The couch stretch is designed to improve mobility in your back, core and hips whilst relieving muscular and soft tissue tightness caused by imbalances, poor posture, too much time spent sitting down, and simple wear and tear. These issues often cause hip tightness, which in turn can cause pain, discomfort and weakness in your core, back and hips.
But what exactly is the couch stretch, how can you perform it, and what will it do for you?
The Benefits of the Couch Stretch
The couch stretch is a great hip opener.
Performing will give you short term relief through the hips, core and back.
Performing it regularly will lengthen and open your hip flexors– the muscles to the front of your hips that are notoriously tight due to lifestyle factors like too much sitting, as well as athletic use like running, cycling or performing lower body resistance moves. This in turn will lead to greater mobility through the hips and lower back and will decrease the risk of injury in these areas.
Benefits of the couch stretch include:
- relieving tightness through the hips
- improving hip and lower body mobility
- improving overall flexibility, agility and ease of movement
- improving posture and movement comfort in daily life
- alleviating back, thigh and knee pain
- strengthening and activating the glutes and core
As the couch stretch opens up your hips, it predominantly targets your hip flexors. They will be stretched, loosened and lengthened during the couch stretch. Typically, you engage your hip flexors as you squat down into a seated position or lift your thighs towards your torso.
Performing a couch stretch will also stretch your glutes, hamstrings and knee flexors. These are all, once again, muscles used when sitting down and standing up, or squatting.
How to Perform the Couch Stretch
The couch stretch is easy and safe to run through on a regular basis. You can do it anywhere with any sturdy platform at an appropriate height: perform it in the gym with a bench, with a swiss ball, on a wall or the side of your bed. However, as the name suggests, most people will use a couch at home.
It will be important to actively engage your core, glutes and hamstrings as you perform the couch stretch to keep your back and hips in line and stable. They shouldn’t be overly tense, just active enough to keep you straight and steady.
To perform the couch stretch:
- Bend one knee and place your shin along the back of a couch or chair, or whatever surface you can find, with your foot pointed
- Place your other foot in front with your toes facing forwards and your knee above your ankle, keeping your hips square
- Keeping your rear thigh in line with your body, place your knee on the couch itself, elongate your spine, engage your core, glutes and hamstrings, and push slightly forwards and down
- Hold for a minute before switching sides
You can perform the couch stretch daily, as part of a general flexibility routine, and after exercise. It will be particularly beneficial after hip and quad heavy exercise like squats, running or hiking.
Feel free to repeat the exercise a few times each side, a couple of times per week, to really get deep into the muscle: this will lead to longer term flexibility, rather than simple relief from tension and tightness.
This is an incredibly safe stretch. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind to keep it so.
As with any stretch, you don’t want any fast, jerky motions. Ease into it slowly and don’t push yourself too hard, especially when you first start out or if you’re particularly tight.
Run through the above instructions sequentially, making sure you have each one down. Skipping any can put you out of alignment which will spoil the stretch’s efficacy and can even lead to discomfort or injury.
This alignment is important. This is not a dynamic movement, nor is it a lunge. You want to hold yourself aligned, in place, with only a slight amount of pressure pushing into the hip. Don’t shift yourself out of position.
If you struggle with flexibility, pair the exercise with some common stretches for the lower back, hips and quads. They will all work in conjunction with one another to help you create an open, mobile lower body. Begin with these stretches before moving onto the couch stretch.
If you have any knee problems, seek medical advice before performing the couch stretch.
The couch stretch is an easy, safe, reliable way to create openness in your hips, to recover from heavy lower body workouts, and to overcome the tension and tightness we all get regularly. Give it a go, find out what works for you, and enjoy the benefits to be gained from it: your back and whole lower body will thank you for it.