The best stretch(es) to do
I like Yoga, especially hot Yoga, but just once in a while, it’s not for me to do a whole session every time, so personally, I focus more on dynamic stretching, i.e. coming in and out of stretches. The reclined hero pose is the one pose I do stay in longer because it can take a while to warm up and get in to.
Possible fix for shin splints, grinding noises in your knees, tight hips, back pain, and more.
How do you do reclining hero pose?
If you’ve seen the reclining/reclined hero pose and think it looks cool, you’re right, it’s super cool, but the benefits you receive from the reclined hero pose are even cooler. I’m going to run you through some steps on how to perform the reclining hero pose, but more importantly, I’m going to describe the progression for this extremely beneficial pose/stretch.
- Kneel with dorsum flat
- Adjust feet to the side
- Internal hip rotation to protect the knees
- Hips to the ground
- Recline back on to the hands
- Thoracic hyperextension
- Lower to the elbows
- Flex the elbows
- Lower to the back of the head
- Slide the elbows out with palms pressed into the ground
- Lower the back
- More details below
Reclined hero pose benefits
The reclined here pose provides the following benefits, increased:
- ankle mobility
- ankle plantarflexion
- knee mobility
- knee flexibility
- hip hyperextension
- hip mobility
- hip flexibility
- thoracic hyperextension
- thoracic mobility
- thoracic flexibility
This stretch literally hits the entire anterior chain, and once you’re at to the stage of getting your arms overhead it even hits the shoulders.
Reclining hero pose bad for knees?
Yes, this pose is absolutely bad for your knees, like with any exercise, pose, or stretch, if you try and force yourself into something your body is not ready for or if you skip the proper progression. Otherwise, no, this pose is not bad for your knees, on the contrary, it can be extremely beneficial for injury proofing and even get rid of those pops and cracks you might have in your knees.
This pose is not something most people just can do. Trying it without slow and controlled progression will surely cause injury and give the pose itself a bad name. So, if you’re here to learn how to step-by-step progress to the Reclining Hero Pose, you’re in the right place, if you’re looking to do this pose tomorrow, you’re in the wrong place.
Reclining hero pose progression
These are the joints in which you should progress the pose, these are joints in which order the pressure will be applied when coming into the pose. And more than likely the most affected joint with the majority people will be the ankle joints. Getting the dorsum of the foot (top of the foot) flat on the ground is going to be task number one and usually already the deciding factor whether someone likes this pose or not, but give it time, even if it hurts a lot. By that last statement I mean to not give up on it and progress bit by bit, not to the point of hurting but always staying in that range of being slightly uncomfortable (to progress).
Ankles and knees
The ankle and knees are what you need to work on first, in particular, the flexibility in:
- Tibialis anterior
- Extensor digitorum longus
- Extensor hallucis longus
- Knees (quadriceps)
- Rectus femoris
- Vastus lateralis
- Vastus medialis
- Vastus intermedius
To work these areas you start with kneeling. Initially, you will need to do this on the balls of your feet and slowly bit by bit progress to getting the dorsum flat on the ground, before you get completely comfortable with this you will get to a stage where you can only get the dorsum flat for a second or so, this is fine, come in and out, think of it as working out, set a number of reps to do and do those, each time a bit longer than before. Progression is over days or weeks, not hours by the way.
That’s the progression for the ankles during kneeling, during that same stage you also progress with the depth of knee flexion. To resist the full range of flexion in the knees you will require some strength in the quads to come into slight extension, if you’re lacking this strength you will need to work on that first (recommended, or use something to hold onto while you lower yourself back into kneeling position, i.e. be able to pull yourself slightly up to achieve that knee extension I spoke about.
Goal: Buttocks to heels and dorsal flat
You want to progress with this to a stage where your buttocks are at least touching your heels, there is no sense in adding other parts of this stretch until you have reached this point, as it would just amount to injury.
After you’ve achieved the first goal we’ll be adding the hips to the stretch. You should keep in mind though that you have not reached the ultimate kneeling position though. The ultimate goal is to kneel and touch the ground with your buttocks. So, keep progressing with this while you work on your next goal.
I cover full details on the position of knees, ankles, feet, hand placement etc. in the book Caveman Mobility Program. And if you’re wondering whether this is for females as well, yes, yes yes! It’s just our theme, Caveman, back to basics, and it’s too much hassle to write Cavewoman/Caveman every time, but you’re more than welcome to refer to it either way you please.
You’ve come to the next progression of the reclining hero pose, the hips, the part where the majority of our species have major issues due to the constant sitting and shortening of the hip flexors. This stretch will fix that for you. The next step of progression is to recline the torso, i.e. bring the shoulders toward the ground while in a kneeling position. Your rectus femoris already received major benefits from the kneeling so far and since your rectus femoris will also dictate how well you can extend your hips you’re already one small step ahead.
Time to work on flexibility in the hips, in particular:
- Psoas major
- Tensor fasciae latae
- Rectus femoris
The first thing we want to work toward is to get the hands on the ground behind you using them as support. While you move into that position you want to contract the opposing muscles, the hip extensors (Gluteus maximus and hamstrings), you do this to pull your pelvis back (extend the hips), if you just sit back without effort you’re not going to improve flexibility in those hip flexors.
From hands further and further behind the back with straight arms we’re moving into reclining on to the elbows. Remember, once you’re in that position don’t stop there, squeeze those hip extensors and slightly push the hips up to get a deeper stretch.
On that note, never stretch till pain, stay in the uncomfortable zone, and if you experience pain afterward, in the knees for example, it means you need to rest and have pushed too far or assumed a wrong position. This is not the time to give up on the stretch but rest, recover, and try again. Mistakes are your feedback on where you’re at, listen to them, and embrace them.
Once reach the stage where you can put your elbows on the ground you can start using pillows or other forms of elevation to support your back while you come into recline. This is also the stage at which you should start to include thoracic hyperextension. The thoracic hyperextension will allow you to go deeper while maintaining support. Even if it was not to provide support you want to really work this area as it will benefit you in many other areas of staying injury free and more mobile. Again, slow progression required.
From the elbows, we’re going to progress to arms out and on the elbows. Putting the arms out to the side means you can go deeper while still having some support from the elbows, i.e. the further you put those elbows out to the side of the body the lower you’ll get. However, to use this support and get back up you need strength in the lats, rhomboids (major and minor), triceps (long head), trapezius, and several other muscles in the back. What you want to do is to adduct your scapulae (pull them together), push your elbows into the ground, pull yourself up, and get your hands under you at the back.
Once you passed the progression on to the elbows it’s time to move onto coming onto the head. As you recline you want to create thoracic extension which means your chest is pushed out, shoulder blades pulled together, and erector spinae contracted. Depending on how much hyperextension you can create it will help your head move back and touch the ground sooner. Once your head touches the ground you want to slowly release the hyperextension in the thoracic and work your back plus everything else toward the ground.
Your ultimate goal is to get flat on the ground! More details in the book which is worth its weight in gold.