These are my favourite stretches to keep your body mobile, but I have also tried to keep them as relevant as possible to maintaining a good posture. They are in no particular order.
Before performing any of these stretches make sure that you are in a safe environment and have no injuries. If you are unsure on anything, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
1. Pec stretch
This stretch is massively underused, very easy to do, and will have a very positive effect of your posture. When your pectoral muscles are tight, they draw the shoulders forwards. When our shoulders are pulled forward, two things are likely to happen. Your upper back will round, and your neck will extend. Staying in this position for an long time puts a lot of pressure on these areas of your spine. Which can lead to aches and pains, pre dispose you to injuries and even increase the risk of degenerative changes occurring. The pec stretch alone will not be enough to stop this, unfortunately, as it needs to be combined with one or two exercises from my earlier blog (top 5 exercises for a healthy body). Yes, that means you have to do both stretching and exercise to improve your posture. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
To stretch your pecs all you need is a doorframe. Place your forearm against the frame, with your elbow slightly higher than your shoulder. Step through the door with the same side leg as the arm against the doorframe. Aim to be pushing your shoulder out in front of your elbow. You should feel the stretch across the front of your chest, now hold this for 45 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Couch stretch
Very popular amongst the CrossFit community, and for good reason. The couch stretch aims to stretch your hip flexors and your quads. Muscles that become very tight almost anyone, if you are active or sedentary, you’re still likely to benefit from this stretch. The end result of this stretch is improved hip extension and quad flexibility. Which doesn’t seem like much, until you look further into the effects this can have on the body. Hip extension is essential to human function, without it our walking and running becomes less efficient and slower, but also when we can’t extend the hip, it has a detrimental effect on our posture. The psoas muscle(part of the hip flexor group) attaches to our lumbar spine, when it is tight, it alters the mechanics of the lumbar spine, making movement more difficult and often painful. By altering the lumbar spine, psoas effects the rest of the spine as well, as it will compensate for the changes made. As you can see this isn’t a muscle you want to be causing problems. The main cause for tightness in these muscles- sitting for too long. I know I spent forever talking about sedentary behaviours in a previous blog, but that’s because it really is the cause of a lot of issues!
To perform the couch stretch you will need a wall. Start by standing facing away from the wall, and pull your foot up towards your bum. This will create a stretch in your quadriceps. Now lean back into the wall, and drop into a lunge position. This will cause the wall to now be holding your foot in place in the quad stretch, but the lunging causes your hip to extend, creating a stretch across the front of your hip. This stretch won’t be comfortable, and most likely won’t be possible if you have osteoarthritis or an injury to your knee. If you can manage the stretch, hold it for 45 seconds
An odd name, I know, but a very good stretch for mobility in your upper back. I would recommend this stretch to anyone that has a stiff upper back or who spends a long time seated. The cat/cow improved the extension and flexion capabilities of the thoracic spine, and whilst it may not be solely a stretch it is nonetheless very effective. Thoracic mobility is very important for a healthy body, without it our spines would not be able to rotate and our lower backs/necks would suffer massively.
To perform the cat/cow, start on your hands and knees. Then arch your back up towards the ceiling, once your reach as far as you can hold the position for one to two seconds. Then extend your back, pushing your chest towards the floor, again holding for one to two seconds before returning to the start position. That’s one rep, try and do sets of 10!
4. Knee hugs
Knee hugs are a massive help for lower back problems. The knee hug stretches the erector spinae muscles that run alongside the spine. Which is great for relieving any tightness in the area. The other way in which this stretch has a positive effect is that it de loads the facets in your spine. The facet joints are the joints in your spine that allow for movement, they can become irritated and very painful if you spend an extended period of time with your lower back in extension. This is a common issue these days, many people wind up with a hyper lordosis(read: extended lower back) because of their sedentary lifestyles(I promise I will stop mentioning this at some point). Knee hugs are particularly effective when used in combination with pelvic tilts(see top 5 exercises for a healthy body blog).
To perform a knee hug, simply lay on your back, and hug your knees to your chest, simple! Hold for 5 seconds and release, then repeat 10 times.
5. Childs pose
I really like the Childs pose as a stretch because it covers a large number of muscle groups, and can be modified to be more specific to certain areas. Childs pose primarily stretches the latissimus dorsi, the muscles at the sides of your back. This muscle pulls your arm towards your body, and internally rotates the shoulder. Internally rotating the shoulder pulls your shoulder forwards, and by pulling your shoulders forward your make your upper back round…. You see where I’m going with this. The Childs pose also helps to reverse this flexion in the upper back. It’s as good of an exercise that you can do for your upper back and shoulder posture.
To perform the Childs pose stretch, you have to kneel, and sit on your heels, then lean forwards to place your head on the ground. Reach out so that your hands wind up on the floor as far in front of your head as possible. Hold this stretch for 45 seconds whilst doing some deep breathing.
Try these stretches out and let us know how you feel afterwards!