortably and have something to rest your feet against at the end of the movement (a wall, a door), before moving your leg back.
    – tacone
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 3:19
  • Is just me or is it sad that this question has almost 10,000 views and just 10 upvotes? That's a 0.1% ratio! Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 16:31
  • Check out elasticsteel.com for splits and flexibility.
    – user5959
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:31

7 Answers 7


First off, start small. Any stretch should be done by going to maximum natural (untensed or relaxed) extension, then moving slightly past it until it feels relaxed and natural, breathing through discomfort, but heeding pain.

Once you get into position, hold it until it relaxes, then extend the stretch a little further. Repeat as possible. By going further, you enhance your range of motion to a point slightly less than you maximum stretch, but further than your natural maximum each time.

My old dance teacher used to have a saying: "If you want to move like a dancer, train like a dancer." If you want to kick high, kick. It doesn't mean that stretching is bad, but it means that you must learn tricks to override you nervous system that's telling you that you can't do X to realize it needs to and can do X and it won't get hurt. Stretch and kick. Stretching is static, kicking is dynamic. Kick in all directions, in hooks and in arcs, front and back and side to side. Plant your foot and rotate around it with your other leg and hips. All of these things will combine over time (and this is key because your body needs to learn that an action is going to be repeatedly and regularly required of it) to make you a more flexible martial artist.

Edit: Between you, me, and everyone else, I'll admit to having a slightly greater than passing interest in ballet, especially due to its great methods of training flexibility and lightness in the body. If you want a great workout, you might want to look at The New York City Ballet Workout.

  • 2
    +1 for the ballet - it might sound a little "gay" to the regular red blooded male, but training in ballet is going to give impressive results with your martial arts, I would endorse it 100%.
    – slugster
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 20:43
  • Both Jean-Claude Van Damme (who has an impressive kick-boxing record) and Arnold Schwarzenegger practiced ballet. These men are the manliest of men I can think of. Just throwing that out there.
    – Shinobii
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 18:40

There are two principle exercises, one for inside round kicks, and one for outside round kicks. The excersices are also referred to as 'inside-out' and 'outside-in'.

Basically, for inside-out:

  1. Bring your right leg as close to your chest without bending over or lifting your left foot off the ground.
  2. Rotate your right leg to the right, while bringing your foot up to make your lower leg as vertical as possible.
  3. At the max of your rotation, lower your foot and bring your leg back to the ground
  4. Repeat without touching in between repetitions (if you can; lots of people can't because of balance, which this will also help!)

For outside-in, do the opposite:

  1. Start from flat feet by rotating your right leg to the right, while keeping your core straight.
  2. Lift up your knee and bring it towards your left side, trying to get your lower leg as parallel to the ground as you can (great stretching for sidekicks too!)
  3. Let your foot come down back to the start
  4. Repeat without touching the ground.

Do this often, but no too often. Do it slowly, but not too slowly. Don't do it fast.
Precision is your friend. Work on getting your legs parallel to the ground. Do equal numbers of inside-out and outside-in and equal numbers on your left and right sides.

Also, be sure to develop your hip muscles here also (not just stretching), or you could develop loose joints!

Source: myself, and my loose hips from doing exactly this! Start of 6 months ago I couldn't kick above waist height; now I'm kicking at head level!

  • 1
    do you have any video examples of these exercises?
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 0:04
  • No, sorry. :( I'll try and find something though...
    – BenCole
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 14:31
  • Thanks @BenCole I'll give your steps a shot! But being a visual learner it can be hard to translate the steps into actions.
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 20:21
  • Absolutely! I have the same problem, and I'm sorry I don't have a visual for this. I'll keep looking though, and if nothing else I'll try to find a camera and take some myself!
    – BenCole
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 21:06
  • 1
    Also, you should couple this with knee exercises for both flexibility and strength, as that's most likely your next weak point, legs-wise.
    – BenCole
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 21:07

i find the best way to increase flexibility is to stretch with a partner and resistance. I used to to this will my strength and conditioning coach back in they day,a nd a bit in my muay thai classes as well.

first version: basically what you want to do is stand (probably with a hand on the wall) perpendicular to the wall, put your leg up into the position you want for the kick, and have a partner hold your leg and push it up.

2nd version: once your comfortable with that... when your partner is holding your leg (at the edge of your flexibility range) you should push against their hold for 10-20 seconds, then relax, and they should be able to lift your leg a bit higher. don't do more then 2 or 3 of these a day.

over time with these two exercises (for any number of different flexibility points) you should be able to increase your flexibility dramatically!


I used to have similar problems with the round house...

Have you tried dynamic stretches such as simple front, side and outward/inward kicks into the air, instead of static stretches? Static stretches before you're fully warmed up might actually making things harder for you by weakening the muscles/tendons.

Also are you turning your (grounded) foot outwards to open up your hips?

It might just be a case of practicing until your body gets used to the rotations and movements involved. Start with low kicks and gradually increase the height - the key is to get the technique and hip rotation right first though.

  • I can usually get a 180º rotation on my planted leg and get my hips turned. I can replicate the pain when doing the splits, my abductors are not tight or strained, but some muscle group or ligament on the outside of the hip is. I can't see to get it stretched out well to increase flexibility.
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 0:03

In addition to the usual suspects mentioned, the "pigeon" vinyasa yoga postures are also very effective for opening the hips.


  • Thanks for the link, I'll defiantly try some of those out.
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 21:54
  • I found that the area of concern in the question which I have felt is addressed by attempting 'kapotasana' in the other direction of the front leg
    – Vass
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 16:18

I had the same problem until someone showed me the proper way to direct my body and leg in kicking. I developed a habit of trying to lift the heel behind my back higher than my knee as a type of defensive shield. This rotation is not natural and recommended especially while my body was trying to face directly the direction of the kick. So I kept my body orthogonal to the opponent, standing foot as well and brought the knee closer to my body so that the heel wasn't behind me and that pain went away.


I'll share something with you I'm not proud of but nonetheless it has to do with stretching. A few years ago I was locked up for 3 months for hitting my wife. I 'd never been locked up before. What kept my mental state strong was my martial arts training. Every morning I warmed up with a hundred squats and couple hundred crunches. Then stretching very slow I started with holding onto a chair in split position, then left, right and middle. I would do this 3 times a day. I wasn't that flexible when I went in but when my time was up I almost had a split. Japanse push ups helped a lot. Sit back and expect it's going to hurt. Within a month, when I went from left side to right side my body dropped down fast. Persistence pays off.

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