For the immediate future we will continue with our focus on the lower body in preparation for this years Bridge to Brisbane. Of course if you are training for a running event you should not restrict all your stretching to your legs and lower body, to perform at your best you need to keep your entire body stretched and supple. I simply thought a brief focus on some varied and proven stretches for your low back and legs would help keep more of you running. Always Remember - thorough stretching is the key to continued performance ... fail to stretch properly and thoroughly, and you risk missing your event through pain that could have been avoided if you had stretched ... simple!
The stretch for today focuses on the Hip Flexor Muscles, and most directly the Quadriceps Group (Thigh). Most people stretch their quads a lot, but are you doing it effectively? More importantly, are you stretching just your quads and not the deeper hip flexor muscles that can cause considerable pain and dysfunction if neglected?? Did you even know that there are muscles deep in your abdomen that create hip flexion, and are quite integral to running (and even walking) ??? Well there are, and they are called the Psoas (pronounced So-As) and the Iliacus - they always work together and are commonly known as your Iliopsoas !
Failure to stretch these deep hip flexors can create pain in the groin, or the lower abdomen, or the thigh, or even the lower back. All of which can (and probably will if you continue to neglect them) prevent you from running and competing.
Don't ever under estimate the importance of stretching and the benefits it holds.
Essential components of the stretch (to achieve that continuous chain from lumbar spine to knee) are extension at the hip and flexion at the knee. Effectively - extension at the hip will create the stretch on your iliopsoas, and the flexion at the knee will create the stretch on your quads. It is also quite important that the extension at the hip be created by leaning or lunging forward from the hip - you must try to move your pelvis and torso together as 1 object. Dont push your pelvis forward and leave your spine behind - this will create extension at your hip, but it will also create extension through your lower back and this is more likely to lead to injury.
The iliopsoas muscles attach to the Lessor trochanter (or the inside, top of your femur bone) and so extension at the hip will put them on stretch sufficient enough to make a big difference while maintaining safe support for your lower back. If you do include extension at your lumbar spine, the effect of gravity on your upper body can cause you to overextend and sprain your lower back and this would bring on reasonable back ache and possible disc damage.
To maximise the stretch on your quads simply increase the distance between the supporting knee and the forward foot. As a guide, you should aim to have 90 degrees at the knee of your forward leg when you reach stretch on the quads of your supporting leg. Beginners might nee to have their foot and knee a little closer to start, whereas experienced stretchers might step it out a little further ... play with it and see what works best for you. Just always remember to not over-stretch, and always maintain a stable base and don't wobble.
This stretch is beneficial to anyone recovering from a Hip Flexor Strain, an Avulsion Fracture in the Pelvic Area, Iliopsoas Tendonitis, Trochanteric Bursitis, Quadriceps Strain, Quadriceps Tendonitis, and that old pearler that seems to trouble a lot of professional sports people ... Osteitis Pubis.
Always remember that while stretching may be recommended to aid recovery out of injury, you should always be very careful when stretching through rehabilitation. Your soft tissues are likely to be more vulnerable to re-injury if you stretch too much or too hard during this time. Always check with your Health Care Professional who is guiding you through your recovery to make sure it is appropriate to start stretching, and please -ALWAYS FOLLOW THE RULES FOR SAFE STRETCHING (The first posting on this stretching blog).
Image taken from "Lower Body Stretches" wall chart by B. Walker.