Modified hurdler stretch

You may remember the hurdler stretch from PE class, sitting on the grass with your bent knee twisted behind you. Fitness folks now know that that extreme position can put a lot of stress on your knee. I hope you find this modification more comfortable and less risky. You also get the added benefit of stretching your back and calf muscles, too.

This stretch is more comfortable and effective to perform by using the aid of a towel or stretching strap (see Chapter 2 for more details on straps).

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Sit on the floor with your right leg straight out in front of you, your left leg bent inward at a comfortable angle, and your arms to your sides (see Figure 7-8a).

2. As you exhale, hinge forward at the hip, keeping your right leg straight and your foot relaxed.

3. Reach forward toward your toes as far as you can without bending your knee.

If your right knee begins to bend or your upper back begins to tighten and get tense, you have gone too far. See Figure 7-8b for a visual of this stretching motion. You can also imagine your tailbone moving toward the back of the room and your heel reaching toward the front of the room. This visualization should help you lengthen the back of your leg from both directions. Your tailbone should be reaching back as you hinge forward at the hips.

4. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Deepen the stretch with each breath by tilting your pelvis back, lifting your chest, and flexing your foot so your toes are moving toward your shoulders.

5. Switch sides and repeat the same stretch on your other leg.

Figure 7-8:

The modified hurdler stretch that doesn't hurt your knees.

Figure 7-8:

The modified hurdler stretch that doesn't hurt your knees.

If you have trouble keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed, try hooking a towel or stretching strap (described in Chapter 2) around the ball of your foot and then gently pulling on the ends of the towel/strap. Don't get discouraged if your chest is nowhere near your leg. As long as you're feeling a good deep stretch in the back of your thigh, you're doing great!

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

i Do gently hinge forward at your hips with your eyes looking forward. i Do keep your knee straight, and try to keep the back of your knee on the floor. i Do keep your back straight, not rounded, and don't tense your shoulders. i Don't bounce or force the stretch.

i Don't look down at your knee; look at the floor in front of your toes.

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