Mats, lacrosse balls, towels, foam rollers, doorframes and even forks now have a better track record at loosening fascia and joint than the boring old stretches we learned in gym class.
It pays to learn how to use these things, whether you’re training for a triathlon or sitting through a 9-5 each day. But there’s potentially another “tool” at your disposal, too, which most of us forget about: your significant other.
As we all could use more mobility, your partner is almost certainly in the same boat as you (it’s a rickety tugboat, getting a little slower and stiffer by the decade). They also stand to benefit from the sort of targeted work that releases tension and restores range of motion.
Some moves are just easier to pull off when two people are involved. If you’re approaching the routine as a team, you’re more likely to stick with it, which is great; this sort of thing works best when performed at a consistent clip. It’s also cheaper than paying a professional, and can function as a sort of bonus love language between the two of you.
Below, find a few of our favorite activations to try with a partner. For the sake of clarity/exposition, we’ll outline these exercises from the POV of you, the “giving” partner. Imagine you’re functioning as your partner’s interim physical therapist. Assuming you do a decent job, they’ll have an easier time helping you once the roles are reversed. (You stretch my back, I stretch yours.)
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Have your partner lay down with their legs fully outstretched. Now lie down perpendicular to their left hip. “Grab” their left ankle, hooking it with your left foot, and pull that leg towards you. At the same time, push against their left hip with your right foot. Try to really work your right foot into that left hip, giving it a good massage and releasing the inner thigh along the way. Then switch sides. Find a video here.
Sit at the edge of a couch. Have your partner sit on the floor right in front of the couch with their legs in a loose pretzel position. Now pull their arms up and around your head, resting their hands on the nape of your neck, where they should intertwine their fingers. Finally, the critical part: place your feet atop each their thighs, grab them by the underbelly of their biceps and lean back against the couch. As you tilt backwards, so will they, and they should feel immediate decompression in the upper body. Find a video here.
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There are endless examples online for releasing a partner’s back. We’ve landed on the one that we consider the most realistic (least acrobatic). Have your partner sit down facing away from you, then drape a shower towel around their neck, looping either end through their underarms. Sitting down behind them, hold onto either end of the towel like it’s the reins to a horse. As you pull on these “reins,” push your feet into the very middle of your partner’s back. Now lean back, engaging your core as you do so. Your position should resemble a sort of bizarre V-sit, they should feel a nice stretch. Find a video here.
A fantastic and simple way to release tension that tends to naturally build up in the neck…which is exacerbated these days by the amount of time we’re all spending looking down at screens. Have your partner lay face down with their head in a pillow. Stand above them, facing them, and work your fingers into the area right where the neck meets their hairline. Find a video here. It’ll almost certainly help them relax after a long day. It’s a form of trigger release therapy (like a massage gun), but this is really where this enterprise basically turns into a sixth love language. Give and you shall receive. And hopefully you’ll both head into the next day’s work or work outs feeling a bit lighter.