Fatherhood requires flexibility. Loose muscles relieve pain and offset the imbalances endured from sitting all day. They allow you to crawl, carry, and chase your kids when they’re young, and help you hang with them when they’re finally coordinated enough to shoot hoops or slap some golf balls. What’s more, simple stretching relaxes your muscles and increases the flow of blood and nutrients to your cartilage and muscles, speeding up recovery from your workouts. So yeah, stretching = great.
Chances are, you at least perform some toe-touches, neck rolls, or quad-stretches in the morning. But, do you know what a piriformis stretch is? How about pigeon pose? You should. Here, then, are 10 stretches all guys should know how to do. They attack every part of your body, from neck to calves, to ensure you’re limbered up. Hold each stretch for at least one minute unless otherwise indicated.
Piriformis Muscle Stretch
What it stretches: the piriformis, a small muscle that runs diagonally from the lower spine to the upper surface of the femur
Why it’s important: The piriformis helps the hips rotate and is essential to running, walking, jumping … all of those motions. A tight piriformis can also lead to a chain reaction that can cause pain and problems in the hips, knees, and lower back.
How to do it: Lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor and both knees bent. Pull the right knee up to the chest, grasp the knee with the left hand and pull it towards the left shoulder and hold the stretch. Repeat for each side.
Seated Passive Cervical Retraction (Chin-Tucks)
What it stretches: back of neck, shoulders
Why it’s important: “Your neck is being fatigued from being in bad positions while you look at screens all day,” says Dr. Jason Park, physical therapist and performance specialist at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Even if you try to keep good posture while on your computer or smartphone, your neck will eventually falter. This stretch relaxes the suboccipital muscles that stabilize the head atop your cervical spine and ward off ‘text neck’ that can cause significant tension in the neck and shoulders as well as headaches.”
How to do it: Tuck your chin toward your Adam’s apple, using your fingers to ease your head forward. You should feel a stretch below the back of your head (occiput). Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Hand-Behind-Head Pec Stretch
What it stretches: neck, chest (pecs)
Why it’s important: “This is a key stretch to maintain good posture,” Park says. “You can do these before you get out of bed in the morning, standing at a wall in your office at work, or even while waiting at a stop light in your car. Stretches are most effective when performed frequently throughout the day.”
How to do it: Lie on your back with your palms supporting your skull. Take a deep breath and move your elbows towards the floor, expanding your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 15 times. Alternatively, perform this stretch while standing with your back against a wall.
Shoulder Dislocate Stretch
What it stretches: chest, shoulders
Why it’s important: “The name of this stretch makes it seem much more aggressive than it actually is,” says Raphael Konforti, Youfit Health Clubs’ fitness education coordinator. “Hunching forward to type has left most men with shoulders that are rolled forward. Aside from looking hunched over, this leaves you much more vulnerable to shoulder injuries and neck pain. This stretch will reverse all that and open up the chest.”
How to do it: Hold a light bar or PVC pipe, stick, resistance band, or long towel with a wide grip so that your hands are in line with your hips. Keeping your elbows straight and your spine neutral, slowly bring the bar overhead and behind your back. Reverse direction and bring the bar back toward your thighs. Repeat for one minute. Adjust the intensity of this stretch by moving your hands further apart (easier) or closer together (more difficult).
Hanging Lat Stretch
What it stretches: lats
Why it’s important: “Tight lats are one of the most common contributors to shoulder and neck pain,” Konforti says. “This will relax your shoulders and decompress your spine to provide an awesome feeling of relief.”
How to do it: Grab a pull-up bar, keeping your feet on the floor. Slowly sink down until you feel a stretch in your lats. Hold. To intensify the stretch, raise your knees to pick your feet up off the floor.
What it stretches: spine, hips, neck
Why it’s important: “If certain portions of the spine don’t move well, the weight and stress of the body is shifted to other segments, which can lead to pain and injury,” Park says. “This stretch mobilizes each vertebral segment while also teaching your body to control the spine through its entire range of motion.”
How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees below your hips. Breath in and round your back toward the ceiling, tucking your chin and tailbone in. Breath out and drop your belly down toward the floor, stretching your neck long and looking up. Alternate between rounding up (cat) and arching (camel). Repeat 20 times.
Seated Piriformis Stretch
What it stretches: piriformis, glutes
Why it’s important: “Too many hours spent standing and sitting in static positions creates tightness in the hip external rotators, including the piriformis and glute muscles,” Park says. “Opening up these muscles will lessen tension on your lower back and knees by bringing you into good alignment.”
How to do it: Sit in a chair with your back straight. Place one leg over the knee of your other leg, making a figure-four position with your legs. Move your elevated knee down toward the floor so your shin is parallel to the ground. Hold, then switch sides. Deepen the stretch by slowly bending your torso over your legs, moving your belly button in the direction of your elevated knee.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Against a Wall Stretch
What it stretches: quads, hip flexors
Why it’s important: “This stretch should be called the ‘anti-chair,’ ” Konforti says. “It relaxes the quads and hip flexors to undo all the hours of sitting hunched over laptops.”
How to do it: Facing away from a wall, kneel down so your left knee is on the floor about 10 inches away from the wall and your left toes touch the wall. Move your right foot on the floor in front of you so that is directly below your right knee. Lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Hold, then switch sides.
What it stretches: hips, glutes
Why it’s important: “Pigeon pose is one of the best ways to tackle tight hips and glutes,” Konforti says.
How to do it: Start in a plank position. Lift your right leg and bring your right knee forward toward your chest. Lower yourself down, keeping your chest puffed out and positioning your right knee beneath your chest. Then, lower your upper body down over your right leg until you feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold, then switch sides. Ultimately, your forward shin should be perpendicular to your torso.
Calf Wall Stretch
What it stretches: calves
Why it’s important: “Your entire body rests on your ankles so if the ankles are tight, other parts of your body will try to make up for it, which is a cause of injury,” Konforti says.
How to do it: Place the ball of your right foot about 12 inches up on a wall. Press your right heel towards the wall, sliding your foot down until your heel touches the ground. Hold, then switch sides.