The 6 Chains and Their Stretches
Last week we talked about the importance of integrated stretching. Moving away from isolated, one muscle stretching, to performing stretches that target groups of muscles that form important movement chains throughout the body.
Here are the six important chains and the exercises that best stretch them.
Next week we’ll tie it all off by giving you the important rules of stretching so you get the most out of your efforts.
1) Posterior Chain: The fold
The posterior chain runs from the bottom surface of the foot, up through the calves and into the hamstrings. The chain continues up from here through the butt and along either side of the spine all the way to the extensors of the neck. This is an excellent stretch that elongates the entire chain. When performing this stretch, ensure that over-tightness in the hamstrings does not block this stretch from being felt in the rest of the chain. If this occurs, bend the knee slightly to back the stretch off, so that it is still felt but also allows the stretch to carry through to the rest of the chain.
2) Posterior Contralateral Chain: The sweep
This stretch targets the gluteals and the opposite side Latissimus Dorsi (this muscle runs from the lower back connecting to the arm) It elongates both structures simultaneously, just as they work together to produce movement.
3) Anterior Chain: The bird
The anterior chain begins with the dorsiflexors of the toes (they bring the toes up and towards the shin) and ankle and spans up the front of the body through the quadriceps, hip flexors and abdominals and on to the chest, and front of shoulder, finishing at the neck.
4) Anterior Contralateral Chain: The archer
This chain crosses from one side of the body to the other. It begins very similarly to the anterior chain, but as it comes up through the hip flexors, the chain splits off across the abdominals and obliques to the opposite side of the body. Here it continues up through the pectorals and anterior shoulder of the other side of your body.
5) Lateral Chain: The willow
Running along the entire side of the body, the lateral chain begins with the muscles of the lateral calf and travels up through the illiotibial (IT) band and into the butt. From here the chain continues through the lower back, obliques and into the muscles between the ribs and Latissimus Dorsi, ending by way of the muscles of the neck.
6) Lateral Contralateral Chain: The slide
This chain moves through all of the inner hip muscles on one side of the body before crossing to the other side where it retraces the steps of the lateral chain, up through the lower back and obliques and into the muscles between the ribs, Latissimus Dorsi, shoulder and neck..
We’ve used the TRX suspension trainer to assist us with these stretches. You can purchase one of these from www.slingfitness.com