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Stretches You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine when it comes to stretching. We go through the same ones in generally the same order when we stretch on our own. It’s fine to stick to stretching sequences you like, but it’s great to switch it up now and then, too! Below are step-by-step guides to stretches that target muscles we rarely stretch, and some that are just unique ways to get to muscles you often stretch anyway!


#4 stretch- for turn out (hip flexors)
1. Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you, parallel, with feet flexed.
2. Bend either leg and turn it out, like you’re getting ready to go into a butterfly stretch.
3. Cross the bent leg over the straight one, so that the ankle of your bent leg is resting on the quad of your straight leg. It’s like you’re making a #4 with your legs.
4. Gently push on the inside part of the knee of the bent leg, keeping the hip of the straight leg still. Repeat with the other leg.


Where you should feel it: the inner and outer sections of your hip muscles


Back of the leg resistance stretch- for keeping your legs straight (hamstrings)
1. Lie on your back, trying to keep your spine in a neutral position, and keep legs straight in front of you, on the ground.
2. Lift one leg up into the air to 90 degrees, keeping the foot flexed and leg parallel.
3. Depending on your flexibility, grasp your leg either just below the knee or just above it, on the calf muscle.
4. Actively pull the leg into your chest, but resist this by moving your leg in the opposite direction, creating opposing forces. The leg shouldn’t move far out of its original 90-degree position. Repeat with the other leg.


Where you should feel it: backs of the legs, mostly lower hamstrings


Open rib stretch- for keeping your chest lifted (chest and collarbone area muscles)
1. Standing up, clasp your hands behind your back, with your palms facing each other.
2. Flip your hands toward your back so that your palms are open and toward the ground, fingers still clasped.
3. Push your shoulder blades together and look toward the ceiling, thinking of moving your hands toward the ground and chest toward the ceiling.


Where you should feel it: the little muscles around your sternum and collarbone


Wall stretch- for opening up your shoulders (shoulder sockets and triceps)
1. Stand next to a wall, about arm’s length away from the wall.
2. Outstretch your arm toward the wall and place your hand on the wall, fingers facing either toward the ceiling or behind you, depending on how deep of a stretch you want.
3. Gradually turn your body away from the wall, keeping your hand planted on it and your arm straight but not with a locked elbow. Repeat with the other shoulder.


Where you should feel it: shoulder socket and inner arm muscles


Over-crossed attitude stretch- for better lower back mobility (lower back muscles)
1. Lie on your stomach with legs parallel, arms stretched out to your sides, and palms on the ground. Head can be turned to either direction.
2. Lift one leg off the ground and place it in a low, turned-out attitude position.
3. Cross your attitude leg over the straight one while keeping it in the air.
4. Touch that toe to the ground, while thinking of the hip of the straight leg and both shoulders remaining as close to the ground as possible. Repeat with the other leg.


Where you should feel it: back muscles, mostly the lower ones


Emily Strickland is a professional ballet dancer and writer from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is currently dancing with Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, where she’s had the opportunity to perform ballets like The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, as well as in a collaborative performance with Cirque du Soleil. Previously she was an artist at Columbia Classical Ballet and a trainee at Richmond Ballet, where she was the featured soloist in Connor Frain’s premiere piece “Inertia”. She has trained with Richmond Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, Nashville Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, she is a ballet instructor at Avery Ballet.

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