Turns out, a loose muscle is a strong muscle
Like most guys, I hated stretching. Why waste time sitting around when I could cram in more lifting?
It hurt to learn that I was wrong—throbbed like hell, actually. I hurt my hip doing a leg workout and going running the same day, and had to shut down.
I called Doug Kechijian, D.P.T., of Resilient Performance Physical Therapy in New York City. A stretching expert, he told me that everyone has imbalances and mobility restrictions. We sit too much and don’t put our bodies into enough different positions.
His prescription? Ten minutes a day of mobility moves.
They felt more like kung fu than calisthenics. Take the modified pigeon stretch.
“Most people stand with their hips shifted to the right, which causes their left hip to tighten up,” Kechijian says. This pose helps redistribute that weight.
As I sank into it, the painful area in my hip felt like it was being pulled apart—in a good way.
Other moves seemed meant for contortionists. Instead of reps, each was done for a series of extremely deep breaths, a signal for your body to release muscle tightness.
I felt relief after the first day, so I kept the circuit up. On gym days it was my warmup. On rest days, I did it in the office or at home in front of the TV. I ignored the odd looks from my coworkers and girlfriend, who dubbed Kechijian “the witch doctor.”
It was totally worth it. Within a month my pain was a memory. I was maneuvering my body into positions I’d never dreamed of reaching, like a deep squat.
Being more limber allowed me to use better form and build new muscles, but I’ll let my PRs speak for me: I soon doubled my pullup and pushup numbers to 15 and 50, respectively, and I could run 1 ½ miles in under nine minutes.
Then one night, as I sank into the pigeon pose, I noticed my girlfriend staring at me. “Damn, the witch doctor got you jacked,” she said.
Want to get mobilized? Try the four stretching moves below. You need just 10 minutes. That’s not a tough stretch.
Here’s how to do it: Perform each exercise every day for the prescribed time or number of reps. Do them before your workout on training days, and intermittently throughout your workday or while winding down on your rest days, says Doug Kechijian, D.P.T., who created this routine.
Counterweight Deep Squat
Grab two light dumbbells and place a foam roller between your thighs. Push your knees forward and then squat until your butt is just above the floor. (Use the lightest weight that allows you to achieve this position.) Try to round your spine by “tucking” your pelvis.
From that position, take 5 long, deep breaths. Stand back up. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 to 5.
Assume a half-kneeling position with your back knee close to a box or wall; your back shin should be roughly parallel to the box or wall. You may need to hold on to something at first.
Hold the position for 1 to 2 minutes as you contract the stretched leg’s hamstring. Repeat with your other leg.
Get down on all fours and place a pillow or foam roller under your left knee. Lift your right knee and place it behind and to the left of your left calf. Rock your hips back and forth for 2 minutes.
You should feel your left hip stretch. Switch sides and repeat.
Hang from a pullup bar. Squeeze your glutes to slightly tilt your pelvis forward. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out as much air as you can—you should feel your lats stretch. Take 5 deep breaths. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 to 5.