Super Bretzel: If I could only pick one stretch, this would be it

Here’s one of my favorite stretches.  I really like this stretch because it hits a lot of things at once and it focuses on areas that usually need it.  I basically combined a stretch created by Gray Cook and Brett Jones with some ingenuity from Kelly Starrett and Mike Boyle.  I’ll call it the Super Bretzel.

The bretzel was created by Gray Cook and Brett Jones.  Check out their video:

It’s touted to be an excellent exercise to create thoracic spine mobility but really it does much more.  The brettzel also works on your hip flexors, quads, and hip musculature.  If you’re a fan of Thomas Meyer’s work, the Brettzel helps mobilize the fascia within the Spiral Line in the body and all of the musculature that runs with it to help create the serape effect.

Here it is in action:

Who is this exercise useful for?

  • Those with tight quadriceps and hip flexor musculature
  • Those with poor thoracic mobility (extension and rotation specifically)
  • Those who have trouble with squat depth and overhead flexibility in pressing exercises and snatches
  • Throwing athletes, swimmers and golfers that lack rotation.
  • Those with limitations in the shoulder mobility and active straight leg raise test in the Functional Movement Screen.

Coaching Cues:

  1. Get the band up to the glutes (get personal) – by the ischial tuberosity for you anatomy nerds.  Get some tension in the band.
  2. Get into a lunge position with the forward leg elevated on a few plates or a short box.  (The extra plates tip your pelvis posteriorly and make it easier to stretch the hip flexor musculature as well as helping to stabilize the lumbar spine)
  3. Get the back leg elevated up onto a bench.  The closer the bench, the more stretch in the quad.
  4. Get tall, flex the back leg glute and avoid hyper extending in the lumbar spine (neutral spine/midline stability)
  5. Rotate toward the leg that is forward.
  6. Chest up and rotate as far as you can.  Use your arms to help.  Maintain good posture.

Keep in mind:

  • If you have a difference from left to right in flexibility, it’s important to really hammer the tighter side.  Asymmetries from left to right are great indicators of potential injury.
  • I really enjoy using PNF and contract relax for this exercise.  How to do it?  As you breath in drive your forward knee out (laterally) against your hand and drive your back foot down into the bench with about a 20% contraction.  As you breathe out relax into a deeper stretch.

Go tie yourself in knots,

Dan

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