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Stretches & Functional Movements

This page contains links to printable instructions and video downloads of stretches and functional movements we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. In the Alexander Method we have very specific definitions for what constitutes a stretch or a functional movement.

Several of the movements below can be done as passive stretches, active stretches, or functional movements, the only difference is how long you hold the extended positions. Each movement is listed below in the category we recommended but do not require for how you execute them. Be sure to experiment with your timing with each movement to find the best tempo for your unique situation.

You should practice at least 5 of the stretches and movements below every day (or substitute your own that accomplish the same goal).

If you are not moving your body in the ways listed below on a regular basis, you will gradually lose your ability to move this way as you age. (Use it, or lose it!)

Passive Stretch: a passive position you hold for a long period of time (typically 2-5 minutes or more) to allow muscle tissue to lengthen beyond its functional capacity so as to encourage the growth of additional sarcomeres within each muscle involved to allow greater ROM and ease of movement.

Active Stretch: an active position you hold for a short period of time (typically 1-10 seconds) to lengthen and retrain muscles to more effectively coordinate across a joint and allow for improved movement patterns, especially when each muscle is at its full-range functional length.

Functional Movement: a constant motion movement you slowly practice to train muscles to more effectively coordinate across a joint and allow for improved movement patterns, especially when each muscle is at its full-range functional length.

Passive Stretches

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of passive stretches we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Some of them can be performed as active stretches and a few can also be exercised as functional movements.

Start with learning how to perform them very slowly as passive stretches, and as you make progress add more activity to address the more nuanced areas in addition to the targets of each stretch.

Active Stretches

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of active stretches we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Some of them can be exercised as a functional movement as well as a stretch.

We recommend you try each movement and hold it for a short period of time to train your muscles to activate at full length prior to attempting faster repetitions. Moving quickly tends to utilize the nerve pathways you are already familiar with, which is why when you are learning new coordination you should move through the movements slowly to allow your nervous system to "learn" the new combination of activation for your muscles.

As you repeat any movement many times over, it becomes easier for your brain to send signals along the nerve pathways to the muscles needed for that movement. You can then begin to practice the movements faster without sacrificing proper alignment (which should translate into fewer injuries and faster recovery times).

Functional Movements

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of functional movements we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Portions of the movements below can be separated into individual stretches, and we encourage you to chop them up into little sequences as needed.

When you are ready feel free to combine the movements below (and a few from above) into a routine as a warm up prior to a workout. The movements below are primarily warm-up techniques intended to better establish how well you can coordinate your movements, not necessarily to increase the ROM possible at any joint. To dramatically increase your ROM spend more time with the stretches listed above and allow your muscles time (2-5 minutes) to actually lengthen.

Stretching quickly is not likely to increase your muscle length, but quick movements are a good way to remove light restrictions between tissues, which will allow you to move better. For your best results do some slow stretches at times and do some faster functional movements other times as part of your program.

10 Comments

  1. avatar Perry says:

    Need some help with rehabing a high hamstring strain…that really seems more like a piriformis issue. Can you direct me to the best stretches for this and advise on how many to do, how long to hold them and how long to back off of the running and weights routine…
    Thanks,
    Perry

    1. avatar fitcajun says:

      Perry, first and foremost you should check with a qualified healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis. If you have something other than tight muscles back there you just might make your issue worse.

      Once you’ve been cleared for self-care exercise and stretches, then I strongly suggest you do the he Wall Piriformis Stretch, the “Figure Four” Stretch, and the the Sitting Glutes Stretch, all found about halfway down on the Stretching Downloads page. You will need at least the free membership to access the page, and at least a “Fire Breather” membership to access the video downloads. Spend about 30 seconds with each leg for each stretch, then repeat one or two times for a total of 2-5 minutes of total time for any one stretch. Practice slow and methodical movements, as your muscles will respond to fast movements by tightening up and fighting any stretch. Slow = Fast when it comes to getting relief from tight muscles.

      In addition you should practice several SMR exercises to address the multiple layers of tissue in your glutes and hip. Specifically, do the Piriformis Press one day and the Side Hip Rollover & Press the next, then repeat. You will likely get your best results if you combine the SMR exercises with the stretches in the same session and alternate the exact stretches and SMR exercises you do each day. Make the most influential exercises and stretches a part of your day at least 3 times a week. You’ll know which ones they are by the results you get. Smoother or great ROM and greater comfort with movement following any SMR exercise or stretch means you should do that one regularly. If you aren’t already doing the Primary & Secondary SMR exercises at least once every two weeks, then work them into your schedule. You may have hip and hamstring issues that are in part exacerbated by your hip flexors, poorly functioning quads, or other muscles that need regular attention.

      Begin doing at least 2 stretches and 3 SMR exercises (1 Primary and 2 Secondary) every day. Rotate through the 20+ stretches and the 60 different SMR exercises. You might not need to regularly practice most of the 42 Extended SMR exercises, but you will surely need a few of them until your issues are resolved. Check our therapist page to locate a good sports massage professional to get hands-on help with your issue. By combining their assistance with your own “homework” it should just be a matter of time before you are back on your feet.

      You should be able to continue with a mild or modified training program while you practice your stretches and SMR. Check with your therapist to get more specific recommendations pertaining to your needs.

      Good luck, and keep us posted!

  2. […] Trainers Choice (Diagrams Posted in the gym or CLICK HERE) […]

  3. avatar Mateusz says:

    Hi are you still working on the site? I find the content really superb, but all of the links on stretching site seam dead.

    1. avatar fitcajun says:

      Yep, we’re plugging away at our updates. Sorry about the dead links. We will have them live again soon. We moved servers and many of our picture and download links were broken along the way…you should see the links working again one at a time over the next couple days.

    2. avatar fitcajun says:

      Mateusz, we’ve updated all of the existing stretches to return the links to live status. Please check them out when you get a chance. Watch for more stretches to be added in the coming weeks and months. Thank you for your membership. Let us know if we can help you get better use out of your SMR efforts.

  4. […] 10 PT 10 ATW–Giant 10 LL 10 SL 6 Cat Claws 20 Plank Windmills 10 IW Additional Stretches/SMR/Strap work as […]

  5. […] 10 PT 10 ATW–Giant 10 LL 10 SL 6 Cat Claws 20 Plank Windmills 10 IW Additional Stretches/SMR/Strap work as […]

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