Last week, I discovered that I can touch my toes (and maybe you can, too). In the past I never really felt like I got much out of stretching, and I know that it doesn’t do much to prevent injury or improve performance. But I practice what I preach when it comes to trying things you don’t like to see if maybe they’re worthwhile after all. And so I am stretching. And possibly even starting to like it.
My first order of business was finding a stretching program, or at least a routine, to follow. A lot of easily accessible information about stretching is disjointed — “Do this stretch if your hamstrings are tight” kind of stuff. I don’t want to become a ballerina or a yogi, I just want to find mobility work that will help me with lifting and/or everyday life.
I settled on this routine, which I found on the r/flexibility subreddit. It’s designed to be done two to three times per week, although the notes say you can do it every day if you like, and is described as a collection of stretches that hit most of the common “problem areas” but which is, er, flexible enough that you can add stretches you think you need and eliminate ones you don’t.
My stretching routine
Here are the stretches I settled on. Most are from the original program, but I’ve made some edits to hit all the muscles I personally need to work on.
- Shoulder dislocates (I hate this name; you are not actually dislocating your shoulders)
- Thoracic mobility with a foam roller (No video, I just kind of drape myself over it)
- Rear hand clasp, the thing where you try to touch one hand to the other behind your shoulder blades
- Wrist and bicep stretch against a wall
- Standing toe touch
- One-leg pike (I prop my heel on a table)
- Standing quad and hip flexor stretch
- Kneeling lunge (this is like a front split except I’m nowhere near the ground)
- Pancake stretch
If you want to follow the original routine, there’s a video here. And if you’re curious, here are my modifications:
I dropped the calf stretch because I already have basically infinite ankle mobility. I dumped the lying cross because I can do the “advanced” version without any clue as to what I’m supposed to be feeling. The toe touch was an addition, since I know hamstring flexibility is one of the things I need to work on. The standing quad stretch is there because I’d like to have another way of working on my hip flexors besides doing a kneeling lunge.
I swapped the first two stretches (shoulder backbend and spine backbend) for other moves that seem to hit those muscles better for me: PVC dislocates and the foam roller.
The last addition is the W-sit, a position that’s been comfortable for me ever since childhood. (In some kids, it’s a sign of poor core strength; for me, it was a sign of good hip mobility.) I got out of the habit of doing it in the year after I had knee surgery, and now I can’t quite get into that position anymore without feeling a stretch in my thigh, so I now end my stretching sessions by W-sitting with my butt on a small pillow. I only need to gain about another inch of flexibility to be able to relax in this position again.
My stretching goals
My shoulder mobility is good enough, but it could be better. I’m hoping the shoulder stretches will help me to perform overhead lifts more comfortably.
If I can do that rear hand clasp again, or even improve it, it will be a lot easier to put on a back-zip dress by myself.
If I get better mobility in my hamstrings, I’ll be able to do a few odd lifts more easily; the Kelly snatch and the Mansfield lift both require the lifter to bend over with knees straight. Most people can’t do these, or can’t do them well, and I love a challenge.
And if I get better at the inner-thigh stretches, like the pancake, I might be able to do sumo deadlifts with better positioning.
So here’s hoping this all works out. It takes me about 20 minutes to get through the whole routine, and I’ve been doing it just before bed, when it’s time to relax and wind down. More next time, but first: Anybody out there currently have a stretching routine they love? What makes it great? And what results have you seen?