Block Lunges: Quadriceps Release, Psoas Release and More

Block Lunges: Quadriceps Release, Psoas Release and More

Block lunges are an exercise that was invented, I am pretty sure, by yoga teacher extraordinaire Jenny Otto. I credit these exercises for a lot of the length I have been able to get in the back of my body over the last few years. It used to be that when I would lay down on the floor the backs of my thighs and knees would be up off of the floor. After obsessing on block lunges in my own practice for a while the backs of my legs released down to the floor and have never popped back up.

We all tend to be short and tight in the muscles of the back and long and lax in the muscles of the front. With the quadriceps we can add in “full of tension” as they are asked to do a lot of the work of holding us upright when we have bad posture.

If you stand with your pelvis tucked as I think everyone does, the leg bones are forced forward and they take the quadriceps muscle with them. This stretches the quadriceps beyond its normal length but also fills it with tension as much of the weight of the upper body sits in the groins.

Block lunges essentially smush your quadriceps until it lengthens. When it lengthens the femur, or thigh bone, is able to move backwards a little changing the relationship of the hamstring to the bone, which gives it more space to stretch. The psoas release in this pose can be very benificial for lower back pain.

I have two more posts about this stretch. One of them discusses my take on a tight hamstring, and the other talks about the golgi tendon organs which are the proprioceptor (yet another post) that inhibits stretching in the body. The golgi tendon organ  is something we are kind of trying to trick into changing  when we work on block lunges.


Calf Stretch for Hamstring Pain
Drawing the line, from the bottom to the top: psoas, quadratus lumborum
  1. Question: you have you back toes turned under and it looks like your back leg engaged, but I find my thigh releases more when I totally relax the back leg and foot. Is one way better for any reason?

    • Hi Kat, I think that any way that get the weight into the back thigh works fine. I have done block lunges in every way and prefer to keep the back toes tucked but I don’t think my leg is very engaged. From a teaching perspective I have always found it easier to have people tuck their toes. But the main thing is to get the weight into the quard so whateer works to accomplish that is fine by me,

  2. Block lunges are great. I like to put the block higher up on the femur bone, nearer to the hip crease to really push the top of the femur bone deeper into the socket. Good stuff.

    • Hi Jackie,
      Thanks for weighing in. I think that is a totally different exercise, though a fine one. The idea of the block lunge for me is to affect the tendon, to “ask” it to release allowing the qud to lengthen and the bone to move backwards. There is nothing wrong with workign through the muscle but having done both versions more times than I can count, I find the block just above the knee to be more powerful.

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