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THE 3 STRETCHES YOU SHOULD BE DOING EVERY DAY

Written by John Cioffredi

Everyone loves the satisfaction of a good workout, but sometimes we overlook an important part of the recovery process in our haste to get on with our days: stretching. 

Stretching allows our muscles and joints to stay limber and mobile for the next workout, and helps to minimize the chance of getting injured in the long term. The first two stretches, Scorpion and Open Book, are dynamic stretches, which means you are moving through a given range of motion to gently warm up your muscles and improve their flexibility. The Pigeon stretch is a static stretch in which you hold the position for a given period of time. Dynamic stretches are often done before workouts, while static stretches tend to be saved for after you’ve finished working out.

Incorporating these three stretches will help to improve your overall flexibility, and when performed on a regular basis may decrease your chance of injury, helping you move better and stay healthy while working towards your fitness goals.

Scorpion

How to perform the movement:

Lay with your chest on the ground, arms straight out to your side to make a 90 degree angle at the shoulder. Next, try and take your right foot and touch it to your left hand. Repeat on the opposite side.

At first it may be very difficult to even get your foot to hip level, but with time, those tight muscles on the front of your body will begin to relax and allow the foot to travel up to the opposite hand, allowing for greater mobility through the trunk and thoracic spine.

Why do it?

Most of us spend 8+ hours a day hunched over a desk at work with the muscles on the front of our chest and hips in a shortened position, causing them to become tight and stiff when we stand up and begin exercising. The Scorpion stretch activates muscles on the backside of our body, like our glutes and hamstrings, and allows the muscles on the front side of the body, like our abdominals and hip flexors, to lengthen, which helps to counteract the negative effects of sitting all day. 

Open Book (Side lying thoracic spine rotations)

 

How to perform the movement:

Lie on your side with your arms lying perpendicular to your torso. Bring one knee up to form a 90 degree angle at the hip and the knee. Rotate the top hand in an arc, opening the chest up like a book, until your top hand touches the ground on the other side of your body. Allow your head to rotate with your hand so that your eyes follow your fingertips, while keeping your bent knee on the ground throughout the movement. If you cannot keep your knee on the ground, you can prop it up on a foam roller to decrease the range of motion required in your lumbar and thoracic spine.

You should feel this stretch in your chest, mid spine, and lower back.

Why do it?

When we lack mobility in one joint, we usually try and make up for it in another part of the body. If our thoracic spine is stiff and immobile, we tend to compensate by increasing our range of motion in our shoulders or lumbar spine. This increased mobility comes at the expense of stability in both of these regions, which can increase the chance of shoulder dislocation and lower back pain.

Restoring mobility to the thoracic spine by performing two sets of ten side lying thoracic spine rotations helps to restore this mobility and decrease the chance of injury to the shoulder and lumbar spine.

Pigeon Stretch 

How to perform the movement:

Sitting on your knees, extend one leg straight out behind you. Point the thigh of your other leg straight forward and bring the heel out to form a 45-90 degree angle at the knee. Sit back on your hips with your chest at roughly a 60 degree angle to feel a stretch in your backside of the bent leg, and in the front of your hip on the leg that is extended behind you.

To increase the intensity of the stretch in your backside, you can increase the angle at the knee of your bent leg to bring it closer to 90 degrees, or lean your chest forward. To increase the intensity of the stretch on the front side of your hip, push your hips forward and raise your chest to a more upright position.

Why do it?

As mentioned before, sitting can cause a lot of stiffness and immobility in our spine and hip flexors, but it can also cause our hips to become tight and rigid as well. A 2015 study by Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences found that limited hip internal rotation is correlated with low back pain, while another study by Sahmyook University found that increasing hip mobility decreased pain and improved function for patients with low back pain. Lastly, in addition to improving hip mobility, the pigeon pose also stretches the hip flexor muscles of the opposite leg, making it a great stretch to incorporate into your daily routine to improve hip mobility and to mitigate low back pain.