An introduction to stretching plus a full body routine.
The home stretching exercises below are combined into a total body routine, including 5 upper body and 5 lower body stretches. Improve your flexibility with these moves so you can make everyday activities like bending, walking, standing, and working at your desk feel much easier.
How you can use this routine
1) Relieve muscle tension anytime with a gentle stretch for the muscles that feel tight. 3-5 second stretches work well for relieving muscular tension. If desired, you can hold the stretch longer. Generally, there are no additional benefits to holding a stretch beyond 30 seconds.
2) Prepare your muscles for exercise by including this routine of home stretching exercises with a brisk walk and / or jogging in place as a warm up. Brief, 5 second stretches at a light to moderate intensity work best for warming up.
3) Maximize your flexibility by stretching right after any cardio or strengthening workout, when your tissue temperature is the highest.
Note: During these exercises, start gently and gradually increase up to a moderate+ stretch intensity (at most). If you can't wait until the stretch is over, back off a little bit--your stretch is too intense. Hold your stretch 30 seconds at the most.
#1 Upper Trap
Grab your L arm behind your back and gently pull it downward as you tilt your head to the right. Repeat on the other side.
#2 Chest and side
Place both hands behind your head with your fingers interlocked. Sit upright and expand your chest. Point your elbows out--try to get them in line with your ears. Next, side tilt your neck and back to the L for a R side stretch, then tilt to the R for a L side stretch. Follow an even curve through the spine as shown, stretching both your neck and your sides. Maintain good posture (for all of the home stretching exercises). Hold 5 seconds.
Reach your L arm overhead with your elbow bent. Grab your L elbow with your R hand, then gently push your L elbow back to stretch the back of your upper L arm. Hold 3-5 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Make a loose fist with your L hand and straighten your arm. Stretch your L hand toward the floor. Hold 3-5 seconds.
#5 Kneeling Biceps
Kneel about 12-18 inches in front of a sturdy chair or couch. (Place a folded towel under your knees) Reach both hands back to the chair with palms facing down.Activate your abdominals and lift your chest until you feel a stretch in both biceps muscles. You may also feel a good stretch for your abdominal muscles with this exercise. Hold 5 seconds, bend forward to release the stretch, then repeat.
This routine of home stretching exercises is divided into 5 stretches for the upper body (above), and 5 for the lower body (below). The article on illustrated stretching exercises has 3 additional upper body stretches, and the article on back stretching exercises has 3 more lower body stretches.
#6 Knee to chest
Grab behind your R knee and pull your knee toward your chest. Keep your tailbone (and rear end) flat on the floor. Repeat 2-3 times and switch to the left side.
#7 Press up
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders, then press up on your hands to stretch your abdominals. Keep your abdominals firm during this exercise. This will help support your spine during the movement. **If this stretch is too intense, press up from your forearms for a more gentle stretch--see picture on the left. Hold 3-5 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Grab behind your R knee and pull your R leg up into the stretch position. You can let your knee bend a little bit as you pull your leg back, but keep your tailbone on the floor. Straighten your knee and flex your foot back to increase the stretch.
#9 Kneeling lunge
Start in a tall kneeling position and then step forward with your L foot. Tighten your abdominals to prevent your back from arching. Make sure your L and R hips are even. Shift your weight forward onto your L leg until you feel a stretch in the front of your R thigh. Toes point out on the R foot. Keep your spine upright. Slide your R knee back further to increase the stretch if needed. Hold 5-10 sec, repeat 3 times, then switch sides.
#10 Calf & Achilles
Stand holding onto furniture or a wall for balance. Step back with your L foot, keeping both feet flat on the ground and pointing straight forward. Balance your body weight evenly through your foot without putting too much weight in your arch. Keeping your back leg straight, shift your weight forward into the front leg until you feel a stretch in your calf.
Achilles: Then slide your back foot forward a little bit and bend your knee to the point of a stretch. You will feel it in the lower calf and achilles area. Hold 5-10 sec, repeat 3 times for each stretch, then switch sides.
Practice these home stretching exercises at least 3 times per week for best results, and learn more about stretching and posture from my eBook, Correct Posture.