The ‘Wide Horse Stance’
A mainstay of most martial arts schools is the Wide Horse stance, (Ma Bu in Chinese or Kiba Dachi in Japanese). Between styles and schools, there will be many small variations but the fundamentals of the horse stance remain the same.
The horse stance is simply an isometric exercise where while in a static position the muscles are contracted. What this does, and why it is such a great albeit painful exercise is that it does two things simultaneously; It gives isometric strength training for the quads and glutes and isometric stretching for the inner thigh.
What is isometric training: An isometric exercise is a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. The term “isometric” combines the Greek words “Isos” (equal) and “metria” (measuring), meaning that in these exercises the length of the muscle and the angle of the joint do not change, though contraction strength may be varied. [sic wikipedia]
Muscles stretched while in horse stance:
Adductor longus, Adductor brevis, Adductor magus.
Gracilis, Pectineus, quadratus femoris
While the isometric stretch can be uncomfortable, holding the tension int he muscles while they are lengthened greatly increase flexibility and overall strength of the muscles themselves.
A key component of the horse stance is to not have your knees collapse inwards but push them out. By pushing them outwards you stretch the inner thigh which is used adduct the leg (pull it towards the centre of the body). Simply put, if you want to increase your hip flexibility, kick range and overall kick strength then isometric training of the adductors will help substantially.
Quadriceps femoris (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis,) Gluteus maximus (used to outwardly rotate the legs.)
Your quad muscles and glutes are some of the largest muscles in the boy and are the ones that mean you can run, jump and kick.
The pain for the gain
To get the maximum benefit from a horse stance you need to hold the position for two minutes minimum and no more than 5 minutes. Trust me even two minutes is tough. But by holding this intense isometric position we greatly improve our muscle endurance and lactic threshold.
Remember your mind is more powerful than your body. Your body will keep going. It isn’t typically your body that gives out first it is your mind. You simply give up. Holding the position through the pain and the wobbling legs when you really want to quit develops critical mental strength, endurance, and discipline.
And if that was not enough, during your horse stance your feet face forwards. this position of the feet increases the tension on the tendons and ligaments of the hips, kness, and ankles which is fantastic at drawing blood to these areas which in turn increases their strength and overall health.
It is hard to imagine such a static position can provide so many benefits in the face of most of our training where we need to move about. But adapting the horse stance into your daily routine will net you so many benefits for only a couple of minutes effort, why wouldn’t you.