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Could This One Stretch Revitalize Your Squat?

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Limited hip mobility is one of the most common ailments in the country and the weight training population is no exception. This limited mobility could be manifesting itself in postural or gait problems, lower back pain, or a limited range of motion in the hips and lower back (for example, the inability to get below parallel in your squat).

Hip flexors are a group of five muscles that function to draw the femur up or tilt the pelvis forward and the butt back, depending on whether your femur or pelvis is the stationary body part. Due to the amount of time most people spend in a seated position, hip flexors often become short, tight, and weak. The glutes, which function partially to extend the hips, are unable to be fully activated if the hip extension is limited by tight hip flexors. In essence, having tight flexors will diminish the power of the glutes. By stretching your hip flexors, you’ll be able to maximize hip extension, which allows the glutes to work to their full capacity. The couch stretch, developed by physical therapist Kelly Starrett, is one of the best hip flexor stretches around for opening up the whole anterior chain (hip flexors included). This will allow you to get full extension out of your hips, knees, and ankles. To provide yourself with means of comparison, test your squat range of motion both before and after you perform the stretch – you’ll be shocked by the results! Consider yourself warned that this stretch can be very painful. Don’t get started without access to a clock, as ideally, you should hold the stretch for 2 minutes per side, which will likely feel like an eternity. Begin by positioning yourself on hands and knees with your feet up against a wall behind you.

 

 

                                           Strecthes to improve your squat

Lift up one leg so that your whole lower leg, foot included, is pressing up against the wall. Your hands remain in the starting position. (Depending on your level of tightness, you may need to hold the stretch here until you’ve increased your flexibility enough to push it a little further).

                                          

 

Carefully, step the other leg forward and out to the side a little bit so that your foot is flat on the ground and knee is bent about 90 degrees. This is similar to a runner’s lunge position. Be sure to avoid pushing your weight too far forward and sending the knee in front of the toes. Your hands remain in the starting position. (Again, depending on your flexibility, this may be as far as you want to take the stretch at the beginning).

 

                                           

 

If you feel comfortable taking up the intensity a little bit more, bring your hands off the ground and bring your torso into an upright position. Make sure to keep your glutes activated to avoid hyperextension of your lower back.

 

                                            

 

Once you’ve completed the stretch on both sides, retest your squat range of motion and see your suffering pay off!

 

Resources:

http://paleobug.com/2012/11/22/how-to-maximize-glute-activation/

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/flex-those-flexors-3-steps-to-powerful-hips.html 

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/why-your-hip-flexor-health-is-vital.html

Esther Matus

Certified Personal Trainer

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