How do a make a stretch easier or more challenging?

I find that whether I’m teaching beginners or advanced students, the questions that I always get are; how do I make this easier and how do I make this more challenging. My goal is to give you some methods that I use to get the answers to those questions. In other words I will teach you how to fish rather than just feeding you fish for dinner.

Searching Exercise

This is one of my favourite exercises I do to find new stretches or variations of stretches I already know.

One thing to keep in mind is that everyone is going to feel a stretch differently based on where they are more or less tight. You’re always going to feel it where you are tighter. Once you release one area of tightness you will feel the stretch move to a new part of your body.

For the searching exercise you will go thru 6 different positions; standing, forward fold, lunge, sitting, on your front, and on your back. In each position I want you to explore ways that you can place your body to achieve a stretch somewhere. You don’t need to have a pre-planned thing you’re trying to stretch just find a position where you feel a stretch and then explore. Different ways to explore could be; moving a different body part, pointing or flexing a wrist or ankle, creating tension in different directions, applying different types or stretching (PNF, ballistic, assisted). I recommend keeping a note pad available for when you come across something good.

Standing

Let’s start with a standing sequence to get you started. The easiest thing to do is by just trying to do circles with each joint that you can while you’re standing. Arm circles, wrist circles, hip circles, ankle circles. For your neck I suggest only doing half circles to the front unless you’ve been instructed on how to properly move in the back half of the circle.

Forward Fold

Try going into each of the following positions and play with weight distribution, direction of tension, pointing vs flexing if appropriate, twisting, head position, and using gravity.

  •  feet wider than hips (like in the photo)
  •  feet hip width
  • feet together
  • one foot in front of the other
  •  triangle – both feet facing forward, feet as far apart as you can while still keeping both feet flat
  •  legs crossed

Lunge

This place to start is the standard lunge position. However you can also do a side lunge, you can do a standing lunge. You can do a lunge as a strength training exercise stepping forwards or backwards into it.

I like to play with different variations of the lunge a lot. Variations I love to use are; the two in the photos to start with, elbows on the ground, and back leg bent grabbing the foot. Even within those positions there are many variations.

Sitting

Once we get down to the ground it’s much easier to play with passive stretches. You no longer have to stabilize yourself as much as the first three positions. That doesn’t mean that we only do passive stretches once we’re on the ground, it just means they are more easily accessible.

There are, once again, many different positions that you can be in sitting. You can be in a straddle like in the photos. You can be in a pike with your legs together. You can have your legs crossed. You could be in a butterfly position with the soles of your feet touching.

On Your Front

I tend to focus on middle split hip openers and back stretches once I get to being on my front. That said you can still create variations of stretches to target every part of your body.

On Your Back

By the time you make it to your back your nervous system will have been dealing with a lot of sensory overload. Even though you can do some pretty high level stretches on your back I recommend searching for some recovery positions to recovery your body from what you’ve done up to this point.

For a more detailed version of this exercise you can sign up for the email list and get a FREE e-book on Progressions and Regressions for Flexibility Training.

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