At the beginning of July, we started a brand new 12 Minute Athlete Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge.
If you missed the introduction post where we talked about the importance of flexibility and how to incorporate stretching exercises into your workout routine, make sure to check it out here.
Throughout the flexibility challenge, we’ll be focusing on one or two muscle groups each week. We’ll talk about why these areas of your body get tight in the first place, why you should be working on loosening them up, and also show you some of the best stretches that help you to increase your flexibility and get bendy.
We’re about to start Week 2, but if you’re joining us just now, don’t forget to check out Week 1 where we talked about stretching hamstrings and calves.
Ahh, all the sitting! There’s a reason why it’s called “smoking of our generation”. It really is that bad for you.
There are many reasons why you should avoid sitting for long hours. One of them is that because the hip flexors are in the flexed position for a long time, they get tight and possibly shorten. If that continues for a long time and you rarely take breaks from sitting to walk and stretch the hip flexors, the tightness can lead to imbalances in the pelvis. That can cause the hips being thrown out of their normal alignment which may eventually lead to knee and hip pain.
Getting up from your desk and walking around for 2-3 minutes after every 30 minutes will help you a lot. Set a timer to remind you if you need to!
If you think back to your last super hard leg workout, you know how sore your quads (the muscles on the front of you thighs) can get. Prolonged sitting, a lot of squatting, stair climbing, and running can also make your quads super tight.
And because the quadriceps muscle attaches to the hip and knee, it affects the function of both of them.
Just like tight hip flexors, tight quads may change the normal position of the pelvis, pulling it down, and as a result, you may develop something called anterior pelvic tilt. Here’s what it looks like: your lower back is arched and your butt sticks out.
Tight quads can also affect the position of knee cap, potentially causing pain in the knees. Strengthening the muscles around the knee area as well as stretching the quads can save you from some really annoying pain.
Five Stretches to Loosen Up Tight Hips and Quads
Below are the five stretches we’ll be working on during this week of the flexibility challenge.
The difficulty of these stretches varies: Level 1 designates the easiest stretches and the Level 5 the most difficult stretches. If you can’t do the Level 5 stretches, don’t worry—work on the easier ones for now, and as your flexibility improves, move on to the more advanced ones.
Hold each stretch for about 30-45 seconds, 2-3 rounds.
Standing Quad & Hip Flexor Stretch
Difficulty level: 1
Start working on your quad and hip flexor flexibility with this basic stretch.
How to do it: Stand on one leg. Bend the other leg, grab the ankle and try to get the heel to touch your butt. Keep the knees close to each other. If staying balanced is hard for you right now, stand close to a wall, table, tree or anything that you can use for support.
If you don’t feel much stretch in your hip flexors, try and push the hip of the bent leg side forward.
Difficulty level: 3
This stretch is one of my favorites and works on the hip flexors, quads and glutes at the same time. As a bonus, you’ll also be stretching your hamstrings with this movement.
How to do it: From a plank position, take a long step forward with right leg, so that your both arms are on the left. If you feel comfortable in this pose, put the forearms down so that you end up in the elbow plank position. Sinking the hips lower will deepen the stretch.
Repeat the same thing with the left leg.
Difficulty level: 4
This is one of the best exercises ever to stretch your hips and glutes. You’ll probably notice you’ll walk differently after doing this pose.
How to do it: From a downward facing dog pose, bring your right knee forward between your hands. Put the right leg down so that the outer side of it is resting on the ground. The left leg is extended behind you. You can keep the torso up or rest it over the knee.
Repeat on the left side.
Advanced Stretches: Lying Quad Stretch and Front Splits
Lying Quad Stretch
Difficulty level: 5
This is more advanced quadriceps and hip flexor stretch.
How to do it: Sit on your heels, then slowly start leaning back to create a deeper stretch in your quads. Eventually, lie down so that your upper back is in contact with the floor.
For some people, just sitting on the heels is a deep enough quad stretch—if that’s you, don’t push it!
Difficulty level: 5
We talked about front splits last week when we focused on hamstring flexibility. But front splits are also great for stretching the hip flexors, so there’s another good reason to practice them.
Remember, don’t jump into this stretch first thing! Be sure to warm up with other stretches beforehand.
How to do it: Get into a lunge position, then slowly slide your front leg in front of you and your back leg straight behind. Keep your chest up and open. Square your hips so that they’re facing forward, then go down as far as you can.
If you want to learn the exact series of stretches I used to be able to do a front split, check out the Split Series in this post.
Flexibility Challenge Week 2 Homework
Here is your homework for Week 2 of the Flexibility Challenge! We will build on the previous week’s homework each week, so you’ll be doing all the stretches from last week as well. We promise that you’ll be way bendier by the end of the challenge!
3-6 days a week:
Hold the stretches from Week 1 and Week 2 for 30-45 seconds, 2-3 rounds.
No need to do every single stretch—just focus on the ones that work best for you. You should be spending about 10-15 minutes a day most days of the week on these stretches.
And remember, if you’re not able to do the advanced stretches yet, don’t stress about it—just keep working on the other stretches and you’ll eventually be able to do them.
Make sure to post all your stretching photos and videos in the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook group to get feedback and support from us and your fellow athletes.