Stretch me out!

Got a knot, an ache, or a tight spot? Try this.

Note that each stretch has information at the top as to where you can do it. Some might be a bit inappropriate at the office. Or hilarious, depending on your personality and your office mates'.

My Splits stretching routine

Splits stretching routine

I have been doing this series of leg stretches for a while and am happy with the results. I don’t know that I will ever completely do the splits, and there may be a couple of other stretches worth adding, but these stretches do a satisfactory job for me. I recommend you try to do it every day, preferably after a workout that heats up your muscles but on off days a brisk walk or series of squats are sufficient for a maintenance session. If you did a hard workout you will want to give your muscles a few minutes to calm down. If you need a little extra sugar in your blood stream have an energy gel or a tablespoon of honey, and of course plenty of water. I usually do these barefoot but shoes are fine. The full routine should take 15 – 20 minutes.

Be thoughtful and careful in all your stretching! You want to open up and mobilize your muscles, not strain them or their tendons.

  1. Calf stretch
    1. Do a bridge pose (or downward dog). Stretch one calf, holding and working the stretch, for 15 seconds or so. Then stretch the other calf.
  2. Standing and seated forward bends
    1. Standing straight, sweep your arms from your sides to meet overhead, and reach for the ceiling. Feel the lengthening of your back.
    2. Now sweep your arms downward as you hinge at the waist, knees straight but not locked, bringing your hands to the floor and pulling your chest to your thighs. Your back should never curve in any stretch, you should always hinge at the waist. Hold for a few seconds, hunting as always for spots that need opening up.
    3. Now sit on the mat, legs straight out in front of you with your big toes pointed at the ceiling. Your back is vertical. Bend forward at the waist, again pulling your chest to your thighs. Feel the stretch in your thighs.
    4. Now reach forward and put your fingers over the tops of your toes. Pull your toes toward you and feel the stretch.
  3. Lizard stretch
    1. Lunge your right foot forward, knee bent and above or slightly behind your ankle. Never have your knee forward of your ankle. Your left leg is back. Bend forward, putting your elbows on the mat by your right foot.
    2. Work this stretch, moving around at the front to feel the stretch in your right thigh and moving around at the rear to feel the stretch in your left thigh. Try with your left foot on the toe, and with the top of the foot on the mat, to see where you can find the stretch. Oooh, this feels good.
    3. As you back out of this stretch push down on your right leg to stretch your hamstring.
    4. Switch feet and repeat.
  4. Half- and full-pigeon
    1. From downward dog position step your right foot forward and in front of your left shoulder, then let your right knee fall to the floor in front of your right shoulder. Your foreleg should be horizontal in front of you. Your left leg is straight back with the top of your foot on the mat.
    2. Lower your chest over your right foreleg, feeling the stretch in your outer right thigh. This one will be painful the first few times you do it – not ‘I’m going to injure myself’ kind of pain, but definitely uncomfortable! It’s one of those ‘hurts so good’ stretches that you know is doing a lot of good but not fun to experience!
    3. Now for the full pigeon. Bring your left leg forward and fold it across your right, each horizontal in front of you. Now lean your torso forward, and also use your left elbow to push your left knee into the mat. More pain! But with time this will come more easily, and you will really appreciate the flexibility gains.
  5. Psoas stretch – If you work at a desk all day long, even if it is a standing desk like mine, your psoas will be very tight. This is one you may want to do even on days you don’t do the full routine.
    1. Lie on your back. Pull your right knee tightly to your chest, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Take 8 breaths.
    2. Cross your right leg over to the left, and roll onto your stomach. You right leg should go out to the right with your knee at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg goes straight back, a little off to the left, with your toe down.
    3. Push up onto your elbows, feel the stretch in your psoas (stomach down to upper thighs), for 8 breaths.
    4. If that was easy, extend your right leg straight out to the right, pointing your toe forward and in. Push your left leg back, pressing the top of your foot into the mat.
    5. Now put both hands on the mat near your waist and push your torso up. Feel the stretch in both the front and the back leg. Hold for 8 breaths.
    6. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Straddle stretch
    1. Sit up on the mat, back vertical, and open your legs as wide as they will comfortably go.
    2. Turn to your right leg and hinge downward, pushing your torso toward your thigh.
    3. Reach your right hand forward, grab the top of your foot and carefully pull toward you. Be careful not to overdo it, just feel a nice stretch in your foot, calf, and hamstring.
    4. Now, while holding your right foot with your right hand, extend your left arm and rotate it to the ceiling, opening your torso. This is a great stretch for your back and shoulders.
    5. Come back to center, then repeat on the left side.
    6. Come back to center, then put your hands on the mat a couple of feet in front of you and pull your hips toward your hands, pulling into the stretch. This is a good stretch to do isometrics on – that is, tense the muscles you wish to stretch for a few seconds, then release, then repeat.
  7. Splits stretch
    1. Extend your right leg in front of you as far as it will go, and your left leg behind you.
    2. Pull through your right heel, then through your toes, working forward and backward. Roll left and right, again searching for spots that need mobilization. Again use isometrics.
    3. Repeat on the other side.

Stretches #2, 3, 4, and 6 come from this page. Maggie may do some of them a little differently than I, you are welcome to make your own choices.

Stretch #5 comes from this page . I added this after going to my chiropractor for a hip issue, only to have her tell me it was a psoas issue. I have been very pleased with the results of this stretch!

There are a lot of good mobility tools for spot work on your muscles. Check out the Recommendations page for specifics, but a good basic one is the lacrosse ball.

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