I'd like to become proficient with the basic TKD kicks (front, side, round, hook, spinning back) and I'm looking for a routine/workout that I can perform throughout the week by myself to ensure that I make progress over the next 12 months.

I'm 44, have okay flexibility for normal life, but not good enough for TKD. I have a sedentary job. My technique for the mentioned kicks is okay but not great - Mostly held back I think by flexibility and strength.

I'm looking for some good workout routines that I can do at home, on my own, to get my flexibility and technique to where it should be.

My philosophy at the moment is to work primary on flexibility, then strength, then the actual technique.

Right now I'm mostly doing some or all of the following at least 4-5 times a week:

I'm not making fast progress at the moment - If I stand up straight, I can raise my leg out to the side to about 3/4 of the distance from the floor to my hip.

Can anyone suggest a better training program to get me to good kicks? Am I on the right track and just need to give it more time?

Thanks.

First I just want to say that at age 44, you shouldn't expect your body to perform the same as an 18 year old's body. It's just not realistic. So resist the temptation to compare yourself to them, or anyone for that matter.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't make continual, gradual progress from where you are now. Go ahead and try.

But I just want to warn you. If nothing seems to be working, that's your answer. You're just going to have to accept that this is where you are and may always be. Though, you might actually improve over time, but maybe at a glacial pace. It's okay. There are worse things in life. And you're probably not as bad as most people your age. Taekwondo is very athletic, so if you're doing that and keeping up, you're not bad. You should be proud of yourself. Whether you can kick as high as the hot-shot 18 year old black belts in the class is unimportant.

I'm a former Taekwondo black belt. And my kicks today at age 43 are nowhere near as good as they were back when I was training at age 18. But then, I didn't keep up with it, so it doesn't surprise or bother me. I'm innately flexible, though. With daily stretch work, I believe I could get my split back in probably a month or less.

If you're not just innately flexible like I am, it's going to take a lot more effort. You're on the right track with those videos on how to train splits. But being Taekwondo, there's more to it than that.

Most stretch tutorials only go over static stretches. Yet, in Taekwondo you're moving. Static stretching will improve flexibility over time. But you also have to work on your dynamic stretches. In addition, you'll probably benefit from isometric stretches.

I go over this more in depth in my answer here:

When training spinning kicks, is it more important to prioritize control or height?

You should read the answer at that link above.

If there's one thing you must do, it's to make sure you stick to a daily stretch routine. When I was doing Taekwondo seriously, I would wake up and immediately do some stretching and high kicks for 15 minutes or so. I'd do stretching and high kicks throughout the day whenever I found myself taking a break. I would stretch for 15 to 30 minutes before Taekwondo class. I would then do a normal Taekwondo class which almost always worked on flexibility. And then I'd stick around after the class to stretch and work on whatever I wanted to work on. I would then finish the day with some more stretch work before bed.

Well, that was a description of an "ideal" day back when I was training. On my days off, I might only have 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and 5 to 10 minutes in the evening to do some stretching, with maybe some minor stretching sporadically throughout the day. It becomes habitual. I found myself doing high kicks to the air in my jeans when nobody was looking. At home, I'd do kicks as I was walking from room to room. It's habitual. And I highly recommend it.

Warming up before stretching is important, though. You'll get worse results if you go into it cold. And from your description, it's probably a requirement for you, or else you might injure yourself. Take 5 to 10 minutes to vigorously run in place, jump rope, hop on an exercise bike, or do some forms or kicking / punching drills. Then begin your stretch routine.

Now with regards to your comment about only being able to kick 3/4 of the way up to hip height, that definitely needs work. Taekwondo requires kicks to be above the belt, and that doesn't qualify.

You can fake it until then, though. You can bend your body down as you kick instead of keeping completely upright. That will allow you to get your kick higher. It's not proper form and is frowned against, but it's better than kicking below the belt.

You can also keep your base knee (of the leg that stays on the ground) bent as you kick, and that also lets you kick higher. Again, that's not proper form in Taekwondo and is frowned against, but it can help until you get better.

That should also tell you what not to do when actually working on your flexibility in class or on your own. Keep your base knee semi-locked, not bent. Keep your body upright, don't dip down. That will allow you to push the limits of your flexibility.

