This week’s blog post is about stretching for the lower body. This is something I get asked about, quite a lot. I have done many talks about lower body stretching for various groups at the Running Room and other community groups.
This routine was created a number of years ago. I got accepted into physiotherapy school in 1999 and by that time I was using it for a few years. One of main reasons I like this stretching routine is that the stretches flow from one to the next, to next… Another reason, is that you stretch every major muscle group from the buttock down the leg. And to perform the entire stretching routine only takes a few minutes.
Here is my take on stretching. Make sure that you are warm before you stretch. Static stretching has been shown to decrease muscle activity, so only do static stretching after activity.
This stretching routine should be done at the end of a run and will take 4 – 5 minutes to complete. Hold each pose (on each leg; if applicable) for 20 – 30 seconds.
Stretching makes your muscles longer. Unless you do some strengthening in the new range of motion you create, you might be putting yourself at a greater risk of injury. Stretching stretches your muscles, it does not strengthen them. A lot of my running clients like to stretch and injury. If the injury is caused from a muscle strain, I find that the muscle has to be ‘released’ through various means, i.e. manual therapy, lacrosse ball… then strengthened slowly to stimulate the body to repair the injured muscle fibres. Stretching may feel good but I do not find that it give the same regrowth stimulation to the muscles.
I will walk through all the stretches of the routine.
Hip flexor stretch: body upright, hips facing forward, squeeze your butt on the side with the leg behind you, front knee at 90° angle. How to get into this position?
- Step into a lunge position, front knee should be greater than 90° angle, back knee should be on the ground.
- Move your hips forward, keeping your torso upright so that you make a 90° angle with your front knee. .
- Rest your hands on your front thigh and squeeze the buttock on the back leg, until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip and the top of your thigh, of your back leg.
Hamstring stretch: From the stretch above, move your hips back and straighten out your front leg. Lean forward from the hips, bringing your chest up and forward.
Pigeon pose: Bend the forward leg and curl it in as you lower yourself to the ground.
Take the foot of the bent, front, leg and slide it towards your body. Straighten out your back leg. Place your hands on the ground for support.
At this point, I start again, with the hip flexor stretch but on the opposite side. That way, within the first 1-2 minutes, I have stretched out both hip flexors, hamstrings and buttock.
After doing pigeon pose, for the second time, both sides completed, I move to my next stretch.
Butterfly stretch: Sit on the floor and bend both knees, bringing the soles of your feet together (so that your knees point to the sides). Slowly slide your heels as close to your body as possible without
discomfort. Sitting evenly on your sit bones and keeping your back straight, take hold of your feet (forefoot). Lean forward slowly and pull up on your forefoot until you feel a slight stretch in your inner thighs.
Kneeling soleus stretch: this stretch is a little bit difficult to explain but I will try. Go on your hands and knees, bend one leg up, bringing that knee to your chest and the sole of the foot, flat on the floor. The shin of the other leg is flat on the ground, with the toe pointed to stretch out the front of that shin. Weight should be on the bent leg, making sure that the heel is on the ground. The stretch should be felt in the lower part of the Achilles tendon. It is not strong feeling stretch. Repeat on the opposite side.
Downward dog: From the above position, slowly walk both feet backwards, keeping your hands on
the ground. Make sure that you keep your hips high in the air. Try to keep your knees straight and your heels on the ground. Your feet should be parallel and approximately hip distance apart.
Squat: Walk in from downward dog and then squat down with your ‘buttocks’ close to the floor. Try to keep your heels on the ground.
Quad stretch: Stand up straight with both feet together. Bend one knee with your foot going up toward your buttocks and grab your foot from behind. Ensure your hand is grabbing the main part of your sneaker (laces section). Keep both knees close together. Repeat on the other side.
Here is a little treat for you, a video of me doing the entire stretching routine in my backyard. There are a few funny noises during the shooting of this video. You will hear a squeak when I am getting into the butterfly stretch. That is not me, lol. It was my videographer, Kenneth from Augustine Kitesurf, loosening up the camera mount. Also you will hear some Harley Davidson’s in the background. Every time we shot this video, there was one or two HD motorcycle, in the background. It was a little bit crazy.
Do you have another stretching routine that you like? Did I miss your favourite stretch? Please leave a comment below to tell me about it!