Champions are flexible. Not just in their mindset or ability to adapt in the heat of competition, but literally flexible. Five-time reigning Fittest Woman on Earth®, Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr, knows that racking so much hardware in her trophy room is both a testament to her fitness and her ability to stay injury-free.
Part of that injury prevention is ensuring Toomey-Orr is sufficiently warmed-up and limber before training. The greatest strength athlete of all time took to her YouTube channel on Sept. 2, 2021, to share how she stretches before loading up a barbell for a squat session in the gym. Check it out below:
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Toomey-Orr’s specific goals during a stretch session primarily focus on joint mobility. Toomey-Orr pinpoints having loose ankles, warm hips and knees, and mobility in her lower back as important factors before hopping in the squat rack to warm up with weight. Of course, stretching before her warm-up helps Toomey-Orr physically, but it is also beneficial for her mindset:
I’m going to feel…more stable…more mobilized and…feel stronger in that bottom [squat] position.
Here are the stretches Toomey-Orr performs:
Toomey-Orr begins with a “low dragon” stretch, which focuses on loosening the ankle and stretching the calf in a relaxed forward lunge position. The goal is to keep the heel glued to the floor and track the knee forward over the toes. Once the stretch is sufficiently felt, Toomey-Orr maintains the position for approximately two minutes to breathe deeply into it. The extended back leg should incidentally offer a decent stretch to the hip as well.
[Related: Single Vs. Multi-Joint Exercises — What They Are and When to Use Each]
Toomey-Orr is on her knees, sits back onto her ankles, and then uses her arms to brace herself while leaning back. That lean opens up the quads. For anyone without the requisite mobility to have both quads stretched simultaneously or “full saddle,” Toomey-Orr recommends a one-legged lean or “half-saddle.”
The half-saddle involves sitting with one leg outstretched and the other bent at the knee, so the foot is adjacent to the glute. The lean-back is the same and can be adjusted as needed. Toomey-Orr recommends approximately two minutes for each side.
The lizard stretch utilizes the same lunge position as the low dragon, but instead of the ankles and calves, the focus is on opening up the hips and stretching the hamstrings. Rather than track the knee over the toes, Toomey-Orr flares her knee out to the side and brings her elbows to the floor until her knee is aligned with her shoulders. Not everyone will have the mobility of the Fittest Woman on Earth®, so it’s okay if bringing the elbows to the floor is too difficult — just go as deep as possible.
The final stretch of Toomey-Orr’s session is a saddle stretch. While sitting with her legs spread out to the sides, she leans all the way forward until her torso is as close to the ground as possible. The stretch is felt primarily in the groin and low back. If the mobility is not quite there to fall onto the elbows while leaning forward, Toomey-Orr suggests using a medicine ball or foam roller to lean on as this stretch should be one of relaxation rather than a static hold.
Don’t force anything because that’s when sometimes injury can occur.
On multiple occasions, Toomey-Orr reiterated the importance of breathing throughout the entire stretching routine. She finds that deep breathing allows her body to “respond much better” to the stretches.
Onto the Squats
Next time you head to the gym to load some plates onto the barbell — no matter what level you’re at — try out Toomey-Orr’s stretching routine. She believes that devoting time every day to mobilizing is the key to “longevity…moving more freely without any pain or stiffness…and allow you to live a much more fulfilling life.”
Toomey-Orr will compete at the 2021 Rogue Invitational in Round Rock, TX, as the returning champion, on Oct. 29-31, 2021. The events for that contest are still to be determined, but rest assured, Toomey-Orr will be stretched and ready to vie for the podium.
Featured image: Tia-Clair Toomey & Shane Orr’s YouTube channel.