But in sparring or doing focus pad drills, go ahead and fake it so long as you can't do it 100% properly. It's okay. Fake it just enough, but no more. Over time, when your flexibility improves, tighten up on your form and make it better and better.

Hope that helps.

  • 1
    Thanks for the huge answer. I can easily kick above my waist height - about shoulder height for round kick and side kick. But standing vertically (without bending to the side) I can raise my leg to the side about 3/4 to my hip. I was worried that stretching every day would be too much (like overtraining) but it sounds like you did way more. I won't be comparing myself to others, especially the young ones! Thanks again. – prule May 11 '16 at 8:27
  • Well that's an interesting thought about over-training for stretching. I don't know if it's actually possible. I do know that stretching can affect muscle power (negatively), at least temporarily. But I don't think you have anything to worry about. Stretching frequently, as often as you can, is the key to developing flexibility. Good luck! – Steve Weigand May 11 '16 at 14:17

I took it quite literally by perform 50 of each kick daily. I saw improvements pretty quickly. Concentrate on the technique first. The flexibility will come with time.

  • 2
    I do not fear the man that practice a thousand kicks once, I fear the man that practised one kick a thousand times. -- Bruce Lee. – Sardathrion May 18 '16 at 10:11
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    I did win the British Open. So I guess mr Lee was onto something XD – Captain Kenpachi May 18 '16 at 10:13
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    I do much the same - just mix the speeds and heights up as I practice (slow motion and normal motion, low/middle/high). – Collett89 May 19 '16 at 9:17

I'm just nearing 50, and am seeing physiological changes in me that are moving faster than my mental capabilities allow. That is to say, my mind is saying "go!, Go! GO! Faster!", and my body is saying, "Hold on, there cowboy..."

So age will creep up on you to the point that your training methods will make a difference. My Taekwondo instructor tells me I have a typical American hips. A sedentary job, mild workout on the weekends, coach from the sidelines, drive to the supermarket even if only 2 blocks away...

That's not exactly me, but that's fairly common.

As stated before, dynamic stretching is definitely the way to go. You can, instead (or in conjunction) do PNF for faster results, but PNF can be more difficult, especially as it often requires needing a partner.

With dynamic stretching, you can work out as many times a day as you want, without giving any rest days in between, as long as you are not otherwise injured. In fact, with the best dynamic stretches, you begin a routine within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. The nice thing about dynamic stretches is that they really aren't stretches per se, because you aren't going beyond your normal range of motion. However, you are keeping the muscles active, and that is most important in anything you do.

Once you find a routine, keep at it. Meantime, I wonder what you mean by "not good enough for TKD". I suspect you're worried about competing with the 18 year olds in class, and that you're in a sport school. I've got a problem with that, because that may be how Taekwondo is taught these days, but that's not what Taekwondo was originally taught. I've got students in my class who can knock a can off the top of my head. But I can crack his ribs before he lands the kick. He may have snazzy kicks, but I'll be the one to survive. And that's what Taekwondo was originally all about: survival, not some grunge competition to see who can kick the highest or with the most turns in the air.

And that's where I'd suggest you start your focus: forget the jump spin kicks. Flexibility is only the beginning of your issues. You risk spraining a knee, or an ankle. Or you can tear an ACL. You need to decide why you are in Taekwondo at all, and then train for that.

If you're there to do jump spinning high kicks, I'd say at 44 that time has long past. You might do okay, but at what risk, and at what cost, and for what benefit?

If you're there to keep in shape, I'd say you're not in the right place. Whether you're there for sport or for self-defense, Taekwondo is dangerous for keeping in shape. Keeping in shape does not mean risking ankles or knees, or bloodied knuckles. It means maintaining flexibility, mobility, your heartrate, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your diet, and your mental faculties. Taekwondo is about self-defense (or trophies, depending on the school you land in).

If you're there to learn self-defense - and the school is competent - then you need not worry about how high you can kick. You don't want to kick high anyway. If you look at old footage of the original pushers and movers of Taekwondo, you'll note their kicks rarely hit stomach high. Here, your focus is in applying techniques according to what you can do. If you struggle to kick high, what good do you think that's going to do you in self-defense?

