The Role of Stretching

The number one question I get asked in the clinic is “what stretches should I be doing?”. So this week I am going to give three of the most effective stretches for all athletes.

The most important thing to recognise is that runners and athletes usually fall into the same patterns and in turn develop injuries. The most problematic thing for a runner or athlete is a loss of hip extension or a bad stride length.

What is a loss of hip extension and how do we fix it?

A loss of hip extension is when we are restricted in bringing one leg behind the other ( as discussed in the P2P screen last week - check out the video on the tc physiotherapy blog). This is very important to all athletes as it allows us to maintain equal length between the major muscle groups of the leg.

If you have a loss of hip extension this means you have shortened quads and long hamstrings.

  • These shortened quads leads to a shorter stride length and then the calf muscle become an issue as these muscles can neither shorten fully or lengthen fully.

  • So we need to lengthen the quads and calfs and minimally stretch the hamstrings. I know this is going to be contentious in the running community because everyone is obsessed with hamstring stretching, but in my line of work I see people in pain and the vast majority of these people have long hamstrings.

  • The main reason why we get quad shortening is that we spend most of our lives in a seated position. Short quads, calfs and glutes are the common complaints for people that sit all day

The three stretches that I feel are essential are a quad, glute and calf stretch and I don’t think you need a hamstring stretch.

What stretches do we do so

1: Quad stretch on chair - ( if you are a runner that falls forward as you run - you need this)

  • Get into position as seen on pic

  • Make sure to keep up tall and concentrate on taking a deep breath out

  • This exhale is important to get the ribs to come down

  • Hold for 5 breaths x 3 sets

2: Calf stretch - straight leg walk in

  • Start in a press up position

  • With straight knees start walking the feet as far as you can go

  • To increase the stretch and get the heels down - push the palms into the floor

  • Hold 5 breaths x 3 sets

3: Post hip capsule stretch:

  • Place your left foot behind you on a 2 to 6-inch block or step.

  • Keeping both feet flat, slowly shift your left hip back. Keep your weight through your left mid-foot/heel.

  • Rotate your trunk to the left by reaching for your left knee with your right hand. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip (buttock). Pull your left knee in slightly and feel your left inner thigh engage

  • Hold this position while you take 4-5 deep breaths.                    

The role of core training

  • Core training is a key component of runners training

  • The most important muscle to train are the obliques

  • These muscles maintain a good rib position and also a good pelvis position

  • See the pic below on the areas they control




Two of my favourite core exercises are

1: Abs ball roll out

  • Start in a kneeling position with forearms on a swiss ball

  • Arch your back towards the ceiling and tuck your tailbone in underneath

  • Let your pelvis fall towards the ball

  • Then let the arms move forward

  • Hold for 5 breaths x 3 sets

2: Bent knees side plank

  • Bend the two knees to 90 degrees in a sidelying position

  • Keep the bottom knee on the ground and slightly lift the pelvis in the air

  • Straighten the top arm and point towards the ceiling

  • Hold for 5 breaths x 3 sets

Next week I will discuss strength and conditioning and how important is it.

Tommy Conway