The 4-Stretch Test to Tell if You’re in Danger

The Bretzel LeanThe Bretzel Lean

What you’re testing: Glutes
How to do it:

  • Sit with your legs spread wide out in front of you and your knees bent.
  • Lean as far as you can to your right, trying to bring your right knee to the ground while keeping your knees spread. As you lean, twist your torso and bring your hands to the ground on the side of your right leg.
  • Once you’re as far to the right as you feel you can go, try to lower your chest to the floor and stay there for 3 breathes.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
  • Do the stretch 2 times on each side.

You’ve got a problem if: You can’t get your leading knee close to the floor, or you can go much deeper into the position on one side than you can on the other.
The danger: When your glutes are tight, your back picks up the slack of their limited range of movement, and the resulting back pain can affect every move you make. While most people have one glute that’s stronger, and thus more flexible, than the other, you should be able to get equally as far into the stretch on both sides (you’ll just feel it more on one). If you can’t, that’s cause for worry, because just like with the Spider-Man stretch, serious weakness on one side leads to compensation elsewhere in your body and potential injury.

Get More Flexible

These problems sound complicated but the fix is simple: Move more and move in different ways. If you’re sedentary, just walking more will help. If you’re a regular at the gym but struggle with flexibility, add in exercises you don’t normally do, like swapping a stationary-bike session for a bootcamp class. This will help improve your range of motion and you’ll notice that, in time, these stretches will get easier. Do these stretches 3 to 4 times per week as you increase your activity level and make an effort to vary your workouts more. At the one-month mark, you’ll see improvement.