The trick here, though, is to find a competent school. Admittedly, this is hard to do, and is why so many people ask silly questions like "I'm 18, is it too old to start taekwondo", or "How high should a 40 year old be able to kick". If you're in it as a sport, then these are sound questions. If you're in it for self-defense, these questions are moot. If you're in it for keeping in shape, then go buy a Billy Blanks DVD and stay in the basement.

Therefore, to answer your question, you need only perform dynamic stretching, and daily practice each of your kicks and forms. You might not have a partner or a kicking bag around, and that's okay. Just do what you can safely at home, spend about 15 minutes of kicking (after your 10-15 mins of dynamic stretches), for a half-hour of practice each day. Don't spend too much time kick practice, you really do need a partner to help correct technique; otherwise, bad habits settle in that make it difficult to correct later.

Incidentally, I'm a huge fan of Tom Kurz and his published materials. He's an accomplished coach and author. He explains muscle physiology and optimal exercise regimens. Read his work to understand the best stretching methods you can employ. (No, you do not need to suspend yourself across two chairs as in his book and DVD photos; however, if that's what you aspire to, follow his routines TO THE LETTER.)

http://www.stadion.com

Background, in case you're curious, I'm a second dan black belt training for competitive sparring.

So, it's my opinion that there are two things that you should work on to improve finesse. One of them is flexibility, but I'm sure you already know this. Have a solid stretching routine, and stick with it. The most important places to stretch are your hips and your hamstrings. So, your routine is already fine.

As for strength: it would do you some good to work on your accessory muscles. One area people often struggle with is actually your back. Your lats and your glutes are what help you raise your legs and hold them up. Notice that you squeeze your lats when you raise your leg up to do a sidekick or a roundhouse kick. So, doing some exercises for your back will help you chamber more easily.

A favorite exercise of mine for this; lean a hand on the wall. Try not to overly rely on the wall, it's there in case you lose your balance or have some difficulty. Now, lift your leg up to chamber for a roundhouse kick, and keep it there. You should be squeezing your back the entire time, and from your shoulder to your knee should be a straight line, while the rest of your leg is bent back. Now, while you hold the chambering position, snap outwards and kick. Your leg should not be moving above the knee. Concentrate on squeezing your lats and having a strong snap. Repeat for both sides. You can also do this drill for sidekicks.

Also, it's important to note: flexibility, strength, and technique all go hand-in-hand. You should not heavily prioritize any of these things over the other. Having better techniques will make your kicks stronger, having better flexibility makes it easier to have good technique, etc. So, remember to keep this in mind. And, of course, all of these things will come with time.

Lastly, a tip for practicing technique. This is something I'm also working on, as a matter of fact. Try not to raise your entire body with your kick. It's not necessarily bad to be doing this, but focusing on raising only your leg, instead of raising your body and your leg will clean up your technique and improve your leg strength. In general, try to keep your technique as clean as possible, and when you're practicing with focus pads try to resist the temptation of swinging your leg at it. Chamber as much as you can; a better chamber results in more snap and more impact. Focus on chambering first, then focus on making it faster once your chamber is clean.

Best of luck! Feel free to pm me with questions.

I just read an article where a group of students in Inchon (seniors) had measurements taken over a period of time and while at their age (the men) were expected to have 25% less strength due to age but because of training actually had 65% greater strength from training regularly - at 65 and greater.

I am 57, and have been training since 11, I feel good.

Best of all good things to you, through wisdom it is gained.

As a third degree black belt and former instructor, I would personally advise the following:

  • Side Kicks: Utilize an object such as a ballet bar or something equally sturdy to place your foot on. Ensure proper placement of your base foot and very slowly bend your base leg's knee to a position that you can feel the stretching sensation. Hold at that position for about 10-12 seconds, raise slowly, and repeat. Just be careful of pressure on your kicking-leg's knee. Do this on both sides for maximum effect. NOTE: This can also be done with a partner instead of an object by using their shoulder as a resting point.

  • General Advice: Warmup for a good 5-10 minutes to get your muscles and joints warm beforehand. Utilize warmups like straight leg kicks(i.e. Crescent Kicks) to stretch that hip out. Also see if your instructor would recommend any additional floor stretches like the butterfly stretch.

I hope that helps. Feel free to PM if I can help any further.

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