By Will Lind
Image © Functional Running
Get into your quads and flexor muscles with the couch stretch. You will feel this one as an intense stretch and you should beware to not push too hard too quickly. Apart from reversing general tightness and the muscles shortening caused by sitting, hip extension is critical to quality running form and inflexibility in the hip flexors and quads can cause postural issues and reduce efficiency.
What is hip extension in running? This is the point of your run where the leg with contact still on the ground strides behind the body before the foot lifts and the leg swings through to the front. At the point behind your body your hip flexors are drawn long and taught. In a kind of slingshot type affair once you lift your foot your leg will pull itself forwards then you’ll enter a short anticipatory phase before the foot strikes the ground again.
The Couch Stretch Set Up:
This is similar to your standard lunge type quad and flexor stretch except your rear foot sits up against a wall or on your couch or coffee table. You might want a pillow or folded jumper for your front knee on this one.
You’ll feel this stretch high in the rear leg.
Aim to have a strong, straight torso and feel a quality stretch not to get your shoulder and head back against the wall. The big mistake with this stretch is to lean too far backwards and end up with excessive curvature in your lower back. There’s no need for this. Stay straight though your torso to keep this stretch effective and safe. This might mean you only lift your upper body 45 degrees off the ground. So be it. You’ve got plenty of room to improve.
In this picture I’ve actually got a curved lower back. I haven’t given you the best visual but you can see I’ve shifted away from the wall in the next shot to allow me to get a quality, safe stretch in.
It’s easy enough to also shift outwards from the wall and give yourself some breathing space so you can stay aligned.
If you feel lower back pain, stop and try a lesser stretch and correcting any postural slip ups before getting stuck in again.
Your best bet is to spend 3 minutes on each leg. Seek to do this consistently over a few months to really see the improvement.