Last week I introduced you to the Core Four, a new way of stretching glutes, hips, and lats. The Core Four stretches are part of LifeStretch, which is based on the principles of Fascial Stretch Therapy, and they are an excellent tool to increase functional flexibility.
This week I want to show you another series of stretches that are excellent for runners and will also increase functional flexibility. These will specifically target the glutes and hamstrings, as well as the adductors and abductors.
You will notice that one of the differences between these stretches and regular static stretching is that we flow from one movement to the other, undulating in and out of each stretch. The continuing movement helps to target all angles of the muscles, the joints, as well as the fascia. There should be no pain, and since we synchronize breath with movement I will cue your breathing as we go.
One of the principles of Fascial Stretch Therapy is to use traction to facilitate the stretch and get maximal lengthening. That is not always possible without assisted stretching, but with some stretches you will be directed to gently self-traction in order to replicate FST as much as possible.
The following stretches are a continuation of the Core Four that we did last week. For a thorough lower body stretching routine, first do the assessments indicated in that post, follow with the Core Four, then finish with the glute and hamstring stretches shown here. Finally, re-assess and take note of any changes that you feel.
Improve Functional Flexibility: Low Back Stretch
Begin in a seated position on your mat with your knees bent. Clasp your hands under your thighs. Inhale as you sit tall and lengthen your spine. Exhale as you round your back, using your arms for resistance to stretch your back. Repeat this two or three times by first inhaling to lengthen then exhaling as you stretch. Then lower yourself all the way to the mat.
Improve Functional Flexibility: Supine Hip/Glute Stretches
Start with both legs bent. Lift your right leg with both hands. Using self-traction, lift up the leg, feeling the traction in your right hip joint. Keep the knee bent and make slow circles with the leg. Do several rotations in each direction. Just breathe normally through this warm up.
Cross your right ankle over your left leg right above the knee. Open up the hip by pushing open with the right knee. Rock slowly from side to side, a little deeper each time. When your right foot touches the ground, take hold of the foot with your left hand. Keep your foot on the ground, inhale, then exhale as you press down with your right hip (like you’re pushing it toward the ground). Inhale and release the stretch by allowing the hip to come up slightly. Repeat this two or three times.
Next, cross your right ankle over your left and pull the foot higher up your thigh. Lift both legs. Hold your left foot in your left hand and pull your knees toward you. If it is comfortable you can hold your right foot in your right hand. Start to rock slowly from side to side, going a little lower each time. When your right foot touches the ground, lightly push back to the other side once or twice more. Breathe normally.
Improve Functional Flexibility: Hamstrings, Adductors, Abductors
With your knee bent, lift your left leg with both hands, creating traction in the left hip. (It doesn’t matter which leg you do first, I’m just matching the instructions to the photos.) Gradually straighten the leg into a hamstring stretch. Think about “swimming” it straight, or of a flower popping through the ground. Once it is straight use movement to target all the angles: Point and flex your toes, rotate your ankle, lift and circle the whole leg, rotate the leg within the joint. Allow the knee to bend for a couple bounces, the repeat by slowly straightening the leg as before. Do this a total of three times. Breath normally throughout.
Next, take the leg out to the left to stretch the medial hamstrings and adductors. Repeat the procedure as above. Your right leg can be bent or straight, whichever is most comfortable you. Do try to keep your right shoulder on the ground.
Now take your leg across your body to the right to target the lateral hamstrings and abductors. Repeat the procedure, making sure to flow through the stretches. You can use your right arm to prop up the leg as you lower it across your body. Remember to take a break after a minute or so by bending the knee before repeating.
Finally, bring your left leg back to the center and swim it up to a hamstring stretch. Lift your head up as you do one cycle of movement, stretching the entire back line. If this hurts your neck, just keep your head on the ground.
Repeat on the other side.
There you go. It actually probably took you longer to read this than it will to do the stretches. This can also work as an active warm up, as can the Core Four. Simply move more quickly through the movements, though you still want to maintain form and control.
I put it all together in this Flipagram. I do plan to create a “real” video when I have the opportunity to do so in a more quiet atmosphere than my home!
Do these stretches, along with the Core Four, regularly and you will see a difference in your functional flexibility which can help improve your running performance. Please feel free to ask any questions about the form or stretches in the comments.
Do you stretch regularly? Have you tried the Core Four from last week yet?
All of these stretches were developed by Ann and Chris Frederick of the Stretch to Win Institute. While I am certified to teach them in a group setting or on a one-on-one basis, I am not your instructor or therapist. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
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