Monday 16 February 2015

8 Superior Alternatives to 8 Popular Stretches

Why do you do the specific stretches that you do? If you are like most people, you simply do what you have always done. You learned a stretch years ago by a trainer, coach, PE teacher or therapist and you have kept doing it ever since. However, many of these popular stretches not only fail to effectively stretch the target muscle(s), they also place unnecessary stress on the surrounding structures. If you are doing to be spending your valuable time stretching, here are 8 better replacements for 8 common stretches. 

Whether sitting or standing, most people make the mistake of tipping the pelvis back and round the low back. This takes the stretch off the hamstrings and places it on the low back instead. For optimal performance, you want a stable low back and mobile hips. The best way to stretch your hamstrings is to position yourself so you keep a neutral pelvis and maintain a natural low back arch while you stretch.
Popular way     Another popular way        Better way

While lying on the ground is comfortable, this position puts an awkward twist into the knee joint. The standing option is better, but still tends to create a prying effect on the knee as the calf muscles are pushed into the hamstrings. Of the 4 quadriceps muscles, the main problem is the rectus femoris. Set up as shown, tip the hips back, squeeze the glutes and you will put the stretch where you want it. 
Popular way                    Another popular way           Better way

As with hamstrings, most people tilt the pelvis back and pull their low back into a rounded, stretched position. Instead, put your opposite foot up on a wall and keep a level, neutral pelvis while you stretch. You can increase the stretch by gently pushing on the knee. 
Popular way                                         Better way 

The popular glute stretch has the same problem as the hamstrings and piriformis. The alternative places the pelvis in neutral to take stress off the low back and put the stretch into the glutes.
Popular way                                               Better way 

Noticing a pattern here? You run into the same thing with the popular adductors stretch. Again a neutral pelvis puts the stretch where you want it.
Popular way                                             Better way 

Hip Flexors
When stretching the hip flexors, many people relax and let the pelvis tilt forward. This hyperextends the low back and takes stretch off the hip flexor. Instead start by tucking your bum under (posterior pelvic tilt) and getting tall. To increase the stretch, push down gently on a sturdy object (thanks to the FMS folks for this great tip!).
Popular way                                         Better way 

The way most folks stretch their lats puts them back into the rounded upper back posture they already spend all day in as they are hunched over their phones and computers. Instead focus on staying tall through the spine. This will help improve t-spine extension and shoulder flexion – two things that help you get your arms safely overhead.
Popular way                                                Better way 

A popular way to stretch the chest is with the arm low. Often this position causes the shoulder to pop forward and places the stress on the anterior (front) capsule of the shoulder. This is made worse if you lean into the stretch. A better way to stretch the pecs is to bring the arm up high and pack the shoulder down and back. From this position, gently twist away from the stretching arm to feel a nice stretch in your pecs.
Popular way                                            Better way 

Enjoy safer, more effective stretching!

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