Bring Balance to Your Martial Arts Training

The movement asymmetry in martial arts can lead to big problems with your spine, but there are two simple moves that will help prevent any issues.

If you are passionate about jiu jitsu, kickboxing, karate, taekwondo, or one of the many other forms of martial arts, you already know that being sidelined with pain or an injury totally sucks. In this article, I will teach you the top two posture issues that can lead to pain or injury in martial artists, as well as two simple, yet very effective posture corrective exercises that require no equipment whatsoever.

A One-Sided Problem

Generally speaking, martial arts favor using one side of the body to punch or kick repetitively. Several forms of martial arts, especially traditional boxing, also tend to pull the body forward into a hunched position. For these reasons, the two main posture alignment issues that you will contend with as someone who practices martial arts are rotation and forward flexion. These posture misalignments can eventually lead to back pain, knee pain, shoulder injuries, or pain in pretty much any other part of the body.

Below is an example of what rotation and forward flexion look like. This person practices Brazilian jiu jitsu, and initially came to me with symptoms of sciatica.

From the back view, you can see that the right side of his body is rotated in front of the left side. If you look closely at the feet, you will see that the right foot is in front of the left. The right shoulder is also lower than the left.

From the side view, the red line indicates where the ear lobe, shoulder, hip and knee are supposed to line up. The green line traces the actual position of the of these points. As you can see, his body is significantly shifted forward in front of the plumb line.

If you think you look like the person in these pictures, then check this out. In the video below, I will demonstrate two simple exercises that you can do before and after practicing martial arts to balance your body. You will feel a huge difference in your body after doing these exercises. They will make you feel taller, lighter, and like your shoulders are more broad.

A right-dominant, forward-flexed fighter.

Alignment Exercises for Martial Arts

Here is a breakdown of the instructions for the two exercises in the video:

Standing Windmill

In this exercise, the wall is being used as a reference point for your body. This allows your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles to properly align while also removing rotation from the body.Do 1 set of 5 repetitions in each of the following 4 positions:

Position 1:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width and shoulders, hips, and heels touching the wall.
  2. Place arms out to sides with elbows locked straight and palms facing out.
  3. Maintain a 90° angle relative to your body with your arms throughout the exercise, and keep your fingers spread wide.
  4. Bend your torso to one side then the other side for five reps in each direction. Be sure to keep shoulders and hips on the wall and feet flat on the floor as you bend.

Position 2:

Spread feet about 1.5ft apart, and do five reps in each direction.

Position 3:

Spread feet about 2.5 feet apart, and do five reps in each direction.

Position 4:

Return feet to Position 1 (hip-width), and do five reps in each direction.

Standing Elbow Curls

This exercise straightens out the upper back and shoulders.

  1. Stand at a wall with your heels, hips, upper back, and head against the wall.
  2. Your feet should be pointed straight and hip-width apart.
  3. Curl your fingers in toward the palms of your hands by bending at the second knuckle. (See the video to see what this looks like).
  4. Place your knuckles against your temples with your thumbs pointing down toward your shoulders.
  5. Open and pull back your elbows so that they are against the wall, then close your elbows together in front of your face.
  6. Keep your elbows up at shoulder level; do not let them drop down.
  7. Repeat 25 times.

Investing a little bit of time in fixing your posture with these exercises every single day can keep you out of pain and in the ring for the long run!

Already hurt? There’s help for you, too:

Posture Intervention: Healing After a Knee Injury

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this article is to promote broad reader understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.