The "couch stretch" opens hips to prevent muscle imbalances. (photo: Leah Woodruff)

The Three Flexibility Stretches You Should Be Doing

Simplify your mobility routine

Leah Woodruff

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It’s no secret: the more efficiently you move, the better you perform. But as trainers and athletes have embraced mobility work, warm-up routines have ballooned to 40 minutes or more. Who has time for that? Plus, too much flexibility can actually hurt performance. “Range of motion without control isn’t any better than being unflexible,” says Doug Kechijian, co-­owner of Resilient Performance Physical Therapy in New York City.

Think of your muscles as rubber bands. When they’re too tight, they can’t function properly. But if they’re overstretched, they’re not strong enough to hold weight or enable spring-like movement. To hit the sweet spot, Kechijian gave us three moves to perform before you begin your workout. And they won’t take more than six minutes. We promise.

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Lat Pullover

Why: Your lats—the muscles at your sides—help you reach higher on a steep rock climb and hold your body upright as you climb and descend hills, Kechijian says. This exercise will open up your shoulder joints and stabilize your center line.

How: Lie on the ground, knees bent and feet flat, and hold a ten-pound dumbbell or kettlebell directly above your chest. Keeping your elbows straight, arc your arms back toward your ears, bringing them as close to the ground as possible. Hold for one breath. Return your arms to the start position and repeat five times.

Inch Worm

Why: This exercise will build stabilizing strength in your core and lower body to increase agility and speed on uneven terrain, Kechijian says. It will also widen the range of motion in your hips, ankles, and lower back.

How: From a plank position, walk your feet toward your hands and raise your hips until your feet are flat. Slowly walk back to the starting position. Do six to eight reps.

Couch Stretch

Why: Open hips keep your form in check and help prevent muscle imbalances, says Kechijian. Do this stretch to maintain a safe, efficient stride when you run, generate more power when you climb, and prevent lower-body pain.

How: Kneel on the ground with your back to the wall or a couch. Pin your left knee ­between the wall and the floor, with your shin running vertically up the wall. Place your right foot in front of you, knee bent 90 degrees. Keep your torso straight and lunge forward slightly. Hold one minute per side.

Want to incorporate yoga into your workout regimen and become a better athlete? Check out our Yoga for Strength & Flexibility online course on Outside Learn, where Outside+ members get full access to our library of more than 50 courses on adventure, sports, health, and nutrition.