How Rayna Vallandingham Trains for Strength and Flexibility


Rayna Vallandingham began doing taekwondo when she was 2 years previous. By age 6, she’d earned her first black belt. Immediately, at 20, she’s a 13-time world champion of the Korean type of martial arts recognized for its punching and powerhouse kicking strategies. (Taekwondo roughly interprets to “the artwork of kicking and punching.”)

“Within the very starting, my mother and father put me within the sport as a result of I used to be simply actually shy, and I believe they might inform that I wanted one thing,” says Vallandingham, who lives and trains in Los Angeles. “Instantly, I simply cherished it. I felt at dwelling, and each single day, as a substitute of watching Dora, I needed to go to the dojo.”

“As an alternative of watching Dora, I needed to go to the dojo.”

Vallandingham credit her success, largely, to her consistency through the years, and that features often hitting the fitness center. “It’s a lifestyle,” she says. “It isn’t solely educating your physique actions and being in synchronicity together with your physique, but additionally similar to the psychological side of it.”

Mastering the artwork of taekwondo, which includes the power to carry out head-high kicks, in addition to spinning soar kicks, plus punches, with a purpose to take down an opponent, shouldn’t be simple. (Understatement.) It takes an amazing quantity of power, flexibility, and energy. “Of the three, I believe power and adaptability are the highest two,” Vallandingham says.

Sadly, she discovered the arduous method that there is no such thing as 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 power flexibility by pushing previous your finish vary of movement. “We used to have folks stand on my legs and power my knees to come back down in butterfly stretch,” she says. “I’ve everlasting harm to my physique—I’ve tendonitis [because of this].”

She now has a a lot extra sustainable strategy to her coaching that helps her keep on prime of her recreation, whereas avoiding damage.

How a taekwondo world champion builds leg power and adaptability

Earlier than Vallandingham even thinks about choosing up a weight, she takes time to stretch by doing a dynamic heat up, a sort of stretching that helps elevate her physique temp and elevate her coronary heart fee, rising blood move to her muscle tissues, so that they are ready to fireplace up as soon as she will get shifting.

When she’s power coaching, Vallandingham says she likes to concentrate on supersets, which includes performing two strikes back-to-back that concentrate on the identical muscle teams with a purpose to double down on their features. 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 power.) Then she’s able to carry.

One in all her favourite workouts for sturdy legs is a goblet squat. To arrange for it, Vallandingham will stand together with her ft shoulder-width aside, fold ahead till she will be able to 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 lengthen her legs a number of occasions on this place. Then, it is on to the principle occasion, holding a weight in her arms whereas bending down right into a deep squat.

Find out how to carry out a goblet squat:

One other method Vallandingham likes to coach for flexibility, mobility, and power concurrently is by performing workouts on an unstable floor. “I really like using a Bosu ball—they’re just about in each single fitness center,” 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 tissues 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 power and pace. So when Vallandingham is coaching for lower-body energy, she switches up her tempo when performing workouts, in order that she’s shifting quicker on the trouble and slower whereas resetting for the following rep. Say she’s doing goblet squats, for instance: This might seem like 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 the way to generate energy overlook—sustaining management throughout it’s so essential.”

Why Vallandingham saves flexibility coaching for after her exercises

Should 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 identical rule applies to your physique and adaptability coaching—analysis exhibits that holding stretches (one of the simplest ways to work on flexibility) is the worst factor you are able to do when your muscle tissues 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 knowledgeable and co-founder of Delos Remedy, beforehand instructed Nicely+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 together 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 power something.”

Above all else, should you’re trying to lengthen and strengthen your leg muscle tissues, Vallandingham says there’s one factor you need to follow diligently: perseverance. “Consistency is a lot extra essential than depth for attaining most features,” she says. “Benefit from the journey. Do not be overly arduous on your self; do not apply an excessive amount of strain.” And never simply to your joints.


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