When you sit in excess during the week, your joints, muscles, tendons, and fascia adapt to the position and keep you from moving freely, explains Alex Zimmerman, CSCS, LA-based director of Equinox’s Tier X program. Your hip flexors, in particular, become shorter, weaker, and tighter.
While you might be itching to start your long run as soon as the weekend rolls around, it’s important to open your hips and improve mobility in their tissues first, he says. Fortunately, you’ll only need five minutes to complete the equipment-free hip-opening routine below.
Get into modified plank position (forearms on floor, elbows under shoulders, core engaged), with knees bent out to sides at hip level (or as close to 90 degrees as possible). Hold frog stretch for about 1 minute, focusing on your breathing and allowing yourself to relax in the position. Keeping foot flexed and knee bent, drive left heel diagonally toward ceiling as you press into palms and shift body forward. Shift back to start, then switch legs and repeat for 1 rep. Complete 6 reps, trying to get a little deeper into the stretch as you go.
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step back, keeping the back leg relatively straight, and bend your front knee while reaching up over your head, keeping your arms straight. Press through your front heel to return to standing. Switch sides and repeat for 1 rep. Complete 6 reps.
Start in plank position (palms under shoulders, core engaged, legs extended behind you). Lunge forward with right leg, placing foot just outside right hand. Rotate torso to right as you reach arm straight overhead. Hold this position for about 20 seconds (or less, if you want to make the stretch more dynamic); reverse movement back to start and repeat on other side. Repeat on the opposite side for 1 rep. Complete 4 reps.
Standing tall, bring your right knee up to waist-height to meet your left elbow, then immediately open hip up to the right so that right quad is perpendicular to body. Return to start and repeat on left side for 1 rep. Continue alternating sides for 10 reps. (Note: This is a dynamic exercise that can either be done from a stationary position, or in a forward-progressing skipping motion.) Use natural contralateral arm swing throughout the movement.
Stand tall with your feet wider than shoulder-width, arms hanging straight down in front of you. Keeping your chest up and back flat, squat down, dropping your hips as low to the floor as possible while sliding your arms on the inside of your legs. Shift your bodyweight from left to right to gently press your arm against that side’s knee. Push through your heels to return to standing. Perform 12 reps.