Posted March 20, 2015

Fix These Stretches and Positions to Improve Your Health and Performance

Today’s guest post comes from Matthew Ibrahim, owner and operator of Mobility 101 blog and Fix Your Mobility account on Instagram. He’s a trainer and physical therapy assistant in Medford, MA.

How often during stretching are you actually thinking about whether or not what you’re doing is correct? A few “classic” stretches immediately come to mind.

Do you actually consider the positions you stay in for most of your day? Think about when you’re standing, sitting and even texting on your phone.

I think it’s time we take a closer look into fixing these common stretches and positions. Let’s face it: you’re only going to continue stacking dysfunction on top of dysfunction if your stretches and positions aren’t performed correctly with proper posture and form.

I’ve seen poor stretching and positioning for too long, which is why I deliberately started a new series called #FixYourMobility (follow along on my Instagram) for this very reason: fix your stretches, mobility drills and positions, and in turn, help alleviate problems while improving your overall health and performance.

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In addition to this new series, I will also be providing an interactive movement-based Mobility & Recovery Workshop, which will be all-encompassing with respect to proper stretching and mobility drills, injury-prevention techniques related to posture and positioning, along with recovery strategies. If you’re near the Boston area, be sure to check it out. It will be taking place at Athletic Evolution in Woburn, MA on March 21st.

COMMON STRETCHES GONE WRONG AND HOW TO FIX THEM

 

1.) Static Half-Kneeling Hip Stretch

When was the last time you saw someone at the gym taking a knee and leaning forward excessively to “stretch their hips” in a static position for a long period of time (i.e., 30 seconds)? If you see someone in the gym doing this right now, you have my full permission to go over and stop that person!

[Note — I know what you’re thinking: I’m performing a similar movement in both the above and below pictures. The only difference: the above photo was taken while I was coaching a group exercise class through their warm-up mobility routine. The specific mobility drill was the “Spiderman Lunge”, where the target is to continuously move from a right forward lunge into a left forward lunge for the desired amount of repetitions, while only holding the stretch for 2-3 seconds each time.]

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However, in the above image, the majority of my static half-kneeling hip stretch is coming from me primarily hanging out in my left hip joint, which isn’t a desirable stretch to hold for a long duration of time.

In the below video, I describe a better way to approach this stretch with a few simple cues:

 

Goal: hold this stretch for 30 seconds per side for 2-3 rounds.

 

2.) Shoulder (Posterior Capsule) Stretch

I’m sure you’ve seen this stretch before somewhere, and if you haven’t, you’ve clearly been living under a rock for quite some time.

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All joking aside, this stretch isn’t that bad. However, it’s the lack of execution and improper form that gives it a bad rap.

Check out the video below to learn how you can get the same benefits, but with improved form and an added “more bang for your buck” bonus:

Goal: hold this stretch for 20 seconds per side for 2-3 rounds.

 

3.) Neck/Upper Trap Stretch

I think the stretch in the image below does the most damage to our body when executed poorly as shown.

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Consider, if you will, the amount of shearing forces (depicted below) we would be producing along our vertebral column in our cervical (neck) spine when performed too aggressively with a bad set-up. It’s not pretty.

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More often than not, people will crank down excessively here without giving much thought to how it affects the surrounding structures.

Instead, view the video below to not only learn the proper set-up, but to also get another added “more bang for your buck” bonus stretch incorporated:

Goal: hold this stretch for 15 seconds per side for 2-3 rounds.

 

4.) Glute/Hip Rotators Stretch

You’ll see a lot of people taking a liking to the classic “knee under chest” stretch shown below. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this stretch at all. In fact, it’s one of my favorites.

However, there’s a way we can advance this stretch for added benefits in the hip and glute regions.

Check out the video below to learn how:

Goal: hold this stretch for 30 seconds per side for 2-3 rounds.

COMMON POSITIONS WITH BAD POSTURE AND HOW TO FIX THEM

 

1.) Seated Desk Position

All too often we see poor positioning at the computer desk for prolonged periods of time.

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Just imagine how your back and neck feel? They’re in those positions for anywhere from 6-8 hours each day. We need to reinforce proper form to unglue ourselves from these bad positions.

I’ve provided a video below that goes over five simple fixes for you to focus on when correcting your positioning while sitting at the computer desk:

  • Slide your chair forward
  • Pull the computer screen closer toward you
  • Sit up taller and more erect
  • Prop the computer screen up on a textbook closer to eye level
  • Keep your elbows close and tucked toward your sides


 

2.) Texting Position

Everyone texts. Constantly. Everywhere. All of the time.

It’s a fact that we can’t deny and an act that will only get worse. We can’t change that. However, what we can change is how we position ourselves to protect our spine.

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Rather than continuously hunching forward to crank out a few text messages, instead check out the video below to learn how you can better position yourself.

Also, keep in mind that this poor hunched over position becomes even more exaggerated when in a seated position. However, you can still incorporate the same fixes as explained below:

3.) Standing Position

 

You’re anxiously waiting in the elevator to get to your floor and you’re leaning up against the wall.

You’re impatiently waiting in line at Starbucks for your coffee and begin leaning your body into one side with the added “hand on the hip” to show your frustration.

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We see examples of poor standing postures everywhere. The list could go on and on.

However, we can work to fix these poor positions through a couple simple cues that require very little effort.

I explain more in detail in the video below, so give it a view to learn more:

Be sure to change sides every few minutes in order to remain unglued into any particular position for too long.

About the author:

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Matthew Ibrahim is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Aide with an evidence-based approach to human movement, biomechanics and injury-prevention, and is knowledgeable on how each area impacts performance in sports and life. He delivers training methods that are aimed at bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance through proper movement education and basic human maintenance. Feel free to read more at www.mobility101blog.com and follow ‘Mobility 101’ on Facebook and Twitter.