If you did not already read part one and two, do so before going through this post. In part three, here are some stretches that are either done incorrectly (but can be done in a good way) or are just plain bad altogether. Read on!
Hip flexor stretch: While there is a correct way to do a version of this one and a time to do it, this way is definitely not correct. By driving the hips so far forward and hyperextending the low back, you are simultaneously crushing the lumbar vertebrae and discs, and damaging the ligaments in the front of the hip. Both things that you don’t want to do (trust me, you really don’t). We want the pelvis and ribs to be stacked in good alignment with the thigh perpendicular to the floor.
Here is the correct way to do it if needed. Though nowadays I often find that restoring proper breathing mechanics along with a little posterior tilt of the pelvis takes care of most of the tension that people have built up in their hip flexors, this can be beneficial to help get the glutes engaged along with some inhibition of the opposing hip flexors if they remain a problem. Notice how the thigh is perpendicular to the floor and her ribs and pelvis are stacked now, compared to the faulty position above. The glute on the down leg and the abs should both be engaged to assist with the stretch.
Sit and reach stretch: By letting the pelvis tilt and going into excessive lumbar flexion with tension, you are damaging the ligaments at the back of the pelvis and lower spine. Instabilities in the lower back are not fun and you definitely don’t want to create them by doing this. There are some very effective drills that do promote a healthy lumbar flexion for those who are stuck in extension.
This 4 point breathing drill will give you the spine flexion that may be needed in a unharmful manner along with some good breathing to help calm down back tissues that have been stuck in extension. It can also help relax the hamstrings if they have been tensioned up to a faulty pelvic position (as mentioned in part one and two). Tuck the pelvis under (posteriorly tilt) and push away from the floor so that the back is rounded. You should feel the abs engage. Inhale through the nose and feel your back “expand” as you get air in. Hold the position as you exhale through your mouth
Hyperextension stretch: Similar to the “hip flexor” stretch mentioned above, this stretch wreaks havoc on the lumbar spine. Do I really need to explain after looking at this horrific picture? Most people are stuck in extension to begin with and if for some reason they did need some, this is definitely not the way to do it.
Better option: Umm, just don’t do it 🙂
Seated Adductor stretch: Your knee ligaments don’t like this one. ‘Nuff said.
Should your adductor (s) need opening, use this adductor mobe stretch as its much safer on your knees and also has better effects through the hips. Although, we usually use this as a dynamic mobilization, this position can be held for time as well. Notice how her back is in a neutral position as she sits back into her hips with her right leg relaxed out to the side.
Foot to head stretch: Common theme: The passive structures of the low back do not like this. I put this on here because I used to see people do this at a gym I used to work at and it drove me nuts. If you are doing something similar as part of a backward roll drill, thats one thing but simply torquing yourself here is going to cause more problems than you want.
Better option: Try the 4 point breathing drill mentioned above if some restoration of spinal flexion is what you are after.
Avoid these body and ligament hating stretches and you will thank yourself. If not today, maybe tomorrow or a few years down the road. Train hard and train smart. Hope you enjoyed the series.