How many times during a WOD do think you bring your knees toward your chest? Not sure? Consider the following movements: toes-to-bar, wall ball, box jump, burpee, squat, snatch, GHD sit-ups, handstand push-ups, rowing and running. Based on the short list of movements above, we can safely say that during an average workout, we bring our knees to our chest a lot. Recovering from these flexion, or “crunch”-type movements, means focusing on regaining extension in the front body, namely the core and hip flexors.
Without getting too anatomical, we can break the “crunch” down into two parts: the core and the hip flexors. The core consists of four main muscles: rectus abdominis (six-pack abs), internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis, which wraps around our midsection like a weight belt. The hip flexors consist of two main muscles: the iliopsoas (hip flexors) and the rectus femoris (topmost quad muscle). I assume you know where your core is; if you don’t, shame on you. The hip flexors might be a different story. Try standing up straight, lifting your knee up so that it is parallel with your hip. Now, find the hip crease, press down, and you should feel a tense muscle, which is most likely the hip flexor. Now from here, straighten your leg, keeping it as high as you can. Feel for the muscle on the very top of your thigh. That is the rectus femoris.
So why is this information important for functional-fitness athletes?
Being able to reach full extension leads to improved Olympic lifts, higher jumps and a better use of power from the posterior chain. With this group of yoga stretches, you’ll help these muscles recover from any WOD and increase flexibility slowly over time. And this is why we stretch — to maintain, regain and even improve on our existing flexibility. The sequence of stretches below increases gradually in their intensity and should be approached in this order to minimize overstretching and maximize flexibility. Now that you know where the target muscles are located, be focused and deliberate to increase the effectiveness of each stretch.
Tips for WOD Recovery Yoga:
- Let the heart rate slow down and the breathing return to normal. Give the muscles a chance to relax to prevent cramping.
- Find a slow breathing pattern in and out through the nose.
- If something is painful (the kind of pain that feels like you might hurt yourself), back off and move on. Pain does not equal gain when you stretch.
Upward Facing Dog
Start by lying on your stomach on the floor with your hands placed on the ground by your floating ribs. Press through your palms and the tops of your feet. Extend your chest forward and up as you straighten your arms. Feel your shoulder blades squeeze together as you broaden your chest. Feel your quads engage and your inner thighs roll inward and up. Keep your tailbone extending toward your heels to prevent too much arch in your lower back.
Extended Low Lunge
Start by stepping your right foot forward and bring your back knee down. Your front foot and back knee should be about inner-hips-distance apart. Square your hips by extending your outer right hip back.Sink your hips down, focusing the stretch on the front of your left hip. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the ground while curling the front of your pelvis up. Extend your left arm up. Lengthen your side body, then reach over to the right and slightly back to feel the stretch extend up your abdominals. Hold here for up to two minutes and switch sides.
Step your right foot forward, outside of your right hand, and bring your left knee down. Point your front toes out at an angle and keep your front knee hugging into your right shoulder. Your back toes should be untucked. Relax your hips.
For a deeper stretch, bring your forearms to the ground. You can place a plate or a block under your forearms to make it easier. Keep your chest extending forward, lengthening the spine.
Step your right foot forward and to the right of your hip. Point your front toes out at an angle, keeping your front knee hugging into your right shoulder and your back toes untucked. Bend your back knee and grab your foot with your right hand. Allow your foot to fall into your hand to relax your hamstring and prevent cramping. Draw your heel in toward your butt to deepen the stretch in the left psoas. Hold for up to two minutes and then switch sides.
Low Lunge Quad Stretch
Start by stepping your right foot forward and bringing your back knee down. Your front foot and back knee should be about inner-hips-distance apart. Ground through your front heel and tuck your back toes. Square your hips by extending your outer right hip back. Bend your back knee and grab your foot with your right hand and draw your heel in. Place an AbMat under your back knee for extra padding. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the ground while curling the front of your pelvis up. Hold here for up to two minutes and then switch sides.
Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground, hips-distance apart. Walk your heels toward you until you can graze them with your middle fingers. Ground your heels into the floor and lift your hips, extending your tailbone toward the back of your knees. Draw your shoulder blades together, coming onto the back of your shoulders. If possible, clasp your hands underneath you. Press down through your upper arm bones and broaden your chest. Breathe here for up to 30 seconds, unclasp your hands and slowly lower your hips down. Rest for two breaths, then repeat two to three times.
*Your shoulders should be warmed up before attempting this variation.
Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground, hips-distance apart. Walk your heels toward you until you can graze them with your middle fingers. Planting your heels down, begin to lift your hips, extending your tailbone toward the back of your knees. Place your hands on the ground by your shoulders. Lift up onto the top of your head. Draw your elbows toward one another, shoulder blades in, and press through your palms. Begin to straighten your arms. Feel your armpits open up. Draw your bellybutton in toward your spine and tailbone toward the back of your knees. Press your chest away from your heels. Breathe for up to 20 seconds in this pose. Slowly come down, drawing your chin to your chest. Rest and repeat up to three times.