Couch Stretch

written by
Joel Runyon
last updated
October 7, 2021

The couch stretch is a big hip opening stretch that does, in fact, use that comfortable piece of furniture that you can find in your living room. Supposedly created by one of the mobility greats, Kelly Starrett, the couch stretch is a favorite among athletes. I am sure you have used the couch on which to lounge or take a mid-afternoon nap, but have you ever used it as part of your daily stretching routine? Well, with this simple stretch, that is exactly what you are going to do. 

This is a beginner level stretch that can be modified to meet your current flexibility level. And if you don’t have easy access to a couch, don’t worry! In place of a couch, you can use a chair, a wall, a wooden box, or any other sturdy vertical surface on which you can prop up your foot. 

If you have ever noticed that your hips seem tight from too much sitting throughout the day, this might just be your new go-to stretch. The couch stretch targets the hip flexors, and you will surely feel quite a bit looser in the hips after you do it. 

The couch stretch is also frequently utilized by athletes of all sports who implement it into their warm up or cool down routines. This is because it will aid in recovery and ensure that your flexibility and mobility, especially in the hips and legs, stays as optimal as can be. 

Keep reading if you want to learn more about the couch stretch. We will cover how to perform this stretch safely, the benefits of doing so, and ways to modify it if you need it. 

What is the Couch Stretch? 

The couch stretch is a pose that will help stretch out your hips and lower body muscles. It is a great stretch to use after a long day of being seated at your desk or after a workout that focuses on your legs. 

The stretch is completed one leg at a time. Starting in a kneeling position, draw your left leg against the wall or box so your toes are pointing to the sky. Draw the right leg into a low lunge position with both hands on the ground inside the right leg. In this position, your right knee should be stacked over your right ankle. Do your best to keep your left thigh in line with the rest of your body.  

At this point, if possible, start to raise the chest and the hands off of the ground. You may feel the urge to let your hips rotate to one side or the other - especially if your hips are tight. Resist this urge by squeezing your glutes and keep your hips as squared off as possible. Continue to squeeze your glutes as you hold this position. If you can’t bring your torso up very high, then stay lower to the ground. Prioritize your hips staying level over the height to which you can bring your chest. This will stabilize your lower back

Once you have found your correct positioning, hold here for at least 30 seconds - although we would recommend even longer if possible. Breathe deeply and use your exhales to sink deeper into the stretch. You should feel this sensation in your hip flexors, quads, and perhaps even the ankle. Slowly come out of the pose after the time has expired and switch legs. Complete the same sequence on the other leg. 

Benefits of the Couch Stretch

Like we have mentioned previously, this is a great stretch to open up your hips. But that is not the only benefit! Keeping your hips as mobile as possible will also help fight off any back or knee pain as well as potentially prevent future injuries. 

The couch stretch will also help increase flexibility in the thigh muscles. Not only that, but it will also impact the muscles around your knee and your ankle. This really is a stretch that can impact many of the different muscle groups within your leg. You sure get a lot of bang for your buck with this one. 

Couch Stretch Modifications 

If the couch stretch still seems a bit intimidating to you, there are options to bring it to your current ability level. There’s a good chance that you will feel a big stretch when holding this pose, but it should never get to the point of pain. A good rule of thumb is this: if you cannot breathe comfortably while holding the stretch, you should find a way to modify it so that you can. 

The first way to modify this is to keep your torso as low as needed. Some people find that it can be helpful to hold onto a PVC pipe as an extra support to help keep their torso a bit higher. 

If you find that your knees feel sensitive supporting your weight on the ground, use a folded blanket, towel, or pillow to pad the joint and prevent any unnecessary pain. If you have struggled with knee injuries in the past, take this stretch slowly to gauge your limits. If you ever feel any pain, stop the stretch immediately and seek care if necessary.

couch stretch demo using box

Starting in a kneeling position, draw your left leg against the wall/box so the toes are pointing to the sky.

Draw the right leg into a low lunge position with both hands on the ground inside the right leg.

If possible start to raise the chest and the hands off the ground.

written by
Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE and the founder of MoveWell. Joel founded MoveWell after sustaining an injury while running an ultra marathon on every continent. Joel is writes about mobility, pain management and health and wellness overall.

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