Tight hips? Limited mobility? It’s time to talk about the samson stretch.
This simple bodyweight movement doesn’t require any equipment, or even much space… but it can be transformative for your hip mobility. Better hip mobility means being less susceptible to injury and the ability to generate more strength and power from the pelvis.
From professional athletes to those simply looking to make daily movements easier, the samson stretch is definitely worth taking note of.
Although the movement looks quite straight forward, there are some important, and quite subtle, things to consider when you’re moving through the stretch.
This guide outlines everything you need to know, including a video demonstration of the exercise, muscles worked, benefits and things to consider.
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What is the Samson Stretch?
The samson stretch is a lunge exercise that targets several muscle groups, from the quads, glutes and hip flexors, to the calves, hamstrings and shoulders. The stretch is performed by lunging forward with one leg and maintaining straight arms overhead.
It is popular in CrossFit and functional workout classes, as a way to prime your body for all sorts of movements.
Strengthening the Psoas Muscle and Hip Flexors
The samson stretch is a great way to stretch out your psoas muscles. If you want to strengthen this muscle group too, our guide on how to do psoas marches is worth checking out, as an effective exercise to strengthen the hip flexors.
How to Perform the Samson Stretch
To do the Samson Stretch:
- Start in a standing position with a straight back and head pointing forward.
- Clasp your hands together, fingers interlaced, above your head, keeping your arms straight.
- Step forward with your left leg into a lunge position with your knee bent at 90°, lowering your right knee to the ground.
- The front shin should to be vertical. Try and drive your waist forward to create that deep stretch in the hips.
- Brace your core to help provide stability during the movement.
- Hold position for 3 seconds.
- Return to the original standing position.
- Repeat on the other side, lunging with the right leg.
Coach’s Tip – You’ll notice in the video demonstrate, the athlete leans to either side slightly from the upright position. This is a simple way to stretch out your lats and back at the same time. Similarly, you could include a rotation of the torso too.
The samson stretch will work a number of key muscle areas, including the hip flexors (front), the glutes (gluteus maximus), core, hamstrings and quads. The exercise also engages the biceps, calves as well as the shoulders.
If you include a slight lean to either side, it can also help engage the lats too.
The Benefit of Your Hands Overhead
The reason why the samson stretch is often so highly rated is the way it naturally encourages a straight back. This is due to the requirement of holding your hands overhead. This avoids rounding your back and adopting poor posture during a lower body stretching routine. This really helps to open up the hips.
Benefits of Samson Stretch
Increases Hip Flexibility
Ultimately, the samson stretch targets the hip flexors, helping to open up the hips and combat tightness in this area.
As you drive your waist forward in the lunge position, the front of your hips, including muscles like the psoas muscle, will get stretched. This is important because such muscles are often ignored in warm ups and stretching routines… but will undoubtedly contribute to feelings of tightness in the hips and limited mobility.
The extension of the legs into a lunge (a dynamic movement), while in a upright position, provides an opportunity to strengthen key muscles in the lower back and hip areas, thereby improving joint mobility.
As opposed to just working on flexibility, including mobility exercises as well, is what can really create purposeful movement in this region. Mobility is the ability for a joint (in this case, the hip joint) to move through its full range of motion. If muscles around this joint are weak or tight, mobility and movement is subsequently limited.
Strengthening the Lower Body
The fundamental movement of a samson stretch is a forward lunge. This means with each repetition, you are working the muscles in the lower body (quads, glutes and hamstrings) to perform this lunge.
This makes it a great exercise not only for athletes and those looking to improve their hip mobility and movement, but also for those who perhaps don’t do much exercise and want simple bodyweight movements they can do at home.
The movement also requires unilateral strength in the lower body, as each leg is challenged separately. This helps avoid developing muscular imbalances and is an effective part of balance training.
Wakes Up Muscles
The samson stretch is a dynamic stretch… yet it also includes a pause (static stretch), which means it packs a punch in terms of switching on and waking up your muscles. It both stretches muscles passively, but also works on improving mobility actively, making it a great way to prime the body for exercise.
Reduces Lower Back Pain
By performing the samson stretch, the hip flexors, glutes and quads are allowed to stretch in a controlled manner. This should counteract tension and tightness in the lower back and assist with movements across the hip area.
Allows Flexibility in Workouts
As no equipment is needed to perform the samson stretch, it’s easy to include it in any lower back stretch exercise programme. This stretch aims at facilitating everyday activities such walking uphill, running and stretching upwards.
Things to Consider
As with any stretch exercise, it is important to be aware of performing the movements slowly and in a controlled manner.
The key focus, therefore, is not performing the movements too rapidly, potentially causing strain, tension or pain to hip or lower back areas.
When extending the leg into a lunge, it is essential not to extend the leg too suddenly and not put the hip flexors under pressure.
Remember, when performing the samson stretch, there should be no tension felt in the upper leg or lower back areas. If you feel any strain, tension or pain in these areas, then you should stop this exercise.
The fact that the arms are outstretched in the vertical position can cause some discomfort. Limited mobility in the shoulders may be impacting this, in which case, this is something to work out. Thoracic mobility exercises can help improve mobility in this region.
The samson stretch is an effective way to build strength and flexibility in the hip and lower back areas. The stretching of several key muscle groups means that the upper leg, hip and lower back regions will be engaged and worked in a systematic manner.
The dynamic nature of the movement also means it lends itself to warm-ups and preparing for workouts too.