Stretches You Should Do Every Day
Stretching is a vital part of your fitness routine.
You know that moment when you just need to stretch—maybe it’s before getting out of bed in the morning, during a long flight or right after a long run. Think about how your go-to muscle-loosening move makes you feel. Does it make you say “ooh” and “ahh”? Well, that’s exactly what stretching can do for you: Wake up your muscles, relieve tension throughout the body and make you feel oh-so-good.
But the benefits of stretching go even further. There are many factors that can limit or enhance movement, including prior tissue damage, strength, stability around the joint and, of course, flexibility. That’s where stretching comes in. If the muscles around the joint aren’t flexible, it’s difficult to move efficiently. In other words, that stiffness can prevent you from doing full range of motion exercises, cause injury and worse, keep you from progressing with your fitness goals.
It is best to do a dynamic warm-up before a workout and static holds after exercise. Thankfully, you can use most of these stretches for both by either staying in the position shown for 30 seconds (static) or moving in and out of the pose (dynamic). Focus on deep breathing and you’ll probably experience some mental stress relief, too.
Stretches to Relieve Tension Now
- Downward Dog
A yogi favorite, this pose focuses on hip and shoulder mobility, while stretching your hamstrings, lats (muscles in your mid-back) and deltoids (muscles in your shoulders).
How to: Start in plank position with shoulders directly over wrists (a). Push your hips up toward the ceiling so you form a triangle with your body. Keep your head between your arms and straighten your legs as much as possible (b). Reach your heels toward the ground and spread your fingers, so your bodyweight gets distributed evenly through the hands and feet.
Make it dynamic: Continuously move between plank position and downward dog.
- Side Oblique Stretch
You’ll lengthen through the side of your body as you stretch your lats, hips and obliques.
How to: Stand with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart (a). As you lift one arm overhead with your palm facing inward, reach and lean toward the opposite side of the arm raised (b). Hold for eight seconds, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: After you reach with one arm, bend that elbow as you pull it down by your side and stand straight. Reach back up and over. Do eight reps, then switch sides.
- Crescent Pose
Find length and balance as you engage your abs, hip flexors and chest with this high lunge.
How to: Stand with your feet staggered: one in front and one behind you (a). Bend your front knee to create a 90-degree angle. Keep your back leg straight behind you (b). Lift your arms up in the air by your ears, palms facing inward. Lift your chest up, slightly arching your back as you press your back hip forward (c). If possible, lower your lunge as you exhale. Hold for eight seconds, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Bend and straighten your front leg as you lift and lower your arms. Repeat for eight reps, then switch sides.
- Child’s Pose
Take it from Daily Burn’s Becca Pace: This stretch is probably one of the most calming postures, and works well for recovery, too. You’ll stretch the low back, lats and shoulders.
How to: Get on all fours on an exercise mat (a). From your hands and knees, push your hips back until your butt rests on your heels. (Knees slightly wider than hips.) Keep your arms straight out in front of you and look at the floor.
Make it dynamic: Continuously flow through hands-and-knees position to child’s pose.
- Single Leg Stretch
If you’re like most adults, you need a little more flexibility in your hamstrings. Bonus benefit: You’ll also work your core.
How to: Lie on your back and lift legs toward the ceiling (a). Lower one leg toward the floor as you pull the other leg toward your face (b). Hold the back of your raised leg (calf or higher) and lift your shoulders off the mat (c). Keep legs as straight as possible and toes pointed. Hold, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Switch legs repeatedly, gently grabbing your calf and pulling it toward you.
- Figure 4
This is an ah-mazing stretch for runners, as it alleviates tightness in the glutes and the hard-to-reach piriformis (another muscle in your backside).
How to: Sit on a mat with your legs extended in front of you (a). Place your hands behind you, fingertips facing away from your body. Lift one leg, placing your ankle on your opposite leg, just above the knee. (Keep your feet flexed to protect your knees.) (b). Slowly bend your bottom leg toward you, until you feel a stretch in the outer hip of the other leg (c). Straighten your back, roll your shoulders down and push out your chest. Hold, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Continue to bend and straighten your bottom leg.
Have a stiff back? This pose will encourage blood flow and more mobility in your spine.
How to: Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat, with wrists in line with shoulders and knees in line with hips (a). Round your back, tuck your pelvis and look toward the floor, as you scoop your abs upward (b).
Make it dynamic: Inhale and exhale as you flow through cat and cow.