We all need a minimum level of flexibility and mobility to go through the day. And most of us have at least just enough to meet the demands of the day.
But over time, steady and limited range of motion activities can create shortened muscles. And shortened muscles can eventually lead to injury.
For example, the hip flexors can become shortened after long periods of sitting or driving a car. Do much of that? Who doesn't?!
Any activity that contracts the hip flexors over a reduced range of motion can cause the hip flexor to shorten. Even weight training exercises repeatedly performed in a shortened range of motion can lead to shortening of the psoas and Iliacus (hip flexors).
Shortened muscles are one the first steps leading to injury.
Tight hip flexors can also lead to diminishment of the lordotic curve of the lumbar spine. A reduction of lordotic curve can impair the spine’s load-bearing and shock-absorption capacity. When the spine cannot function normally, watch out! Tight hamstrings can have the same effect on the lumbar spine as hip flexors.
Another example, tight quadriceps can pull the patella (knee cap) upward, causing it to track abnormally. This can potentially result in a roughening of the underside of the patella leading to pain and inflammation.
The list of tight muscles facilitating imbalances can be endless! But don’t worry, below are a few stretches you can do just about anywhere to help keep your muscles nice and stretched.
Quick note, before stretching it’s a good idea to warm-up. Your warm-up can be passive (hot bath or shower) or active (brief muscular activity).
An active warmup is preferred because it raises your core temperature and the target muscle tissues are less viscous, which facilitates lengthening.
Here's a video featuring one of my FAVORITE PKB warm-ups. Try it before a run or incorporate it into your typical training routine. Let me know what you think!
A few more tips to keep in mind while stretching:
Hip Flexor Stretch
Oblique & Lat Stretch
Inner Thigh (adductor/abductor) Stretch - Two Variations