The standing and kneeling warrior stretches are two of the most popular methods used by athletes to stretch the muscles of the anterior hip, quad and lower leg. The information in the following paragraphs will address the pros and cons of each stretch and explain how to properly perform them in order to achieve maximum gains.
• Pros: The standing version is easy to implement with both individual athletes and large groups because it requires no equipment. Performing the standing stretch improves balance and control in the lunge movement pattern. The familiarity of the lunge position allows the athlete to place more focus on maintaining an upright posture through the thoracic spine with the arms extended above the head.
• Cons: It takes strength and balance to hold a lunge position for 20-30 seconds, making the standing version a better choice early in the workout before athletes get fatigued. This is especially important in athletes lacking lower body strength and balance. The kneeling stretch might be a better option for those needing more quadriceps stretching.
• Execution: Start from a lunge position with your right leg forward and your left leg back. Set your core and extend your trunk upright with both arms straight up in the air and over your head. Keeping your low back flat, tighten the glutes of the back leg, and shift your weight forward onto the front foot as you lower your hips. Your back knee should almost touch the ground. Keep your trunk, shoulders, arms and head upright until you feel the stretch in your left hip flexor, quads and through the entire length of your trunk. Avoid arching your back or leaning forward. Hold for 20-30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times, relax and switch legs.
• Pros: The kneeing version provides a deeper stretch, especially through the rectus femoris as it crosses both the hip and knee joints. The smaller angle of the down knee places more stretch on the rectus femoris than the standing version.
• Cons: The kneeling version requires either a wall, bench or stability ball (SB) to support the back leg and a grassy or padded surface to protect the down knee, making this version difficult to perform with larger groups or in a facility without padded floors or mats. The kneeing version may not be appropriate for those with patella-femoral pain due to the pressure on the down knee from contact with the floor.
• Execution: Start from a lunge position in front of a SB with your left leg forward and knee behind your toes. Next, place the shoelaces of your right foot on the ball while keeping your left foot flat on the ground so that your left knee is bent 900. Set your core, and while keeping your back upright and arms straight up over your head, push your hips forward and your right knee down toward the ground as you feel the stretch in your right quad and hip flexors. Don’t arch your back or lean forward. Hold for 20-30 seconds, relax and repeat 2-3 times and then switch legs.
Eric McMahon, M.Ed., CSCS, RSCC, is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Frisco Roughriders, Texas Rangers.