Take a moment to think about how many workouts you’ve done in your life. Then, how many sets and how many individual reps. Over time, your musculature, joints and bones have gone through the wringer with your training, and you’ll need to give them a little TLC every now and again. After all, they support you from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep — so it pays to show them some love through stretching and mobility.
If you’re not sure where to start, though, Third Space Elite Personal Trainer Stu Slater is on deck to walk you through his five top moves to flex through before your next workout, plus his expert coaching cues to ensure you’re getting maximum bang-for-buck. Hit these exercises regularly and, soon enough, your motion will feel like lotion.
Why: “The shoulders tend to get drawn in through weaknesses in our middle back as well as over-training push movements,” explains Slater. “Freeing up this tissue is a good first step for balancing your upper-body before training.”
- Position your arm against the rig so your elbow is 90 degrees to your shoulder.
- Step forward on the same side, maintain your torso position so you are pointing forward.
- Lean forward until you feel a modest stretch and hold.
Why: “Hanging with a focus on breathing drills is a great way to help restore your ribcage alignment as well as releasing the large back muscles that contribute to restricting our shoulder mobility,” says Slater. “I would start with the feet down and progressively work up to fully hanging. If you are unable to get your arm overhead then opt for a simple lat stretch by holding onto something upright and leaning back into the stretch.”
- Step under a bar and take your grip just outside shoulder width.
- Hang from the bar, really trying to think about relaxing every muscle in your body except your hands.
Why: “This is a personal favourite and possibly one of the greatest all-encompassing stretches to both open up and strengthen the posterior chain,” says Slater. “It’s responsible for a number of significant movement dysfunctions throughout our body and daily lives.”
- Standing on a step or box, begin by tucking your chin to your chest before rolling down your spine, segment by segment.
- Reach towards the floor, feeling the stretching through your lower back and hamstrings.
- Reverse the movement, segment by segment, until you are standing tall.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Why: “I’d recommend some hip flexor stretching in order to allow your leg to fully straighten as well as free up the tilting aspect of the pelvis,” says Slater. “Incorporating the arm increases its intensity by leaning the lumbar spine away. The hip flexor originates from the lumbar spine, helping the stretch to increase.”
- Take a knee and rest the foot on your kneeling leg on a bench.
- Push your hips forward, ensuring you do not arch in the lower back.
- Place your hand behind your neck on the same side as the elevated foot.
- Bend sideways away from your hip and hold the stretch.
Ankle PAILs RAILs
“By utilising the PAILs RAILs technique onto the ankle stretch, we achieve a superior method of increasing active range of motion in the ankles,” explains Slater. “Limited active range at the ankle joints is one of — if not the — biggest reason for problematic squat and deadlift patterns.”
- Start in a kneeling lunge position, with your back knee resting on the ground.
- Lean into your front foot using the weight of your torso to stretch your achilles and calf.
- While keeping the heel on the ground, maintain a flat foot, push the ball of your foot into the ground to stimulate a contraction through the calf.
- While relaxing the calf, try to lift your toes off the ground contracting the dorsiflexors.
- Relax all muscles and your ankle range should be increased.