Five Essential Injury-Beating Stretches

Five top stretches from ASICS PRO Team member and Super Six Physio Sarah Connors


Posted: 6 January 2011
by Sarah Connors & Sam Murphy

1. The bridge

Purpose: An essential exercse for runners, this prevents 'sitting' on the pelvis when running.

Starting position: Lie on your back with knees bent and arms resting on the mat, palms facing down.

Exercise: Slowly curl the spine up off the floor, starting at the tailbone, until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the knees. Hold for 5 seconds, building up to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

To progress: Perform the exercise as above, but once the pelvis is lifted, straighten each leg alternately, keeping the pelvis level.

2. The plank

Purpose: To strengthen the deep abdominal muscles - along with many other muscle groups. This classic core exercise is done by all the elite training squads.

Starting position: Lie face-down on the floor, propped up on your elbows, with knees and feet together.

Exercise: Engage the core and lift the hips and knees off the floor, taking the weight through your elbows and feet only, with the body in a straight line. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five times.

To progress: Perform the exercise as above, then, from the extended position, lift one leg up, keeping the pelvis and back still and maintaining the straight line.

3. Backwards walking

What? Slowly walk backwards (ensuring you have a clear path). You can make this harder by taking the foot across the midline of your body as you are walking.

Why? This encourages the glutes to fire and is great to do before a speed session.

4. Hip flexors

Starting position: Lunge forward, placing your left foot on the floor in front and your right leg out behind, knee resting on the floor.

Exercise: Keeping the pelvis in a neutral position (it's easiest to do this by gently tightening the tummy muscles), slowly lean forwards. You should feel a stretch on the front of the hlp. Don't let the back arch - keep up tall. This is a basic hip flexor stretch - for a more advanced option, see the Thomas stretch.

5. Thomas stretch

This is a more advanced version of the hip flexor stretch, which also stretches the quadriceps and ITB. You'll need a surface about mid-thigh height. The kitchen table is normally a good bet!

Starting postion: Stand with your buttocks resting against a table or use the steeplechase pit at your local track.

Exercise: Pull one knee to your chest and slowly lie back onto the table, keeping the knee pulled into your chest. If you take a look at the stretching leg, it should be in line with or below the level of the table. If it is higher than that, this indicates tightness in your hip flexors. If, when you bend the leg, the thigh rises up, this indicates tightness in the quads, specifically the rectus fermoris.

Allow the stretching leg to hang off the table, gently pressing the knee downwards without letting the back arch. If possible, get someone to push down gently on the top of the knee.

If you have a helper, you can also try a PNF stretch technique called contract and relax, where you push your thigh up against their hand for five seconds and then relax, which should enable you to increase the stretch.

To stretch the quadriceps, the heel needs to go back towards the buttock. Get your helper to hold your knee in place and manually bring your heel backwards. Remember, this stretch should not cause pain - just tolerable discomfort.


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Discuss this article

Hi

would it be possible to upload pictures alongside this article.  I'm never sure whether I'm doing something right when I try to follow the text

Mike


Posted: 09/01/2011 at 15:33

I agree. I don't understand the instructins for the first excercise.
Posted: 10/01/2011 at 14:07

Hi folks,

Will see what I can do - the exercises come from Sarah's book so I'll need to get them from the publishers.

We'll do our best!

Alice


Posted: 11/01/2011 at 11:55

Hi

Are these stretches for before running or after running?  Or both?

Thanks

Saffers


Posted: 13/01/2011 at 18:46

Hi Saffers,

they are great to do after running to unwind you or a s a seperate session. However if on eof the areas feels tight please stretch gently before you run once warmed up.

Hope that helps

Sarah


Posted: 18/01/2011 at 16:52

Hi guys,

Firstly, the plank and the  bridge are exercises, not stretches, to be performed as part of your conditioning circuit. Do not stretch off, cool down and then adopt the plank position! (Same applies for backwards walking, warm up exercise not cool down).

Secondly, ref: assisted stretching. If you are aiding a quad stretch push down on the base of the thigh, not on the knee. Pushing on joints for a stretch is a contraindication. A good way of increasing the quad stretch is lying face down, pulling your foot up to your glutes, whilst pushing your hip into the floor, maintaining a natural posture. Try to stretch one muscle group at a time to get fuller flexibility. 


Posted: 19/01/2011 at 11:53

What is a good stretch - pre run - for the lower back.
Posted: 19/01/2011 at 13:57

Carl, it is a strange article when 3 out of the 5 injury beating stretches aren't stretches at all.


Posted: 19/01/2011 at 14:03

the bridge and the plank are standard yoga poses:

here are some pics:

http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/472

http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/470


Posted: 20/01/2011 at 10:26

I find pilates is great for general stretching, core strength and also getting rid of a hangover. Foam rolling works very well also (but nort as good for hangover).
Posted: 20/01/2011 at 14:36

Quick video of Thomas stretch from a newbie:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmGayCLyIC0

 Hope this helps...


Posted: 02/03/2011 at 15:38

just broke the table attempting the thomas stretch-glad i wasn't trying anything more adventurous!
Posted: 19/04/2011 at 21:49

That made me laugh fimakzee!  I think I'll leave the Thomas Stretch well alone until visual guidance is available.

Cheers.


Posted: 20/04/2011 at 08:38

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