Want to improve your flexibility while saving time? Incorporate these supersets into your routine.
Go into any health club and try to find the flexibility area. More often or not, you’ll find some crazy looking steal cage for stretching and a few mats for you to sit or lay on while stretching (which, by the way, are generally repurposed to do countless situps). Most people reluctantly stretch their lower body, and rarely, if ever, stretch their upper body. But stretching, and a pain-free ROM (range of motion), is extremely important for improved performance, faster recovery, and reducing the risk of injury.
So, with only so much time in every day, the question becomes, how can we incorporate a healthy stretching session into our strength training program and not end up spending hours on a mat after workouts? Supersets!!!! These supersets pair a strength movement with a complimentary stretch (i.e. bench press with a pectoral stretch or barbell back squat paired with a stretch of the external rotator of the hip) and will help you get faster, stronger, and more flexible, while sparing you from hours at the gym.
A1. KB Deep Squat x 8-10reps
A2. Hip Extension w/ Straight Leg Raise: x 5reps each leg
B1. Barbell Back Squat or Barbell Deadlift: w/u set of 4-6reps at 60-70% 1RM
B2. CB Toe Touch with Backward Stride & Twist x 5ea leg
C1. Barbell Back Squat: 3-5reps @ 80-85% 1RM
C2. Kneeling External Rotator Stretch: 5reps each leg @ :05sec hold
D1. Barbell Back Squat: 3-4reps @ 85-90% 1RM
D2. Hip Flexor Stretch with back foot elevated: 5reps each leg x :05sec hold
Barbell Back Squat: 2-3reps @ 90-95% 1RM
Yeah, it looks like a lot, but let’s discuss how it flows before you get overwhelmed.
Start with two functional movements to properly prepare for the squat movement. For this we use the KB Deep Squat and the Hip Extension with Straight Leg Raise.
The Kettlebell (KB) Deep Squat is best to start with the heels elevated as seen in the video. Maintain a slow & controlled lowering phase until reaching the lowest possible depth. Once at full depth, lower the KB to the board, release, raise arms up to a “Y” and stand up.
The hip extension with straight leg raise is great to activate the glutes, hip extensors and hamstrings prior to squatting. Initiate the movement by bracing the abs and drive your heels in to the ground as you extend your hips, while being careful not to overextend. At full extension, extend the quad of the active leg until the leg is straight and raise the active leg through to a full, pain-free ROM without losing the hip bridge. Pause at the top of the ROM and then lower the leg slowly to the starting point. Alternate legs until 5 reps are completed on each leg.
Note: for this exercise I used a Core-board but if you don’t have one, any elevated surface will work. Alternatively you can use a Dumbbell or a weighted plate instead of the Kettlebell.
Complete the 1st set of back squats and move on to the Core-board Backward Stride & Twist.
This exercise is great for improving hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, as well as activating the glutes, adductors and internal rotators of the hip. Start with your feet at hip width, reach down and place the palms on the edge of the Core-board (a small plyo box can be substituted if necessary) and stride back with the right foot. Once in this position, push the right heel back and elongate the stretch on the right leg, then raise and reach for the sky with the right hand. Be sure to keep your left heel down on the ground, and keep your left knee from moving outward toward the left arm. If lost, just watch the video and you’ll get it right away.
One of the best stretches for improving flexibility in the rotators of the hip, it’s also beneficial for multi-directional athletes as well as linear- or lateral-dominant athletes (so yeah… basically all athletes). If you aren’t doing this stretch already, add it to your program immediately.
Following the 3rd set of barbell back squats or barbell deadlifts, perform the Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch with back foot elevated.
With the amount of time we spend sitting down watching film or going to class, our hip flexors shorten throughout the day. For optimal performance we need to keep them flexible so that we can run fast with a good high knee which reduces stress on the quads, hamstrings, and low back.
Here I recommend putting a towel or Airex pad under your knee. Before you move forward to stretch the hip flexor, flex your abs & flex the glute of the down leg, increasing the stretch and keep you out of hyperextension.
Learning these stretches and setting up will take time at the beginning, but as you become more comfortable with them, your workouts will flow quickly and you will quickly see better results in your recovery and performance. So stop wasting hours on the mats and start using supersets that will actually yield the results you’re looking for.