11 Unique Moves That Stretch and Massage Hard-to-Reach Muscles So Good
Whether or not you’re crushing HIIT workouts as often as you’re tossing back summer beers, stretching and self-myofascial release are critical for a well-operating body. Since most of our days are spent hunched over a computer and sad office lunches, stiff joints and tight muscles are part of the norm. That’s where mobility comes in.
“Mobility is something that will improve your overall fitness goals and daily activities,” says Daury Dross, lead instructor at the Fhitting Room in New York City. “I myself have three bulging discs in my back from a car accident and was told I could never do back-loaded squats. Incorporating exercises like these into my daily stretching routine changed that and made me feel great again.”
Bonus? Dynamic stretching amps up blood flow and can even help power muscles for better performance.
We tapped Dross for some unique moves that’ll reach those hard-to-hit (but always sore) muscles. Check them out to limber up.
Targets: Shoulders and Lats
Start lying facedown, arms at sides elevated above glutes with palms facing up. Swing arms toward the top of head, rotating palms so that at the top of the movement, they’re facing down toward the floor. Return to starting position for one rep. Repeat for 4 sets of 12 reps.
2. Calf Massage
Targets: Calves (of course!)
Forget the typical lean-against-a-wall calf stretch. The next time your calves are screaming, try this instead. Start in tabletop position, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Place left knee on top of right calf. Starting in a clockwise direction, press knee gently into calf muscle and make small circles to massage. Switch direction. Repeat for 3 sets of 30 seconds on each leg.
3. Dynamic Side Lunge
Start in a wide stance with toes angled out. Send hips back and shift all your weight to the right side, lowering into a side lunge. Allow left toes to come off ground and point up. Push through right heel to shift weight to left side, then repeat on the opposite side for one rep. Complete 3 sets of 30 seconds of continuous movement.
4. Cross-Leg Stretch
Targets: Hip Flexors and Inner Thighs
It may look a little funny, but it works. Start lying faceup. Draw knees to chest then cross legs over one another while simultaneously grabbing your ankles with opposite hands. Pull both legs toward your chest and out until you feel the stretch in your hips and legs. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 sets.
5. Frog Stretch
If you've got tight hips, this one can be a killer—in a good way. Start on all fours on a cushioned surface like a yoga mat, rug, or grass, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Spread knees wider than hip-width apart, turning toes out. Slowly send hips back between feet to feel a stretch deep in hips. If it's too intense, support more of your body weight with your hands and upper body, and ease back slowly until you gain more flexibility. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat for 3 sets.
6. Hamstring Sit-Back
Targets: Hamstrings, Calves, and Hips
Start on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Extend left leg straight out to left side with toes pointing up. Send hips back to right heel, shifting all your weight to the right side. You should feel a stretch along the back of your left leg. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for one set. Complete 2 sets.
7. Hip Opener
Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders and core tight. Bring left foot outside left hand, then weave your hand around the back of the foot and place it on the left side (this helps you go deeper than a traditional hip-opening stretch). Lean into left hip by shifting weight toward the left side while keeping your right foot in place. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.
8. Origami Stretch
Targets: Chest, Shoulders, Lower Back, and Quads
Fold yourself into new shapes to feel a deep stretch. Start in a seated position with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Cross right leg over left knee, placing left foot on the floor. Grab hold of right knee, then lean back to lie down, pulling right knee with you (drop right shoulder for a deeper stretch). Then, bend at the knee to grab left ankle and bring it toward glutes for a quad stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.
9. Lower Back Knee Drop
Targets: Lower Back
Start in a seated position with knees bent and heels on floor in front of you. Place hands behind you, palms down, fingertips facing glutes, with a slight bend in elbows. Drop both knees to left side, stacking them at the bottom of the movement. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.
10. Piriformis Massage
The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep behind the glutes (making it hard to reach) that connects the lower spine to the femur, functioning at the hip. Start in a seated position with legs outstretched in front of you. Using right hand, pull your left knee up toward chest and cradle it in right arm like a baby. Your shin should be parallel to floor. Stretch left arm straight out to left side and rest fingertips on floor as you gently lean back and to the left onto the upper/outer portion of glutes. Roll around in a circular motion here until you feel the pressure on the piriformis. If you're tight, you'll know it when you feel it! Once you find it, roll around on it for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.
11. Wide-Step Hamstring Stretch
Like your usual hamstring stretch but with a twist. Start with feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Cross right foot over left as far as possible (there should be a gap between feet). Hinge at hips to bend over and reach for right toes. Lower as far as possible, and if you have the flexibility to keep your legs straight, that will maximize the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat with left leg for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.
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