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stretches

Health, Lower limb, Mobility

Can’t touch your toes? How to become more flexible, fast!

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static stretching - does it affect performanceCan’t touch your toes and would like to? I am going to give you 5 easy exercises that will show you how to become more flexible, fast!

To be able to touch our toes (with your knees straight) you need to look at a few body areas – not just the hamstrings.

The main ones are:

  • Low back: Your Erector Spinae muscles run up the side of your spine from your pelvis to your neck and need to be flexible to bend down and touch your toes. The other muscle here that helps to loosen up is your quadratus lumborum (QL).
  • Hips (Namely your Gluts) – Your Gluts connect the chain between your hamstrings and erector spinae and need to be flexible to touch your toes and to be functional.
  • Hamstrings: Your hammies are important because they cross over both your knee joints and hip joint at the back to can limit your knees staying straight and your hips flexing forward.
  • Calves: The largest calf muscle, your gastroc (the larger of your calf muscles) crosses both the ankle and the knee joints so again is very important that this is flexible. Your calves are always working hard, so need regular attention to prevent tightness.
  • Plantar Fascia: Your plantar fascia travels from your heel to your toes and is also linked/connected to your calves. This is strong connective tissue and doesn’t so much need to be stretched as it does relaxed and released – But it does make a huge difference, you will see!

The reason you can’t get to your toes by just stretching your hamstrings: Your muscles is all connected together, it isn’t a lot of separate pieces working by themselves. I’m sure a lot of you would have heard of the kinetic chain before, well it’s a real thing. The body is connected together in a lot of places by your fascia. The fascia (derived from the latin word for band or bandage) is like a soft tissue skeleton which muscles attach to and which connects up your muscles (pretty cool huh!). Here is a good explanation for an example of the fascia of your back.

It used to be thought of as leftover, residule tissue that isn’t really important.. but that isn’t the case! This way of thinking has been changed recently and the fascia has been shown to be very important and not to be missed or ignored by any health professionals – Or by you out there reading this post!

 

Alright here we go!

Below are 5 exercises to improve your flexibility! Some of them have two options, so pick which one works best for you.

Hint: It is also helpful to re-test (see how close you can get to your toes) after each exercise so that you know which ones work best for you!

1. Low back myofascial release: It is tricky to get a good stretch through the low back as it is made up of a lot of little stabilising (short) muscles. The best way to loosen up your back is with a Massage Ball as shown below:

QLTPRQL TPR

Step 1. Place a ball in your low back to the side of your spine (you may be able to feel tight muscle here).

Step 2. Then pull your knee up towards your chest so that it flattens the muscles into the ball and rock from side to side and up and down, really grinding the ball into the muscle. You can adjust the pressure you put into the ball with your knee.

Do this for 1-2 minutes each side.

 

2. Gluts: Get down and hold this stretch for at least 1 minute:

glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibility glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

3. Hamstrings: For the hamstrings, you can use either a Foam Roller if you have one or a ball.

Physio hamstring foam roller release

Option 1: Foam roller: As shown here place your free leg over the one on the roller, sit up as much as you can to put the hamstring on stretch and use your arms or free leg to move you. Spend 1-2 minutes on each leg.

 

Option 2: Hamstring myofascial release. Click over to one of my most popular posts for a demo and easy explanation of this exercise.

 

4. Calves: hanging your heel off a step is the best way to get a good stretch.

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splintsHold it for 1-2 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

5. Plantar Fascia:  Place the ball (a nice hard one, I prefer a lacrosse ball) under your arch, put some weight through it and roll it around the bottom. roll it through all the tissue in between your heel and ball of your feet.

PF rollDo this for 1-2 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: the last two exercises will also hugely help anyone with heel pain or plantar fasciitis!

 

Now do a final re-test of your toe touch to see how close (or far past) to your toes you can get! This is something you will need to stick at to get the improvement to last – You will really see good results if you do it every day for 6 weeks.

 

Let me know how you go learning how to become more flexible and please share and like!

 

You may also benefit from:

 


Health, Mobility, Shoulder pain, Upper limb

Shoulder Stretches: Only the Best

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Shoulder stretching is an essential part of gaining a Pain-free, functional and strong shoulder. Whether you have had shoulder injury in the past, have tight shoulders due to poor work posture or you just want to have full range for an overhead squat – then these shoulder stretches and for you – all of you!

(Skip down the page if you want to get straight to the Shoulder Stretches!)

Following injury: regaining flexibility and range in the joints and soft tissues is an important aspect to the rehab process and if not addressed, you can develop other, secondary injuries such as sub-acromial impingement, postural dysfunction and any number of neck problems.

Poor posture: In today’s world, too many of us have sedentary jobs which require a lot of time sitting at a desk or behind the wheel. This leads tightness in muscles the pull your shoulders forward (namely your Pecs and Upper Traps) and weakness in muscles that hold your shoulder in a good, functional position (lower traps, Serratus ant etc). This is explained well by the Jandas Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Overhead squat and shoulder range: To hold a barbell overhead and squat down  we need great mobility around the shoulder and hip to do this safely. The main muscle that affects this is the Lat (along with your Glutes and Thoracic extension) as the come all the way from your pelvis to your shoulder.

Exercises:

Ideally you should do these everyday – You can water it down and do it less often but you will not get thew best result and it will take longer.

Horizontal abduction stretch for the shoulder. posterior capsule and deltoid stretch

1. Posterior capsule stretch:

Action: Pull your arm across your body.

Hold for 1 Minute.

 

 

Shoulder stretch for the triceps muscle and inferior capsule to decrease shoulder pain

2. Triceps and inferior capsule:

Action: gripping the elbow as shown, pull back and across.

Hold for 1 minute.

Tip: bend upper body away from side being stretched.

 

 

 

sleeper stretch for the shoulder - to stretch the post capsule and rotator cuff

3. Sleeper stretch:

Lye on your shoulder with your arm in front of you and your elbow bent to 90 degrees. using your free arm, grip your wrist and rotate it down towards your feet until you feel a moderate stretch.

Hold for 1 minute

shoulder stretch for the pectorals and thoracic spine. good for swimmers, cyclists etc4. Streamline stretch:

This is a great stretch as it stretches, Pecs , Lats and thoracic spine.

No balls – You do not have to use a Swiss/Physio ball – I use the back of my couch.

Action: when on your knee place both arms on the surface and relax your shoulder and upper back down. you can adjust the force that goes through your shoulders by moving your knees further away or closer.

Hold for 1 minute.

TIP: to get more of a tricep stretch place your hands behind your neck with elbows on the ball/couch!

5: Lat Band Stretch: 

The best way I have found for stretching Lats is using a band (a technique picked up from Crossfit) – now you can use a proper exercise band or a simple belt (yes one of the ones that holds your pants up) at home. Below is a nice simple video on how to do it:

Overhead distraction with Band

Hold for 1 minute.

Tip: you can also do this by holding on to a pole.

streamlined

And THAT my fiends is ten minutes well spent!

For Best results combine the above stretches with a good Shoulder stabilisation regime and you will really reap the rewards.

 

Note if you feel any pain (other than stretching pain) or have range of motion limitations post surgery then consult a trained health professional.

 

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