There are many benefits to the martial arts, especially the arts that focus on deep stances to train and strengthen the legs. Not only can stance training condition your legs, it also develops overall stamina, endurance, cardiovascular conditioning and spiritual fortitude.
In this video personal trainer and Wing Chun master Alan Orr shares the details of using the martial art “horse stance” to develop leg strength, conditioning and endurance.
Old school exercise
This is an ‘old school’ exercise from the martial arts that really helps strengthen your leg muscles, sinews, tendons and bones. Over time, this exercise will also increase your muscle endurance through isometric contraction, unlike running or jogging that can put jarring pressure on your joints.
Stance training as tests of will and commitment
Stance training is a perfect way to develop a lower center of gravity, greater stability, and stronger legs — and is one of the best types of exercises a person can do. Athletes can advance their performance, and those who may be frail or susceptible to falls can regain some mobility and strength for better quality of life.
Assuming the horse stance
Today we’re doing a sit down horse stance. It is so named after the position of riding a horse. To start:
Place both feet about double shoulder width apart and squat as far down as you can go and hold.
Your feet will point outward at about 45-degree angle or so; just don’t point them directly out to the side.
Keep your knees above your feet. Be sure not to have them pass the line of your toes as this creates stress and strain on the knee.
Keep a neutral spine
You want to maintain a neutral spine throughout the stance holding exercise. This means being mindful not to bend or lean forward, backward or to the sides. Leaning in any direction places pressure on the hips and knees, and should be avoided to prevent strain, inflammation or injury.
In this video, the hands are held together at mid chest with elbows held inward. This arm position helps the back muscles stay erect. If you hold your arms apart or elbows outward, your body will tend to lean forward.
Duration and deep breathing
You want to hold this horse stance position for as long as you can. Try for one minute; rest for a minute; and then do another minute in stance, and so on. See if you can reach five minutes without moving. Ten minutes is a nice achievement.
Deep breathing will also help you relax and build muscular endurance as your muscles are holding position. The longer you hold the position the more your muscle fibers fire, and the more oxygen they consume. So deep, steady breaths will help you prolong your stance hold.
This simple exercise allows for total lower body development in strength and endurance without putting stress on the joints. Give it a try and see how long you can hold the position. For best results do it once or twice a day, several days per week.
Like this content? Learn more about stances and Force Flow training, in Alan Orr’s book, Structure of Wing Chun Kuen.