Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: lying figure four.
Our modern lifestyles aren’t designed with our hips in mind. First, we sit down all day, compressing the joint and tightening the muscles that wrap around our glutes, backs and thighs. Then we do intense workouts that involve our exercises like squats and bridges that involve our hips moving through a large range of motion. That’s probably why hip tightness is one of the most common complaints.
But with some simple stretches, you lengthen out the muscles and ease some of that pain. Our favourite is the figure four stretch.
What is a figure four stretch?
A figure four stretch involves placing one foot on the opposite knee to stretch the hip while it’s abducted, or opened out.
This exercise is great because:
It works the outer hip: the glute medius and hip abductors can be tight from over and underuse, so stretching them out is important.
It eases pain: the piriformis muscle wraps around your hips into the lower back, so reducing tightness around the hips can also ease back pain.
It can be done any time: it’s perfect for after workouts and after work, as many of our daily activities can cause the muscles to be tight.
What muscles are worked in a figure four stretch?
This move mainly targets the muscles in the glutes and hips, including:
- Glute medius (the muscle on the side of the glutes)
- Glute Maximus (the main muscle in the glutes)
- Piriformis (around the outside of the hips)
- Psoas (at the front of the hip)
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How to do a figure four stretch
- Lie on your mat with your feet placed firmly on the floor, knees pointing towards the ceiling.
- Lift your left foot off the ground and place your left foot on your right knee. Keep your foot flexed towards the ceiling.
- Place your hands behind your right thigh and pull the leg towards you, peeling the right foot off the floor but keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Lower back to the floor, release the left foot and repeat on the other side.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).