Probably the most overlooked and underestimated aspects of fitness is stretching and mobility. More times than not you see a person walk into a gym, jump on a treadmill for 5 or 10 minutes and then get to work with the weights. Rarely do you ever see someone stretching and doing a mobility based warm up. Dangerous on many levels, the effects of not stretching are not often seen until three things- 1. you age and 2. you start lifting heavy weights. 3. you pull a muscle.
At Activate Fitness I take proper warm-ups and stretching very seriously. It is important. Jim Wendler of the 5/3/1 fame states "Stretch. Lift. Sprint." as keys to a successful fitness program, and he is absolutely right. Activate Fitness understands the importance and has dedicated three classes a week to just stretching. Come, stretch, go home.. Sounds dumb but don't people do Yoga for the same reasons?
Below I will list a few of the important, and effective, stretches that I feel everyone should do- on a daily basis. Take it how you'd like but I truly feel that anyone incorporating stretching as a foundation of their program will be far more successful towards their goals and decrease their chances of injury.
1. The Hip Flexor Stretch- Kneel on right knee, with toes down, and place left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent and aligned with ankle. Place hands on the thigh- or if need be- hold onto something.
Press hips forward until you feel tension in the front of your right thigh. Raise your arms overhead, fully extending them, keeping your elbows close to head with your palms facing each other, and slightly arch your back while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch. Repeat 3 or 4 times daily.
2. The Butterfly Stretch- Sit down on the floor, knees bent in, feet together while keeping the back straight. Grab a hold of the feet and feel the inner thigh open as your elbows are even with the knees. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat two or three times.
3. This next one is called "The Squat Stretch" and I feel no other matches the effectiveness of this movement. It works for helping the flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back. Basically you squat down and put the elbows on the inside of your knees, and push your knees outwards. Keeping the back straight and heels on the ground is important. I found this video a few years ago and always go back to it-
4. The Pigeon Pose Stretch- Most people with low back injuries in the gym or even at sedentary jobs possibly suffer from tight piriformis muscles, there is even a name for it called The Piriformis Syndrome (some even say this is the true diagnosis for "sciatica") . The piriformis is a muscle located in the gluteal region of the body. Essentially starting at the base of the spine going through the pelvis and attaching to femur.
This is tricky to do for some people- on the floor kneel down and begin by pulling the right leg in front of you while bending the knee as if you were doing the butterfly stretch. Then extend the left leg out behind your body- full extending it. Now this should be worked up to, some people may be way too tight to perform this correctly. Spend 5 minutes a day for BOTH sides. Release the stress and tension in your hips and feel the emotions. Trust me.
I'll stop there with stretching- if you want more come to a stretching class ;). Actually- two more things and I won't explain them but I'll show you and name them- GET THEM.
The Stick- The Muscle Massager- The Tooth Brush for your Muscles- Whatever.. get one.
Tell you something personal- I use this instead because I had it already, works the same way as the above muscle masher-
The foam roller and a muscle stick are amazing and everyone should use them. If your gym doesn't have one or the other tell them you want one or your money back. Google is your friend and youtube videos will help you understand why they work and how to use them. If you take one piece of advice from me ever- go buy a foam roller.
Another important piece of the puzzle is mobility. While there are millions of different things to do for mobility I feel the best movement to help your hips stay mobile and healthy are Hip Hurdles. You do not need any fancy equipment for this movement and if you'd like to see it done by Athletes (Please go and Look) go to YouTube and type in hip hurdles.
This can be done with a "make believe" hurdle or in a Squat Rack- (You mad bro?) with a bar about 4-6 inches below your waist. Even at home with a dog gate, two chairs with a broomstick or anything you can step over that is about 4-6 inches below the waist.
Lift one leg up, over, down- repeat with other side. Do this facing forward for one minute, turn sideways and do it for another minute, and finish up by doing it backwards for another minute. Feels good man!
Now- no more skipping your warm-ups or neglecting your hips and the muscles that support them. Be proactive about the health of your hip flexors, your piriformis, your low back, and the mobility of your hips and watch pain disappear, watch your health become better, watch your emotions become more positive, and watch your success in the gym increase. Come sign up for classes at Activate Fitness and enjoy the benefits of my stretching and mobility class to fully benefit from the awesome effects it has on your daily life. Keep in mind the later years of your life and how healthy those hips are...
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by my blog and read what I had to say. I appreciate the fact you clicked the link to come here and if you have any questions ever- just ask.