It’s always hard to answer the question ”what’s the best stretch for…?”, as so much of it depends on your daily activities, your basic mobility, your exercise regime…
If you tend to sit a lot, chances are that you will have developed some mobility restrictions that require your attention. For now, let’s forget the science behind “why” you may be lacking in mobility and just give you the low down on some of my favourite “bang for your buck” mobility/ stretches…they are by no means the only ones, nor are they even necessarily the best ones, just some that have given me and my clients the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.
NB – Training the fundamental movement patterns through full range of motion is a great way to increase your mobility, stability and overall movement capacity. So, don’t leave them out! The below exercises should supplement, not replace, a solid strength routine.
- Couch Stretch
Great stretch for any office workers or people who have anterior chain tension as a result of sedentary lifestyle.
- Plant your right knee against the wall or in the corner of a couch/chair.
- Skip your left foot out in front and place so that the knee doesn’t fall over the foot.
- Draw your upper body up, stay tall and tight through the mid-line so you don’t overextend your lower back.
- Squeeze your glutes, and open the front of your right hip, keeping your hips square.
- Hold for 2 mins then repeat on opposite side.
- Elevated pigeon
Excellent stretch for anyone with tight hips, glutes, lower back or those that are too tall/too tight to get into full pigeon flat on the mat.
- Lay your right leg across an elevated surface (box/bench etc.)
- Aim to get the heel in line with the knee. If you are really tight, let the right foot off the side of the box to relieve tension.
- Keep your torso tight and then play around with the stretch; fold your upper body forward, lean back and push hips forward slightly, roll towards each side…go towards where you feel tightness then stay there!
- Hold for 2 minutes then repeat on opposite side.
- Prayer stretch
Again, if you spend a good portion of your day hunched over your desk, with shrugged shoulder and tightness in your upper back…try this one.
- Come into a kneeling position, hands/forearms resting on an elevated surface (Swiss ball, bench, foam roller etc.)
- Square off your hips and slide arms forwards until you start to feel a stretch in your upper back, lats and shoulders.
- Intentionally push your chest towards the floor and hold.
- Rock back slightly into the hips or bend at elbows and bring your arms overhead…find what works best for you…just don’t push your shoulders through painful range of motion.
- World’s greatest stretch
One of the most fundamental and effective full body stretches. It mobilises your hips, knees and ankles and opens out your hips, chest, back and shoulders…so it’s ideal as part of any warm up regime.
- Take a long lunge out with your right leg, keep feet hip distance apart.
- Keep your back leg as straight as possible; you want a long line from head to heel, in order to allow a stretch in your calves and hamstrings and your glutes to fire.
- Place your hands down on the ground, in line with your instep, open your chest and pull your shoulders back and down.
- Rotate chest and lift your right arm to the sky, follow with the head looking towards the top hand.
- Hold stretch for 2-3 seconds then rotate your torso back to start position and repeat on opposite side.
- Complete 8-10 per side.
Lastly, for the more experienced trainer…
5. Deep squat progression
If you already have good mobility in your ankles, knees and hips and either want to increase it further, or perhaps, improve your squat…add the following into your warm up regime.
- Start in standing, with good posture. Find a comfortable foot position for you; some will prefer toes slightly out-turned, others will prefer parallel.
- Take a deep breath in, lift your ribcage and bring arms parallel to the floor.
- Push your butt behind, letting your torso naturally tilt forward, but without losing the “proud” chest.
- Keeping your heels in contact with the ground, squat down as far as possible, ideally until your hamstrings are touching your calves.
- Actively drive through your heels, keeping your chest lifted. If it helps, grab your ankles and use your elbows to drive your knees out and open up the hips further.
- Without changing position in your lower body, lift your right arm towards the ceiling and rotate at torso to look towards it.
- Repeat on the left, then hold the position with both arms extended, tall through the thoracic without over extending at lumbar spine, heels planted…and finally, drive through heels to stand back up…and breathe!
*The best time to mobilise is whenever you can. Pick one or two exercises each day; 10 minutes as a warm up before your training or as part of an active rest day with some myofascial release. Use the ones that work for you, forget about the ones that don’t. Breathe deeply, listen to your body and relax into the stretch.