If I can sneak a stretch into whatever I’m doing, I’m thrilled. That’s why you can find me stretching my calves against my kitchen cabinets when I do the dishes or getting into the butterfly stretch when I’m sitting on the floor. My latest favorite two-for-one? A figure-four squat.
This one’s an actual workout move that’s half-strength training, half-butt stretch. “Figure-four squats are great for balance, strength, and coordination, and have a not-so-hidden stretch naturally built in,” says Rebecca Kennedy, Peloton master tread instructor. And the figure-four stretch just so happens to be the best stretch that you can do, according to a stretch expert—so what better way to spend your time than to loosen up those always-tight hips as you strengthen your glutes?
The exercise is what you’d imagine—you’re getting into the classic stretch while standing, but leaning back into a squat. To nail it, start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart. “Lift your right knee to hip height, externally rotate, and cross your right shin over your left thigh,” says Kennedy, noting to make sure your ankle isn’t on your thigh because that would sacrifice your hip and glutes. “Before you begin the squat, flex your right foot to protect both your ankle and knee from injury,” she says. This also helps engage your glute and prevent stress on your knee and ankle joints. “From the front, it should look like a figure-four with your legs. Stand tall and inhale as you lower into a single leg squat, then exhale to relax your glute, where you should feel the stretch,” says Kennedy. Exhale as you stand back up. Her tip is to try getting in three to five reps, taking about eight to 10 seconds per rep. Keep scrolling for what to keep in mind for proper form.
1. Stay upright: To get the most out of the move, Kennedy says it’s key to keep your chest up and your standing leg shin on the same angle. This is rather than “lay your chest over your thigh,” which is a common mistake that takes away from the stretch.
2. Find a focal point: It’s not easy to load into a single-leg squat. To help with your balance, Kennedy recommends finding a focal point “four to 10 feet away from you on the floor.” You should also make sure not to drop your chest too low, twist your body, or lift any part of your standing foot as you lower into the squat.
3. Keep your foot flexed: “It’s crucial to keep that elevated foot flexed for joint protection,” says Kennedy. Also key? Exhale and relax your right glute as you get into your squat so that you’re actually benefitting from the stretch.
4. Modify if needed: Kennedy shares that you can modify the squat by limiting how deep you bend, or by holding onto something lightly for balance. And, whatever you do, don’t forget to breathe.
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