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3 Stretches to Start Your Day Off Right

For most of us finding time to do all the things that we should do can be quite challenging. So it should be refreshing to hear that you can do these 3 stretches every morning in under 5 minutes! We do each of these stretches as part of the warm up during most of our classes in our Hoole dojo.

They're perfect for karate folk and non-karate folk alike and they'll help to make sure that your hips stay in tip top condition!

The first and most important stretch to do every morning is the couch stretch. This is a fantastic stretch for the quads and hip flexors. If you spend all day sitting down then this stretch is practically compulsory to avoid many of the chronic problems associated with long term sitting! Back pain, knee pain and hip pain can often all be traced to tightness in the front of the hip and if you want to be able to walk spritely around Chester's walls then this stretch is a must.

The couch stretch - note that the back leg must be against the wall

The second stretch is a great way to open out your hips, it's called the frog and it will really target the inside of the thighs. These have a tendency to become very tight because many of us don't properly use our hips and our adductors become used to taking the strain when stabilising our pelvis. The frog should be completed by gently rocking backwards towards the heels and forwards towards the elbows, this rocking helps to stretch the whole adductor complex rather than just a single part of it.

The frog stretch - notice that the feet are flexed and the butt is pushed towards the heels

The last stretch in your morning circuit, is the pigeon stretch. This is a classic yoga position, and one of the most popular because it is so effective at loosening off the outside edge of the hip. Similar to the adductors above, the outside of the hip can become over-used stabilising the pelvis because many of us are unable to properly do so. When in the pigeon try to work towards getting the front foot horizontal. In some cases you may find that the bent leg won't rest flat on the ground and you have to hold your bodyweight in your arms. This is ok - just don't force the hip down. Instead, gently bounce in situ and eventually the muscles in the outside of the hip will relax and the leg will come naturally to the floor. So long as you are getting a decent stretch in the outside of the hip, the front leg can be either elevated or lying flat. A stretch is a stretch is a stretch!

The pigeon stretch - notice that the lead foot is horizontal - this is a better stretch than allowing the foot to drift back towards the opposite hip

And there you have it - 3 stretches that will get you up and about, ready for the day! Spend a minute or so in each one and try to gently rock into and out of stretch so that you can mobilise the hip joint a little. If anything feels uber painful then do less. Stretching should be uncomfortable not agony!

And for those wondering why folks' hips start playing up, and muscles become over-used, the simple answer is that many of us spend far too long sitting down. This makes our gluteus maximus (the big butt muscle) slow down and stop working efficiently, and then all the bad stuff happens! These 3 stretches, done daily will keep your hip girdle ticking over nicely.

Give them a go and see how you feel!

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