If you wake up with stiff, tight muscles and wish there was a single simple stretch you could do that would make you feel amazing, you have come to the right video. Here I’m going to show you one simple stretch to do the first thing every single morning to loosen up your hips, back and shoulders that anyone can perform in just seconds.
WHY YOU NEED THIS MORNING STRETCH
The key to understanding the benefits of this morning stretch is to first take a look at what it is we are trying to undo from sleeping. In general, people sleep with their arms down at their sides all night. This will lead to tightness in the lat muscles that can only be relieved with a raising of the arms up overhead and out in front of the body.
1. YOUR HIP FLEXORS
The hip flexors tend to get very stiff and tight as well. This is because, as we sleep, the pelvis sinks into the soft mattress bringing our hips into slight flexion. At no point will the hips reach full extension let alone slight hyperextension, and therefore the need to really bend backwards and get that motion is extremely present when you first jump out of bed.
2. THE THORACIC SPINE
The next spot up the kinetic chain, the thoracic spine, is another place that tends to get stuck in a flexed position from the soft mattress. This is called kyphosis. Not a permanent one mind you, but one that is induced by sleeping on your back for 6, 8, 10 or even 12 hours a night. Spending too much time in this position is sure to create adaptive tightnesses that need to be addressed if you want to feel amazing within the first few minutes of waking.
Throw in the additional factor of a lack of thoracic rotation and you have one more thing you want to be sure you address in order to feel loose and spry. Sleeping on your side does not fix this issue. In general, when you sleep on your side you bring your hips along with you. This lack of differential between the hips and shoulders will do nothing to promote the healthy rotation through the thoracic spine that is needed to keep you feeling fully mobile and loose.
So what do you do? One simple morning stretch that is going to promote proper motion of all the joints mentioned above while at the same time activating the glutes (a chronically underactive muscle group) that can be done by anyone no matter what their age, strength or ability level. All you have to do is lay on the ground and do what is called a bridge reach over.
BRIDGE & REACH OVER: HOW TO / THE BENEFITS
To perform the bridge reach over, bend the knees to about 90 degrees and dig your heels into the ground. Lift your butt up in a normal bridging motion and as you do, reach your right arm up and over your left shoulder (attempting to touch the ground with your hand). You will need to drive extra hard with the glute on the right leg to help you do this. By doing so however, you will find that you reach a level of full hip extension that you simply cannot achieve with a normal hip bridge.
Lower the hips and bring the arm back down to your side and immediately alternate to the opposite arm. Continue alternating reps, 5 to each side for 1-2 sets, and you will feel an immediate difference in how loose your joints and muscles feel. The bridge, as mentioned, will not only activate the glutes and get them to work in concert with the hamstrings but their activation will help you to reach further overhead to promote a better hip extension mobilization.
The thoracic spine extension and rotation is going to be assisted by the distance of your reach. Push up harder with the glutes, reach further with the hand, promote more thoracic extension and rotation of the mid and upper back. Throw in the extra stretch that you’re getting on your lats by the forward and elevated reach of the arm and you’ve got an incredible stretch that you can do every morning that will provide instant relief of stiff, tight muscles.
If you are looking for a complete program that approaches all elements of your training (stretching, training, nutrition, and supplementation) with the same science based approach and want to be able to do it at home without any equipment at all, click on the link below to check out our XERO program at athleanx.com.
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Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.