Last week’s FlexFriday post was all about stretching: what it is, why it’s important and how flexibility training (a.k.a. stretches) can help to increase your overall fitness.
As promised, this week I’m sharing three of my favourite stretches. I decided to focus on the lower body, specifically legs, hips and glutes, because these are three areas that are constantly overworked and can cause a whole range of injuries when they’re not stretched out properly.
Each of these stretches should be held for approximately 10-15 seconds (if you’re looking to maintain your current flexibility) or 20-30 seconds (if you’re looking to develop your flexibility further).
This stretch is brilliant because of its simplicity. Simply sit down and place the soles of your feet together, leaning forewards until you feel the tension in the inner thighs. If you don’t feel anything at all you can always sit in a straddle position instead. The important thing to remember is that in order to get the maximum stretch in your legs, you have to make sure that you don’t compensate when leaning forwards by rounding your back.
This is pretty easy for those of us with metal spines.
If you’ve ever experienced Groin Strain after working out or playing sport, it’ll be because you didn’t stretch out these muscles!
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
I’d say that this Lunging Hip Flexor stretch is probably one of my favourites, because it’s gives a really satisfying stretch along the front of the hip flexors, which for me, seem to always be tight. It’s useful because you can control how much of a stretch you get – and also exactly what part of the hip flexor is being stretched – simply by playing with and shifting the position of your pelvis.
That sounds complicated…but it’s honestly very simple once you get the hang of it.
Kneel on the floor so that one leg is bent and the other leg is extended behind you. Placing your hands in-front of you, on the floor or the mat, for support, lean forwards and sideways so that you’re pushing (gently!) your weight into the hip of the extended leg. If you can’t feel it it’ll be because you’re leaning slightly too far forwards- make sure you’re upper body is upright and you’ll soon feel the tug!
Hip flexors tighten up quickly if you do a lot of abdominal exercises, because they get involved to help the abs achieve the movement. In fact, they tend to get involved with most lower body exercises- so this one is definitely not one to neglect!
N.B. If you want to be super on it, and if you’re flexible enough, you can add in a really effective quadriceps stretch in. Simple bend the extended leg, grabbing it’s ankle with one of your hands (either opposite hand or same-side, whichever you find easiest). Keeping your body upright, bring the foot of the back leg in towards your bum – you’ll feel it right down the front of the thigh.
Double Hamstring/Glutes Stretches
It’s always satisfying when you manage to kill two birds with one stone – which is exactly why this double hamstring/glute stretch is so great. It can be tricky if you’re not used to training flexibility and do make sure that you’re nice and warm before it’s attempted! This one is perfect for pushing your flexibility that little bit further, so it’s known as a developmental stretch.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (semi-supine). Take the ankle of one leg and gently rest it across the bent knee of the other leg, creating a triangle shape.
Reach both hands through the middle of the triangle, placing them behind the thigh of the resting leg.
You can now lift the resting leg off the floor, bringing the knee to your chest, which will result in a super-satisfying stretch in the glutes of the leg that is resting on the other one.
Once you’re used to the glute stretch, you can try to straighten the leg that you are hugging towards your chest, aiming to get the foot of this leg as close to your head as possible, without actually lifting the buttocks off the floor.
If this is too difficult, opt for either the Glute stretch (without straightening the second leg) OR the hamstring stretch, where you don’t do the whole knee-crossing and you simply leave one foot on the floor whilst lifting the other leg, straightened, towards your head.
What are your favourite post-workout stretches?