Simple Stretching Tips to Correct Common Movement Dysfunction

Vladamir Janda revolutionized human movement and rehabilitation when he described three compensatory movement patterns as a result of pattern overload and static posturing.  Since Janda’s introduction we have continued to learn about hypertonic / hypotonic muscles and the delicate interplay they have on integrated functional movement. Static stretching helps correct dysfunctional movement by elongating shortened tissue. Unfortunately, the manner in which many stretches are performed does not target tissue appropriately.

Muscles operate in a multiplanar fashion. Yet, I find that many stretches we perform being done in a single plane. Unfortunately, when performing stretches in this manner we fail to elongate the appropriate tissue. When stretching we must be cognizant of muscle’s multiplanar function and design our stretching routine accordingly. In so doing, we target the specific tissues that need stretching. Below are simple modifications to traditional stretches. These little changes will make a big difference in our flexibility outcomes.

Adductors

Incorrect technique

Incorrect technique

Proper technique with pelvis posteriorly rotated, foot pointing forward and stretch leg slightly behind plant leg.

Proper technique

The adductors consist of a large group of muscles. The primary adductor muscles are gracilis, pectineus, and the adductor group (brevis, longus and magnus). All of these muscles cross the hip joint line anteriorly with exception to the magnus. The adductor magnus lies just posteriorly to the joint line, which is important to note when correcting common dysfunctional movement patterns. The adductors – all but the magnus – are shortened, drawing the femur and knee into adduction. The typical anterior pelvic tilt as described by Janda brings the adductor magnus into an elongated position. Thus, the adductor stretch should target all adductor muscles with exception to the magnus.

    • Posteriorly rotate the pelvis. This will raise the attachment point of the anterior adductors allowing for a focused stretch.
    • Make sure the stretch leg is slightly behind plant leg to ensure you are stretching the anterior structures and avoiding the magnus.
    • Firing the glute of the stretch leg will also reciprocally inhibit the anterior adductor muscles.

Latissimus Dorsi

Improper technique, with palm down and low back slightly arched.

Improper technique, with palm down and low back slightly arched.

The Latissimus Dorsi, (Lat) can be found partly responsible for many injuries, such as low back pain and shoulder pain. This large muscle crosses multiple joints and has multiple functions – abduction, extension, and rotation – being the primary.  To properly lengthen the lat we must stretch by manipulating all the joints it influences.

    • Externally rotate your arm so that the palm is up and the biceps is toward the ceiling. This will focus stretch on the insertional attachment of the lat.
    • Proper technique with palm and biceps up along with the low back rounded.

      Proper technique with palm and biceps up along with the low back rounded.

      Round your low back and tuck your butt under. Rounding the low back and tucking of the pelvis stretches the thoracolumbar fascia, which the proximal end of the lat is connected.

    • Slightly side-bend; to the right if stretching the right or left if stretching the left. This further puts the shoulder into abduction and flexion causing increased stretch

 

Hip Flexor 

Technique for Hip Flexor Stretch.

Technique for Hip Flexor Stretch.

The Iliopsoas is prime hip flexor muscle that is commonly found to be hypertonic during lower-cross syndrome. The iliopsoas originates at the anterior portion of the lumbar spine and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur. The muscle has two primary functions – hip flexion and external rotation. Because of the muscle’s convergent and spiraling fiber alignment technique is important in order to obtain optimal lengthening.

    • Slightly internally rotate the back leg as this will put the distal (femoral) attachment on stretch.
    • Draw the belly in and tuck your pelvis underneath. This posterior rotation of the pelvis will also draw the vertebrae backwards, stretching the proximal tissue.
    • Raise the arm and rotate the upper body over the back leg, to put the muscle on stretch along the entire line of pull.
    • Fire the glute as you move forward. Doing so will further posteriorly rotate the pelvis and through reciprocal inhibition will turn off neural activity to the psoas, allowing greater stretch.

Standing Biceps Femoris Stretch

Hamstrings

There are three hamstrings muscles, all which originate off of the ischial tuberosity. Two hamstring muscles – semitendinosus and semimembranosus –insert medially on the tibia, whereas the biceps femoris attaches laterally.  In common movement dysfunction the biceps femoris is shortened, while the medial hamstrings are elongated. Because of this, it is wise to focus stretching to target the biceps femoris and not the medial hamstrings. Follow these steps to best target the biceps femoris.

    • Bring the hip in to flexion by using a bench or chair and internally rotate the leg.
    • Rotate the upper body toward the up leg.
    • By performing the stretch in this manner we reduce stress on the medial hamstrings and focus the stretch on the biceps femoris.

Calf

Proper technique for the gastrocnemius stretch

Proper technique for the gastrocnemius stretch

The gastrocnemius- the primary calf muscle- is split in to two heads, a medial and lateral. Many individuals with movement dysfunction will present with slight turning out of the foot. This is partly due to a tight lateral segment and an elongated medial segment of the gastrocnemius. Thus, we want our stretch to target the lateral portion and limit stretch to the medial structures.

    • Start with a staggered stance – one leg forward one back.
    • Keep the back heel on to the ground.
    • Turn the back foot inward slightly. This will put more emphasis on the lateral tissue and reduce stretch on the medial side.

The above muscles are commonly involved in dysfunctional movement patterns that lead to many of our pain complaints, such as, low back pain, chronic knee pain, and shoulder pain. By slightly altering our flexibility techniques we will target hypertonic tissue. Increasing extensibility of this hypertonic tissue will go far in preventing injury.

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