A few years back, I was in the best shape of my life. I had a consistent body fat of 6%, I had fantastic cardio, and could do tumbling pass after tumbling pass. I ran four days a week, training with HIIT principles. I was an athlete participating in all-star cheerleading, and had practice four days a week, practices typically lasted three to four hours, and were so difficult that the coaches would open up the bay doors in the back of the gym so we didn’t have to run to the restroom to throw up. I went to the gym five days a week to lift, leaving myself zero rest days. While most of what I was doing was incredibly hard on my body, and ended up making me fracture my spine in two places from over training, one of the few things I got right was that I stretched all the time.
|Me as a cheerleader. You can see just how much less muscle I had back then!
While the reason I was stretching was because flexibility is huge in gymnastics and cheerleading (my toe touches needed to be hyper extended!) my extreme stretching ritual of two plus hours a day, every day, kept me from getting injured sooner. When I did cheer, I had all of my splits, and managed to get them in less than three months. I have since lost them, but am working to regain them.
|Not the best toe touch, but it was consistently above level!
Stretching is important. Everyone knows that, but as athletes and gym goers, most people do not stretch. Stretching is critical to proper body mechanics and health, but we don’t set aside the time to do it. That is, until an injury occurs that’s bad enough that stretching becomes a priority in order to feel better. If you work out hard, either in a sport or at the gym, its not a question of “will you get injured”, its “when, and how badly?” The more stress we put our body under, the more time needs to be devoted towards stretching.
Here is my go to lower body stretching routine, I typically spend 15 minutes doing it, and it hits all the areas that I need to stretch. It is a pretty comprehensive lower body routine if you’re pressed for time. Spend a minimum of 30 seconds in each stretch. Set a timer to keep yourself honest!
|1) Kneeling hip-flexor stretch
On one knee and one foot, lean forward while keeping your hips square. That means your crotch should be pointed forwards, not towards the wall. Lean forward and flex the butt cheek on the leg that is back so your hips are pressed further forwards. Do not let your front knee go past your front heel. It helps to have something on each side of you during the stretch so you feel stable, and can focus on increasing your range of motion without fear of falling.
You should feel this right below the front of your hip bone on the leg that is back (your hip flexor), and in your quad on that leg.
|3) Kneeling hamstring stretch with a rounded back
A variation on the second stretch, once you’ve spent thirty seconds with your back perfectly straight, allow your back to round.
Feel how the stretch moves down your leg and spreads out.
|9) Middle splits over the top reaches
This is my favorite back stretch. Whenever my low back hurts, I make sure to do this, and the pain goes away completely. The technique is similar to the previous stretch, but the outside arm on whatever side I am leaning towards reaches back through to the other leg. I work on twisting my chest through so my chest is not facing the leg I am leaning towards, but the other leg. The middle stretch for this one just involves grabbing both feet or knees and leaning forward. I find it interesting how much this changes the stretch from reaching both arms forward.
I hope you liked this article, and see just how easy increasing your flexibility can be. While this seems like a pretty comprehensive write up to me, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Biyaro@gmail.com or message me on facebook. Want to Learn more and get your splits in as short a time as possible? want to increase your flexibility further than you thought was possible? Fill out the form here to get a free session with me! I also now offer skype training.