Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with the actual act of praying.
Im always looking for ways to improve flexibility and mobility as they are both very important to not only performance in the gym, but also performance in life! Some of the things I have been trying to incorporate more recently have been weighted stretches. For me I have found that adding a little bit of weight to some stretches allows me to get into a deeper stretch, and in some instances allows me to not be in just a passive stretching state, but allows me to actively create new ranges of motion. The one weighted stretch in specific that I will talk about today is the weighted prayer stretch.
The prayer stretch normally starts with either hands on a wooden dowell or just hands placed together in a “prayer” position. You place your elbows on an elevated surface and you sink your torso and hips back which creates a stretch through the thoracic spine and in some instances the triceps. Normally when I do this unweighted it seems to take a while for me to really get into a good stretching position. When I add a little bit of weight by grabbing a dumbbell and holding each end of it with my hands and perform the same stretch, I instantly can feel the stretch throughout my thoracic spine and triceps. Now you might as why is thoracic mobility so important? I could go on and on about the importance of thoracic mobility. It can affect everything from squats, overhead position, front rack position, and posture. But to simplify everything just know that good thoracic mobility is imperative to not only performance in the gym, but also day to day function.
Possibly the greatest thing about this stretch is that it does not take a ton of time to be effective. I usually will do about 2 sets of 5 reps, with a 5 second hold in the bottom position of each rep. You could complete this stretch all in all less than a minute. Another thing that is great about the stretch is that you need minimal equipment. Just grab a dumbbell (anywhere between 10-20 pounds, depends how tight you are) and an elevated surface to put your elbows on and you have all the equipment you would need. It is extremely simple but extremely effective.
When To Do The Stretch
The best way to incorporate this stretch is in between some warm up sets of a movement. For example, a great day to do this on would be a clean and jerk day. Doing this stretch would help this movement two-fold: it would improve my overhead position and it would help my front rack position. On that day I would hit a few warm up reps on the barbell then do a couple repetitions of the weighted prayer stretch. After I did my stretch I would go back and do some more warm up reps to cement that new range of motion in. Working in a couple of sets of this stretch in your warm up time will help a lot with improving your thoracic mobility and allow you to really own that new range of motion as opposed to only doing it at the start or the finish of a workout. Now I also understand that you may not necessarily have time in between warm up sets, but don’t use this as an excuse to not do it! Getting to class a couple minutes early and doing a few sets of this stretch can still be very beneficial. Even doing this stretch after class is a great option if you have some extra downtime (sorry 6 amers).
If you have any questions, as always ask a coach! Also check out the video I made below it will demo how to execute the stretch correctly!