Stretch Your Hips, Thighs and Back with the Brettzel

If you suffer from tight hips, you might just fall in love with this unique and easy stretch

Gray Cook, the therapist who developed the Brettzel stretch, demonstrates how to do it

The Brettzel stretch is perfect for those who spend a lot of time sitting, running and cycling

Late last year I was introduced to the Brettzel stretch by my physiotherapist. My right hip was bugging me so I went to see my buddy Mon Jef Peters, one of the physios at Fit to Train. Peters put me through a thorough assessment, worked on helping to relieve my pain and then gave me some exercises to do at home.

One of the exercises he gave me was called the Brettzel. Basically it involves folding yourself into a pretzel and then rotating about your mid-spine. It was love at first sight – with the stretch not with Mon Jef; my body really loved going through this dynamic stretch. And I still do it four or five times a week.

The Brettzel is a full body stretch though it targets the front of the hip and upper thigh and the mid-spine region. If you spend a lot of time sitting or participating in linear sports like running and cycling, chances are you’ll feel tight in these areas.

The Brettzel is a great exercise that will help mobilize the spine where many people need it the most, as well as improve the flexibility of your thighs and hips.

How to Do the Brettzel

  • Position yourself as shown in the first picture below. Flex your top hip up past 90 degrees and hold onto it with your bottom hand.
  • Turn your bottom hip outward and try to grab your ankle with your top hand. (Don’t grab onto your foot. If you can’t reach your ankle loop a towel around your ankle and grasp the ends of the towel.)
  • Once in the position, using your glutes (butt muscles) try to push your top hip down away from your hand but resist with your hand; at the same time using your quads (thigh muscles) try to straighten your bottom knee and resist with your hand; contract for 4 seconds. Don’t push too hard, just enough to activate those muscles.
  • As soon as you finish the four-second contraction, relax and immediately try to rotate your top shoulder toward the floor as shown in the second picture below.
  • Go through the contract/relax cycle four times per side; do one or two sets for each side.
  • Make sure you don’t strain your neck so have your head supported on a pillow, cushion, etc.; make sure you are looking toward your rotation direction.
  • Your top leg can be supported or you can have it on the ground.
Brettzel Stretch
Bretttzel start position Brettzel end position
Brettzel start Brettzel end
Images courtesy of Fit to Train.

For a complete demonstration of how to do the Brettzel, watch this video of Gray Cook, the therapist who developed the stretch. You’ll find out why it’s called the Brettzel and also see how to do the Brettzel 2.0 stretch that targets the gluteal muscles.