After an hour of jamming to Shakira and other artists in your Latin aerobics class, you sit on the classroom floor by the wall with your legs shaking with energy. While you're there, you can do a few simple stretches to relax your hips and legs. The cross-body hip stretch works on your buttocks, lower back and all of your leg muscles. After you do one or two stretches, your legs may feel more sturdy and less like gelatin.
Supine Cross-Body Hip Stretch
The basic cross-body hip stretch can reveal if one side of your body is tighter than the other side. Lie on your back on the ground with your hands out to your sides and your feet together. Turn your hip to your left and bring your right knee on the ground near your ribs with your knee bent at about 90 degrees. Keep your left leg straight and your right shoulder on the ground. Put your left hand on the right knee and hold the stretch for five to six deep breaths. Repeat the stretch on the other hip and leg.
Active Cross-Body Hip Stretch
You can add a little movement to increase knee and ankle mobility. Assume the same position as the basic cross-body hip stretch. With your right knee bent at 90 degrees, extend your right leg as much as you can and flex your right foot. This increases the stretch in your calves and hamstrings. You might even feel it in your buttocks. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and bend the knee back to 90 degrees. Do two sets of six to eight reps per leg.
Supine Brettzel Stretch
The Brettzel stretch not only stretches your hips and legs but it also improves upper-spine mobility, says physical therapist Gray Cook, co-founder of Functional Movement Systems. This full-body stretch combines your lower body and upper body to give you one continuous stretch. Lie on your right side with your left shoulder on top of your right shoulder. Bring your left knee to your ribs and put it on the ground. Bend your right knee and grab your right ankle with your left hand. You should feel a stretch in your right thigh. Take a few moments to breathe and relax your legs. Then take a deep breath and exhale. As you exhale, turn your left shoulder to your left without moving your lower body. Keep your right knee on the ground. When you get to the point where you can't rotate anymore, take another deep breath. As you exhale, turn your torso a bit more. Repeat this steady breathing pattern three to five times.
If one side of your body feels tighter than the other side, do an extra set on the tighter side in every workout until both sides feel relatively equal. When you stretch, do belly breathing rather than chest breathing. If you have hip or back pain or experience pain anywhere while stretching, check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- Functional Movement Systems: Episode 1: Cook-ing the Brettzel
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.