Good stretching exercises aren’t just useful before a sporting competition. Keeping your joints mobile and limber is also an effective way to stay healthy and pain-free.
And while there are a lot of ways to stretch your muscles, not every stretch is the best option. Some put unnecessary stress on your joints, while others require equipment or advanced range of motion to perform correctly.
In this short article, we’ll look at the 5 popular stretches. But first, let’s look at why stretching is important, the different types of stretches you might do, and when you should use these stretches.
Why Should You Stretch?
Stretching increases the flexibility of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and ensures that you can move a joint through its full range of motion.
The act of stretching can be beneficial for several reasons. You might stretch to:
- Prepare your body for exercise: Doing a few light stretches before a workout is good for preparing your body to move, while stretching after a workout ensures you aren’t tight after a challenging session at the gym.
- To relax: Stretching your muscles has a natural relaxing effect, which is one reason it’s used in conjunction with certain types of breathing, meditation, and yoga.
- To come back from injuries: As part of a physical therapy routine or light exercise regimen, you might stretch several times a day or week to restore joint range of motion or remove scar tissue from an old injury.
- To relieve pain: Because tight muscles can cause discomfort, stretching is an effective way to reduce pain in your joints, especially as you age.
As you can see, there are many instances when flexibility training is useful.
Different Types Of Stretches
We’ll keep this short, especially because the five stretches below primarily focus on one type of stretch. Still, the different types of flexibility training are good to know.
- Static stretching: When you static stretch, you hold a position for a longer period of time.
- Dynamic stretching: When you practice dynamic stretches, you move, which almost turns the stretch into a warmup exercise. Repetitive movements help increase joint range of motion and increase blood flow to the area.
- PNF stretching: PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, but it basically means that a partner helps you stretch. (Learn more about getting stretched here.)
Finally, let’s look at when you’d use the full-body stretch routine below.
When Should You Stretch?
Although stretching any time can be beneficial for you, this question depends on your goals.
For example, there are certain stretches that should be done before exercise (dynamic stretches), and other types of stretches that should be done throughout the day or after you exercise (static stretches).
For the exercises to improve flexibility listed below, stick with after exercise or after a light warmup (a short walk is fine). This will increase blood flow to your muscles and make it easier and more comfortable to work past your range of motion.
Now, let’s look at the 5 full-body stretches.
1. Split Leg Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is good for your hamstrings and lower back.
Start by standing with your feet farther than shoulder-width apart, so that your legs look like an upside-down V. Keeping both knees locked, bend over at the waist. Go down slowly until you feel tension on the backside of your body, specifically in the hamstrings.
Try to grab your calves, and eventually, the back of your heels. Go as far as you can, then hold that position and breathe. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
(You can also do one leg at a time in a standing position.)
2. Samson Stretch
This stretch is good for your hip flexors and shoulders.
Start in a split position with your back knee touching the ground and your front leg at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Sitting up tall, lean forward so that you feel a stretch in your hip flexor.
At the same time, bring your hands overhead and interlock your fingers. Reach toward the sky. Hold this for 30 seconds, then switch sides to work the other hip flexor.
3. Upward Dog
This stretch is good for your lower back, abs, and shoulders.
Start in the bottom of a push-up position. Instead of doing a push-up, lift your torso up off the ground and allow your legs and hips to stay on the floor. Your body should look like a C facing the back wall.
Keep your ears away from your shoulders and your arms locked. Feel the stretch in your back and abdominal muscles. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
4. Cat Stretch
This stretch is good for your lower and upper back, and your neck.
Start on all fours. Pressing your hands into the floor, round your spine toward the ceiling as you look toward the ground (like a cat doing a stretch after a nap).
Attempt to pull your locked arms toward each other to create tension across your back.
Do for spurts of 5 to 10 seconds.
5. Doorway Chest Stretch
This stretch is good for your chest, shoulders, and biceps.
Find a doorway. Place your fingers on the inside panel of the door, then step forward so that your arm stays behind your body. Keeping your arm straight, you should feel a stretch down your arm into the shoulder and chest muscle.
Ease into this, but fight to slightly rotate toward the wall in front of you so that your arm is completely behind your body over time.
Hold for 30 seconds on one side then repeat on the other.
Stretching Exercises: Wrap Up
These 5 static stretching exercises are great because they work your whole body and require no equipment.
These stretches can be beneficial whether you’re an athlete, trying to heal an injury, or if you just want to relax.
If you’d like to be stretched by a professional, learn more about our pricing options today.