The couch stretch is one of those all-star mobility exercises that the majority of modern humans could benefit from.
It’s no secret that having mobile hips is one of the foundations for efficient movement and performance in pretty much any sport or physical activity.
But if we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or driving a car around, things inevitably get stiff down there (not like that).
Enter the couch stretch.
The brainchild of the Godfather of Movement & Mobility, Kelly Starrett, the couch stretch is one of the biggest bang for your buck exercises when it comes to improving overall hip mobility and pelvic alignment.
Today, we’re going to through the couch stretch in detail, and take a look at a follow along hip mobility routine that incorporates the drill.
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Releases tight hip flexors
Prolonged sitting leaves the hip flexors chronically shortened, which can interfere with your normal movement mechanics and result in an anterior pelvic tilt. The couch stretch is one of the most effective ways for releasing this tension through the quads and hip flexors, and restoring normal function at the hip.
Improves glute activation + power
Our old nemesis Mr. Sitting also does a good job at making the glutes sleepy, amking it hard to feel that connection when walking/running/lifting. When done correctly, the couch stretch reactivates those bad boys, reinforcing a more stable position and giving us access to more power from the posterior chain.
Potential pain management
Pain is a complex beast and isn’t always related to positioning. But there are times where lower back pain, for example, is at least partly caused by an overly anteriorly rotated pelvis. By recalibrating our resting position, the couch stretch can potentially help to release that tension in the low back and ease some of the pain.
Easy to scale
The couch stretch is brutal, but the good news is that there are are many progressions and regression of the drill that can we can use regardless of your current mobility level – from the basic hinged version, to more advanced banded variations.
Below I’ve listed five variations of the couch stretch you can play with, along with common faults to look out for.
For each exercise, you can either hang out in the position passively for 1-3 minutes, or you can do contract-relax/PNF style stretching. I suggest the latter.
After some great feedback on Reddit, some peeps are struggling to get into version one of the couch. That’s no problem! Here are a few drills you can perform to break down the position and loosen things up:
Version 1: The Low Couch Stretch
Version 2: The High Couch Stretch
Version 3: The Twisting Couch Stretch
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Version 4: The Leaning Couch Stretch
Version 5: The Banded Couch Stretch
Common Couch Stretch Faults:
In the following images I’ve demonstrated a few of the most common faults that pop up with the couch stretch:
Image 1 – I’ve placed my knee too far from the wall and I’ve let my foot drop in towards my body (external rotation at the hip). Ideally we’re looking to keep the knee in that junction, and the foot aligned straight out behind us.
Image 2 – I’ve let my core and left glute switch off, which puts me in an overextended position with the ribs flared and an excessive curve in the low back. It appears I’m ‘deeper’ into the stretch, but that’s only because I’ve compromised my position.
In the following routine, we start with a quick check in, assessing how the hips are moving and if there are any differences from side to side.
We then jump in with some tasty release techniques to free up the lower back and hip flexors.
It’s then time to play with one of my all time favourite mobility drills, Kelly Starrett’s couch stretch, before finishing things off with some core compression work.
This is actually sample routine from my online course Mobility RESET, which is included in the Hero App.
You can find out more here
So there we have it – 5 variations of the infamous Mobility WOD couch stretch. Go forth, open up those hips, and let me know how you get on (or if you have any questions) in the comments section below.
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