Summer is here in Europe and I am seeing a lot more people out and about and doing sports. Awesome! This is also the time where a lot of people will decide that it is a good idea to start or restart running and cycling. With the ING night marathon in Luxembourg hitting the streets next weekend, (yes I will be there to cheer you brave guys on!), I get asked this question a lot – what stretches should I be doing?
Well, as you probably know by now, I am a real fan of mobility work because it targets the area right where you need it, and it’s very time efficient. So my first answer will be, do mobility work first. However there is one “stretch” that I find you should not do without. It is called the couch stretch, simply because it was invented on a couch, but no couch is required. This is not a static stretch though so it is important that you pay attention to the different segments and actively participate.
If you are a cyclist, runner or doing anything similar to that position, this should be on your daily to do list. If you are sitting all day at school or work this should also be on your to do list. If you are running and sitting all day I say you need to do this everyday.
Why is it so good? It gets into the whole front line (see deep and superficial lines from Anatomy Trains) of your legs, with the very important hip-flexors and rectus femoris (middle of your quads). If you can raise your arm up you will also get deeper into the hip-flexors, your abs and even lats (m.latissimus dorsi).
It is very important that you tighten the butt on the side where your leg is up on the wall, otherwise you will loose integrity of the spine, and that will keep you from working in the area that you are after. By tightening the butt and keeping your back straight, you will move your butt and back as one unit towards the wall, rather than bending just your back towards the wall.
Start in an easy position, tighten your butt and then move slowly towards the wall. After a little while release the butt muscles and move forward into a more relaxing position and then go at it again.
Remember, this position is not some high level acrobatics, even though it may feel like that for many of you. This should be easy – if you have good range of motion. If you are having trouble with this stretch it is a clear sign that you need to work on it. The very best option would be to do a few minutes of mobility work with the lacrosse ball or foam roller on your quads and hip-flexors first (and even lats), and then get into the couch stretch.
If this seems impossible for you right now, start by just sitting back on your heels for a few minutes. If even that is too uncomfortable, (contact me or someone in your area for an appointment because you need some more help), put a pillow, stack of books or a yoga block under your butt, so that you will challenge your position but not be in total agony.
Remember, if the couch stretch doesn’t count as acrobatics, sitting back on your heels comfortably counts as super easy. If it’s not, it is extremely important that you get to work on it before you do your knees and hips further or irreversible damage.
The good thing is that it often does not take as long as one thinks to improve your range of motion, so start working on it today and make a small note on where you are. Then check back in a weeks time after doing the couch stretch every day, and I am sure that you will have improved. Just try it!
One final video with a bit more description. Wishing you all a great weekend! 🙂