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One Stretch to Rule Them All

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By: Jacob Wellock

Hey you guys, I thought that I would share with you all my favorite stretches of all time and why it is my favorite stretch. The “Seated Straddle” or “Pancake” stretch or Russian torture stretch when your gymnastics coach lays on you when you are a kid until you feel like your limbs are going to snap off stretch (I was that kid). This stretch is like Frodo’s ring in Lord of the Rings to the health and fitness world (IMHO), one stretch to rule them all. To the point. This stretch will benefit the following:

  1. Hips
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Lower Back
  4. Adductors

Do you want functioning limbs? Of course, you do. Here’s what happens if these areas get all jacked up.

The Hips: The ball and socket is supposed to move in big ranges of motion and if it can’t, you won’t be able to sit/stand correctly, open legs, it will break away at the soft tissues which will lead to arthritis. The femur and the pelvic bone will be clashing like the earths tectonic plates and instead of an earthquake, now you have messed up hips.

The Hamstrings: You won’t be able to bend over properly and if you lift weights, you have to bend over for a Snatch/Deadlift/Clean, right? In order to lift heavy weight efficiently (any weight for that matter) and safely you have to have the range of motion, hint: be FUNCTIONAL. So if you can’t do that, a rounded back is bound to happen and under load, well we all know what issues that will lead to.

The Lower Back: This usually is the reason for what stops people from accomplishing what they wanted back in the glory days, like taking state or getting the person of their dreams. It will also strike fear into the hearts of all those who refuse to “pick” anything up in the gym. Yes, some people are very unfortunate and it may well be too late for them to do many movements without pain because of their age or the severity of the issue. But more often than not, in the gym, it’s a younger crowd (20-50) years old who fear the terrifying deadlift or barbell for that matter, which they shouldn’t. When I see MOST people in the gym who say they can’t do a deadlift because the world will end and they show me what their form looks like, if they were going to pick something up, it usually is pretty awful. Therefore, they are not moving in a FUNCTIONAL matter, and if you add up 40 years of bad movement in picking things up, that is a lot of reps where if you were in the gym, the coach would be on you like white on rice. But don’t fear, it’s not too late. You can feel better and do things that you used to, but you need to be proactive in getting involved in a good strength training program for your lower back and work on flexibility/stability work so you can, and will feel like a new person. But the question is, will you? You know that if your back is jacked up, you are going to find it damn near impossible to do anything, so find a base point with what you can do, and commit to making the change so you avoid things stated above, because guess what? If you don’t do these things, it will only get worse and not better.

The Adductors: Not a lot of people think about these muscles, they are like that kid in dodge ball that gets picked last and you kind of forget about them, but you find out they’re really good. And if they are out of the game, the team will definitely lose. So if you neglect these muscles, guess what? Knee pain. No one likes knee pain, so let’s start with your friends the adductors and go from there. Here’s a little insight to to give you an idea on how they work.

Those bad boys attach to the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) and when they are stiff, they will pull your knee cap over so it’s not tracking correctly and every time you move, sit down, squat, or bend your knee, bad things are happening. Imagine a train coming down the train tracks and all of the sudden it pops up on top of the tracks. It hasn’t quite crashed yet, but if it doesn’t go back to the tracks, it’s not looking good. So if it doesn’t come back to ride the tracks how it should, disaster is bound to happen. Your knee is somewhat similar, but with a little less disaster, it’s just your knees hating you and not a whole train going down. Let’s give you a visual on how they affect you.

If you squat and your knees collapse, or if you do a box jump and your knees collapse upon landing, two things are happening. You’re either really stiff or really weak, or both. Your glutes play a role to this as well, but are more than likely not the cause of this issue. The adductors are like the anchor to your ship, if you don’t reel it up, ship’s not going anywhere, no matter how much you want it to. So why wouldn’t you want to work on your adductors, that should be reason enough right?

In conclusion, if you exercise or if you sit on your butt all day, chances are things get pretty stiff and if you don’t do regular maintenance on yourself it WILL lead to issues down the road. Injury and a lack of performance are almost guaranteed for athletes, and if you don’t exercise and you’re stiff, well, you are going to have multiple issues down the road as well. So, the biggest thing to take away from this long-winded post is, you need to stretch more and everyone and their cousin should perform the seated straddle at least once a day for 2-3 minutes at a time. If you only did one stretch ever, which you should do more, you should do this one. Also, don’t ignore the fact that you will need to strengthen and work on stability as well if you want it to be all around healthy, which you should want to. Think of it this way.

Strong full range of motion is like good nutrition. If you neglect it, you are going to end up with lots of problems with things like arthritis and limited ranges of motion which will hinder many activities that you will more than likely want to do. Just like if you eat a Big Mac every day and never eat a vegetable, can you really expect to be healthy? Don’t expect to not have any joint issues if this is how you treat your body. Whether as an athlete or someone who works at a desk all day and all things in between. Be active in the longevity of your body.

With all that said, make an effort to be better, you owe it to yourself.