If you’re anything like me and suffer from extreme tightness and horrendous mobility, then performing a lot of the knees over toes/ATG movements can be really difficult.
In order to get the most out of the knees over toes methodology, you need to be extremely mobile and limber.
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the most important stretches for knees over toes training, based on Ben Patrick’s own recommendations.
1. Incline Pigeon
The incline pigeon stretch is quite possibly the Rolls Royce when it comes to knees over toes stretches.
Maybe I just think that because I have absurdly tight glutes and this is the most effective way I’ve found to loosen them up.
The best thing about the incline pigeon is having some support on the outside of your knee which you don’t get if you’re just doing these on the floor.
This support prevents dislocation and discomfort at the knee joint and allows you to get deep into the stretch with very little pain.
In addition to the glute stretch, you’re simultaneously getting a hip flexor stretch in your rear leg which is another reason this stretch is incredible for knees over toes.
2. Weighted Butterfly
The weighted butterfly is one of my all time favorite stretches for so many reasons.
Stretching your hips is usually not fun but this particular adductor/groin stretch is one of the most enjoyable ways to develop hip mobility.
Simply start with your feet together and knees out to the side and hold a couple of dumbbells on your knees.
This will push your knees down causing a deep stretch through the groin.
Somewhere around 10kg is a decent amount of weight but if you’ve never done them before, you might want to go slightly lighter.
Focus on belly breathing deeply and allow your body to relax into the parasympathetic nervous system.
Hold for at least 2 minutes.
You can also turn this stretch into a strengthening exercise by resisting against the dumbbells in the concentric movement.
Once you get pretty good at these you can also experiment with elevating yourself slightly, so try sitting on a small box. This will increase the range of motion you’re subjecting your adductors to.
3. Kneeling Quad Stretch
This exercise is super effective at developing flexibility in the quadriceps, although it might be a little way off for some of you with particularly tight quads.
All you’re doing with this first progression is sitting on top of your heels and getting comfortable with the pressure at the knee joint.
Once just sitting there feels fine, you can try to transition from that seated position to the kneeling position just by switching on your quads.
It should feel very similar to what doing a full range elevated heel squat feels like.
The second progression here is to lean back so your torso is behind your heels which produces one of the craziest quad stretches I’ve ever felt.
And the final progression is to actually elevate your feet so you can increase the angle even further.
When I first started doing these I could barely sit on my own heels for more than 5 seconds without discomfort, so don’t be discouraged if you have to work at this one for a while!
4. Pancake Stretch
The pancake is one of the easier groin stretches you can do to really loosen up your adductors.
I’m personally a massive fan of doing these because my adductors are super tight from riding a motorbike all day long.
Once you get passed the initial adductor tightness, you’ll should also be able to get a stretch through your lower back.
The pancake stretch is also the most natural progression to get into the seated good morning which we’ll look at next.
5. Seated Good Morning
The seated good morning is an advanced progression from the pancake stretch.
It’s an incredible groin and lower back stretch not only because it develops flexibility, but because it also builds strength during the concentric phase.
Ben Patrick has stated that he “doesn’t stretch unless there’s load involved” which means he’s only interested in lengthening the muscle if there’s strengthening going on as well.
If you’re not as flexible as Ben, you probably won’t have this luxury yet and can do these exercises purely for the stretch.
The goal with this movement is to get your abs to the bench.
Obviously this will require incredible hip, groin, glute, and lower back flexibility but it can certainly be attained with enough repetitions.
This is my favorite stretch for my incredibly tight lower back and I make no apologies for hogging the cable machine at the gym to get this one in!
6. Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip mobility is a massive component of the knees over toes methodology.
You simply cannot perform the ATG split squat without excellent hip mobility.
Everyone’s probably done this stretch at some point.
The key to this stretch is to keep your upper body straight, but I’ve found you can tilt forward a bit as long as you’re still feeling a stretch in the hip flexors.
I’ve also found that just by working on your bodyweight ATG split squat, you’re getting a massive stretch through the hip flexors so usually I’ll just do that instead.
7. Couch Stretch
As far as quad stretches go, Ben Patrick is a huge proponent of the couch stretch.
The tighter your quads get, the more torque required at the knee joint in order to stretch them out.
When my quads were super tight, doing a standing quad stretch simply wasn’t feasible because I couldn’t get the leg I was stretching into that fully bent position.
This is where the couch stretch is super effective.
You can easily stretch even the tightest of quads with this movement.
The best way is to use a wall with some padding on both the wall and the floor so your knees and feet are comfortable.
You can also use a couch to do this, which is where it gets its name.
8. Slant Board Calf Stretch
Most human beings have awful ankle mobility due to walking around all day in shoes with an elevated heel.
As athletes we need also need to work on our ankle mobility and the number one way of doing this is to regularly stretch out the calves on a slant board.
A slant board is really the only way you can get an amazingly deep stretch in both calves at the same time. It’s easily the most effective way to develop ankle mobility.
The slant board I use is the slant board from SBG, which is ideal for this purpose as well as many others including squatting and doing calf raises.
If you want to get serious about developing flexibility, the item at the top of your list is definitely going to be a slant board.
If you want to grab one of these, make sure you use discount code “A1ATHLETE” to get 10% off!
Parting Words Of Advice
The most important thing to remember when doing all of these stretches is to control your breathing.
Practice what is called ‘belly breathing’ – you should be breathing in through your tummy and not your chest.
On each exhale, try to relax into the stretch a little further.
Most importantly, hold each of these stretches for at least 2 minutes before relaxing.
The main reason many people feel like stretching does nothing is because they’re only holding the stretch for 30 seconds!
If you can go through each of these stretches twice daily, that would be ideal. But even just stretching once per day, if you hold for long enough, you’ll be moving in the right direction.