If you take a quick poll of your average jane or joe that gets their sweat on at your local gym, and you were to ask them if they’ve heard of the World’s Greatest Stretch as a warm up before they got their main workout in, chances are you’ll hear crickets.
Their warm up would most likely go a little something like this:
– Bend over, touch toes.
– arm circles
– arm crossover/unders
– jumping jacks
This then would be followed up by:
if you’re a male:
– hit that bench press… “It’s time to throw on some plates and go to town baby. screw the warm up, i’ll just get warm as I go. I see a girl over there in pink spankies on the stairclimber and I want her to see how swole my chest gets…ya, that’s right… that’ll give me the confidence I need to get her digits!”
(fellas, you know some version of this is running through your mind… you don’t have to hide ;))
Or, if you’re a female:
– hit that stairclimber baby… “I’m wearing my favorite pair of pink spankies, and since I want to really work my butt today, I’m gonna make sure I stick it out a whooooole lot more than normal, just to tease that guy over there on the bench press…. Of course if he comes over here and tries to hit on me, I’m playing harder to get than the greased up deaf guy from Family Guy…”
(may not to apply to all ladies, but to the ones it does, you DAMN well know what I’m talking about, and don’t begin to act like you don’t!)
(ok, maybe not the greased up deaf guy part, but you get the point.)
Aaaaanyway, back to my main point, which is this:
If long-term, pain free joint/muscle health is your goal, then it is ESSENTIAL to pick a warm up that will loosen up/bring blood flow to the muscles/fascia/joint capsules/ligaments/proprioceptors that you are about to train…. and do it REGULARLY.
For most folks, regularly means every day. Period. no excuses. Get up and move! Not only that, but make sure you move in different planes! You take your car in for maintenance regularly right? Why would you treat your body any differently?
So, without further ado, I want to go over one of my favorite stretches of all time… and it just so happens to be called “The World’s Greatest Stretch”. Take a peak:
Now, a couple things –
– Firstly, this is just one variation of the basic World’s Greatest Stretch. I’ve seen multiple variations from different sources.
– Secondly, the World’s Greatest Stretch is certainly a loaded mobility exercise, and I can definitely understand that it can be intimidating when you first try this bad boy out, because there are so many pieces to the movement… bend this way, twist this way, etc… So I want to break it down in a way that may make it easier for you:
1) Initial Step Forward with elbow drive:
– make sure you take a big enough step so the shin of the leg that is lunging forward is perpendicular with the ground. Many times individuals will not step out far enough, due to tight hamstrings/gluteal muscles, so make sure you get into the right inttial position so we are getting the stretch where we need it. It may be necessary to use a yoga block or some sort of elevated surface for the supporting hand. Elbow drive will be on the inside of the lunging leg.
2) T-Spine Rotation toward Lunging leg:
– In this part, I’ve seen it taught in several ways. My personal preference is to coach the individual to try and touch their right chest to the left leg (if the left leg is the leg that is lunged forward), while reaching the left arm up to the sky.
3) T-Spine Rotation away from Lunging leg:
– Same idea, except now we rotate the opposite way. Here, we think about “opening up” the chest away from the lunging leg, firmly planting the left arm into the ground, while the right arm reaches high in the air.
4) Hamstring Rock Out
– Now, we’ve got our hands on the inside of the leg that is forward, and proceed to lengthen out the forward leg via knee extension and driving the same side hip high in the air (I tried to overexagerrate this part of the stretch during the side view to emphasis this point).
5) Split Stance Lunge with Overhead Reach
– Finally, we finish off the World’s Greatest Stretch with a split stance lunge with overhead reach. The important components here are to emphasize keeping the back leg straight, while creating length in the spine…this allows for a greater stretch of the anterior hip.
So, there’s your breakdown of the World’s Greatest Stretch, one of my favorite mobility drills of all time. Basic, to the point, but very effective.
Give it a try and let me here your thoughts in the comments below!