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Getting mobile: These 4 stretches will give you the best 'bang for your buck'

Incorporate these exercises into your fitness regime and you’ll soon see the benefits, writes Sarah Cremen

IT’S ALWAYS DIFFICULT to answer the question “what’s the best stretch for…?”, as so much of it depends on your daily activities, your basic mobility and your exercise regime.

If you tend to sit a lot, chances are you will have developed some mobility restrictions that require your attention.

For now, let’s forget the science behind “why” you may be lacking in mobility and just give you the lowdown on some of my favourite “bang for your buck” mobility/stretches.

They are by no means the only ones, nor are they even necessarily the best ones, just some that have given me and my clients the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.

Training the fundamental movement patterns through full range of motion is a great way to increase your mobility, stability and overall movement capacity. So, don’t leave them out.

The below exercises should supplement, not replace, a solid strength routine.

1. Couch Stretch

This is a great stretch for any office workers or people who have anterior chain tension as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Plant your right knee against the wall or in the corner of a couch/chair.
  • Skip your left foot out in front and place it so that the knee doesn’t fall over the foot.
  • Draw your upper body up, stay tall and tight through the mid-line so you don’t overextend your lower back.
  • Squeeze your glutes, and open the front of your right hip, keeping your hips square.
  • Hold for two minutes, then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Elevated pigeon

This is an excellent stretch for anyone with tight hips, glutes or lower back, and is great for those who are too tall or tight to get into full pigeon stretch on the mat.

  • Lay your right leg across an elevated surface (box/bench etc.)
  • Aim to get the heel in line with the knee. If you are really tight, let the right foot off the side of the box to relieve tension.
  • Keep your torso tight and then play around with the stretch; fold your upper body forward, lean back and push hips forward slightly, roll towards each side…go towards where you feel tightness and then stay there.
  • Hold for two minutes, then repeat on the opposite side.

3. Prayer stretch

Again, if you spend a good portion of your day hunched over your desk, with shrugged shoulders and tightness in your upper back you should try this one.

  • Come into a kneeling position, hands/forearms resting on an elevated surface (Swiss ball, bench, foam roller etc.)
  • Square off your hips and slide your arms forwards until you start to feel a stretch in your upper back, lats and shoulders.
  • Intentionally push your chest towards the floor and hold.
  • Rock back slightly into the hips or bend at the elbows and bring your arms overhead. Find what works best for you — just don’t push your shoulders through a painful range of motion.

4. World’s greatest stretch

This is one of the most fundamental and effective full-body stretches. It mobilises your hips, knees and ankles and opens out your hips, chest, back and shoulders, so it’s ideal as part of any warm-up regime.

  • Take a long lunge out with your right leg.
  • Keep your back leg as straight as possible; you want a long line from head to heel to allow a stretch in your calves and hamstrings, and your glutes to fire.
  • Place your hands down on the ground, in line with your instep, open your chest and pull your shoulders back and down.
  • Rotate your chest and lift your right arm to the sky, follow with the head looking towards the top hand.
  • Hold the stretch for two or three seconds and then rotate your torso back to the start position and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Complete 8-10 repetitions per side.

The best time to mobilise is whenever you can. Pick one or two exercises each day; 10 minutes as a warm-up before your training or as part of an active rest day with some myofascial release. Use the ones that work for you, forget about the ones that don’t. Breathe deeply, listen to your body, and relax into the stretch.

Sarah Cremen is a personal trainer and physiotherapist based in David Lloyd Riverview in Dublin. For more health and fitness advice and tips, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Alternatively you can visit her website.

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