6 Bang for Buck Stretches You Need To Be Doing
Flexibility is an often overlooked area of a training plan.
Being flexible doesn’t tend to be at the fore front of ones goals however working on your flexibility either for maintenance or for improvements has great carry over to better strength, joint health, injury prevention and general performance.
Here is a flexibility routine that can be done as part of a warm up, cool down or as a session on its own. It includes 6 bang for buck stretches that will mobilise most joints and major muscles of the body but has a particular emphasis on the ankles, knees, hips and lower back, so ideal for any gym goers, runners or athletes out there.
There is lots of debate over what is the best way to stretch, is it static, dynamic, active stretching, should I use a foam roller, how long should I hold the stretch for? In my opinion the key thing to focus on is to make sure your dong some form of stretching on a weekly basis and doing it well. Focus on your breathing, take long deep, slow breaths and relax, if your too tense you will work against yourself – so chill out.
For the following routine I suggest you use a mixture of static and dynamic protocols and increase or decrease reps and time to fit your level.
If you do yoga you will be familiar with this move. An absolutely fantastic bang for buck stretch that focuses on the whole posterior chain of the body with particular emphasis on the shoulders, lower back and ankles. By pushing the floor away with your hands you will extend the shoulder joint and lengthen the upper body muscles that attach there, focus on keeping the hips high and the heels down – this will target the back of the legs and the calf muscles. Keep the feet straight and in alignment with your hands that should roughly be shoulder width apart. Reaching across with your hand is an advanced progression that will bring in the back muscles and the anterior and lateral parts of the lower leg.
Dynamic Stretch – 10 reps (hold each stretch for 2 breaths)
This is a stretch that is particularly handy before a squat session. It combines two stretches in one a toe touch and a deep squat. The squat position will help to open up the hips and stretch the adductors. It also challenges the feet and ankles to work together with the hips and knees, try to position your weight mid foot where you feel balanced.
Dynamic Stretch – 5 reps of each position (hold each stretch for 2 breaths)
A common fault when stretching the hip flexor muscles is to lean back, this will add unnecessary stress to the lower back muscles. Try instead leaning forward but keeping everything in line as shown, you will really feel the hip flexors and thigh muscles lengthen on the back leg. On the front leg you may feel some muscles stretching too such as the glutes. To add a progression reach out and rotate from the mid back – this will target the groin area, short adductors and also put a bit of focus onto the upper body too. Watch your front knee doesn’t start drift out of alignment as you rotate.
Static Stretch – pick a position and hold for 30-40secs each side
Can be done slowly or more dynamically and targets both the front and back leg. The front leg is in flexion and will stretch the adductors and glutes mainly, the back leg is in extension and will target the quads and hip flexors. Dropping the elbow to the floor as shown challenges the range and increases the stretch, breath through any restrictions.
Dynamic Stretch – 8 reps each side (hold each position for 2 breaths)
The Windmill is taken from a challenging kettlebell strength exercise but in this case is done without load to focus more on the stretch. An element of core strength is needed to maintain correct posture with this move. In this stretch you should feel the hamstrings, adductors, lower back and with the rotation and diagonal foot position the muscles of the lower anterior and lateral components of the leg most notably the peroneals.
Dynamic Stretch – 6 reps each side (hold your bottom position for 1 breath) Your hand must always stay directly above the shoulder at all angles, only go as deep as you are capable, keep the legs straight.
The pigeon again is similar to a yoga based move and stretches the gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscles are a common area of tightness and weakness, stretching and strengthening this area is key for optimal hip mechanics. To progress the stretch do 3 things, squeeze the hip you are stretching diagonally into the ground, relax the back foot and lengthen the non stretching leg. Thirdly with the opposite hand reach forward and lengthen the spine, these 3 manipulations will deepen the stretch and bring other areas of the body into the move as well.
Static Stretch – Pick a position and hold for 30-40secs each side