I professionally stretch people for a living—and this is the best stretch in my arsenal


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Photo: Getty Images/Jacob Lund

A good stretching session makes everything better—you know this. But some days you simply don’t have time to follow along with a YouTube video or list of feel-good exercises. Sometimes all you need to do is set aside a few minutes for just one stretch—and who better to cue you in on the most beneficial move than someone who professionally stretches people for a living?

When you visit Racked Stretch in New York City, you can have a pro stretch you out based on your needs and problem areas. Even with the countless moves the stretching pros have in their arsenal, the Closed Figure-4 hip stretch is the one that always gets overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients.

“The number one stretch that’s been beneficial to every client I’ve seen are our hip stretches. We have a few different variations, but the Closed Figure-4 is definitely number one,” says Hayley Lubow, Racker and training leader at Racked Stretch. “It involves the entity of the hip area—including the joints and muscles—and even starts to get into the connected muscle groups like the hamstrings. Basically, you get a lot of bang for your buck.”

I can attest that the Closed Figure-4 stretch feels ah-mazing, but it does so much more than I realized. “Most of our clients sit at a desk for work, and that crunching of the hips for eight or more hours a day can have devastating results on your posture,” Lubow says. When you have tight hips, it could also lead to lower back pain. It doesn’t help that half the time you might not even realize you have tight hips in the first place, allowing these problems to occur for seemingly no reason.

When you do stretch out your hips—whether you’re already feeling the aftermath of the tightness or not—you’ll instantly get some relief. Doing so opens the hips and helps you feel more comfortable as you go about your day-to-day activities, as well as relieves pressure in your lower back and glutes, says Lubow. If want to reap the benefits of the Closed Figure-4 stretch, here’s exactly how to go about it, according to the pros.

How to do the Closed Figure-4 stretch from anywhere

The great thing about this stretch is that it can be easily modified. “No matter how tight, flexible, non-flexible, or sore you are, it’s possible to modify the Closed Figure-4 stretch,” says Jocelyn Rogiers, training leader at Racked Stretch. You can also do it from anywhere. “It helps relieve lower back tension whether you’re at home, sitting at your desk job, or on a long flight.”

If you’re at home:

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bend your right knee in a right angle and place your right ankle over your left knee with your foot
    flexed.
  3. Interlace both hands under your left thigh and pull your left thigh with your right ankle on top in
    toward your chest. If you find that your back is rounding and your spine isn’t flat on the floor, grab a stretch rope or a towel to wrap under your thigh instead of your hands, giving you more leverage and making the stretch more comfortable.
  4. Gently release your legs down (maintaining this shape) but keep your grip. You’ll need a few more reps for the stretch to really make a difference in your body.
  5. Repeat four to five times then switch sides.

If you’re at your desk:

  1. Sit with upright posture on your chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Lift your right leg up and place your right ankle on top of your left thigh, right above the knee. You can place your
    right hand above the raised knee to get a little more leverage, but be gentle with it.
  3. Start to slowly lean forward with a straight spine. When you find your end range, relax into it for a few seconds then slowly sit back up.
  4. Repeat four to five times then switch sides.

For more recovery, try these yoga moves that feel like a massage:

If you have sore, achy feet (thanks a lot, new winter boots), these yoga foot stretches will help. You can also try this downward dog stretch for a hip stretch that “feels like heaven.”

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