If you’re like most guys out there your lower body is so tight that bending over to tie your shoes sometimes feels you’re made of rubber bands that are about to snap! You know you should stretch but you kinda hate it. So you put it off to the end of the workout and then just sort of leave the gym without doing it. I get it. Me too. Well, some stretching is like eating your vegetables – You know you should do it so just get it done. In light of that, these are the three techniques I prescribe the most often for quick flexibility results for busy people who don’t have time to lay on the floor for half an hour but need to be more pliable and mobile.
Hip Flexor Stretch
First we’re going to start with one of the biggies for almost everyone out there: The hip flexors and quads (thighs). The issue is that in our society there’s a lot of sitting. Between driving or taking the train, sitting at work, then coming home and sitting at the table for dinner and the couch for watching TV (sometimes those are combined) we spend a lot of time in a seated, “hinged position”. Over time, this causes our hip flexors to shorten and bring the quads along with them.
This shortening will limit your overall mobility, athleticism, and pull your pelvis out of alignment which is one of the primary causes of lower back pain and injury potentiators. In other words, shortening the hip flexors is not good!
To stretch them out, start by getting on one knee with your non-stretching foot in front of you a little beyond 90 degrees. Then, most importantly, squeeze the butt cheek of your stretching leg and push your hips forward. This won’t be a big movement. We’re talking maybe 2-3″ for most people. Don’t worry about pushing the non-stretching knee forward. That’s how a lot of people make it look like they’re getting a big stretch but don’t really hit their hip flexors at all.
Next, to increase your stretch, look up and turn your shoulders away from the stretching side while reaching up and across with the stretching side’s arm. That way you’ll be getting a good stretch on the hip flexors from both the top and the bottom.
Next we’re going to get into another problem area for a lot of people: The Groin/Adductor region. This is pretty simple and similar to the Hip Flexor Stretch except you’re going to turn your down leg at 90 degrees to your up leg. Basically your legs are going to be perpendicular from each other or make an “L”.
Once you’re in position then simple lean the up knee forward and you’ll get a profound stretch in the inner thigh/groin area of the down leg.
The final stretch we’re going to hit is a simple yoga pose called a Pigeon Pose. Now, for any yoga purists out there reading this, I fully accept that I’m not a master of this technique and probably going to have it a little messed up from your world. My apologies, but this is Meathead Yoga.
Put one leg straight behind you and cross the other shin on the ground in front of you. If this puts uncomfortable tension on your knee then bring your heel in close to your body. Settle your weight back and you should feel a great stretch in the piriformis, which is a little muscle on the back of your hip, under your butt. This pesky little muscle is great at what it does but when it gets tight (which it does a lot) then it has a tendency to contribute lately to lower back pain.
To complete the stretch keep your chest high and try to lift it up and over the forward shin. This should enhance the stretching you feel on the back of your hip.
Those are my three “go-to” lower body stretches to get you loosened up, feeling athletic, and NOT wasting a bunch of your time on the floor when you should be training. One more tip: Learn to relax and breathe deeply through your belly while you’re stretching. The body perceives holding your breath or shallow, tight breathing, which is what most people do when they stretch, as a stress response. When the body is under stress it tightens up. That is exactly what you want to avoid when you’re stretching! Learn to relax deeply into the stretch and you’ll get a lot further.
How to use these stretches?
If you’re a little tight before your workout then hit each of these stretches on each leg for about 30 seconds.
I like to finish a workout by using them as a cool-down (yes, you should actually do it) for 1:00-2:00 per side, per stretch. So even at the most that’s going to be an extra 10-12 minutes after your workout to help you feel stronger, reduce back tightness, and improve your athleticism. Sounds like an easy trade-off to me!
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