Stretching: A How To Guide

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape
— Anonymous

 

Here are pictures and instructions on how to perform basic and commonly used stretches for your entire body! Remember to hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds to 1 minute. Make sure that your stretches are gentle and not to the point of pain. Feel free to comment here or contact me with any questions or comments!

Adductors

Sit on the floor with the knees bent and the bottom of your feet together (in the butterfly position). Hold ankles with both hands and press your thighs down by using your elbows.

Hamstrings

Stand tall in front of a low curb or chair. Put 1 heel on chair and keep legs straight. Slowly bend forward at the hips to bend your trunk closer to the leg that is extended in front until you feel a stretch down the back of the front leg. Further this stretch by flexing your ankle or turning your toes in and out.

Hip flexors/Quads

Kneel down with one leg extended in front of the other at a 90 degree angle. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the back leg. Make sure that your stance is big enough that your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes. For a deeper stretch, make sure you aren’t extending your low back, and reach your arms slightly over the side that is in front while keeping the hips facing forward to open up the hip.

Hips/Glutes

Lie on the floor with both legs extended. Cross one leg so that the ankle is over the knee of the opposite leg, like a figure 4. Keep your back straight and bring the “straight” leg’s knee up to your chest until you feel a stretch in the buns on the side you’re not touching.

Calves

It is important to note that the calf is made up of 2 different muscles, your Gastrocs and your Soleus, so you must stretch BOTH! To stretch your gastrocs, stand in an exaggerated step forwards, leaning into a wall with your arms. Try to keep your back leg straight while your front let is around 90 degrees. Lean forwards until you feel a stretch in the back of your back leg. To hit your Soleus, try to bend your back knee while keeping the heel on the ground and still leaning forward. You’ll probably feel the stretch move a bit, which means you’re doing it correctly!

Neck

In a seated position, sit on one hand, palm up. Use your other hand to gently pull your head so that your ear travels towards your shoulder, opposite of the side that you’re sitting on your hand. Repeat this by angling your head toward your opposite armpit instead of shoulder to move the stretch to the Levator Scapulae instead of your upper Trapezius muscles.

Upper Back

Lie sideways on the floor in the fetal position. Knees should be bent as close to the chest as possible with arms out in front of you, arms stacked. Take one arm and try to open up the chest, with your head following the arm that is moving. Ideally you should be able to open your back all the way up so that your hips are still sideways on the ground but your back and head are flat on the ground with your arm extended and touching the ground on the other side of your body.

Low Back

Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms straight out to the side. Place both hands on top of one shin, just below the knee, and gently pull this leg up towards your chest. For a deeper stretch, extend the other leg completely out straight. Repeat this on the other leg, then bring both knees to chest.

Shoulders

Sit or stand with good posture. Cross one arm across the body and use the other arm to gently pull it farther across body. Keep the shoulder being stretched down and relaxed.

Biceps

With your arm completely extended in front of you palm up, gently use other hand to bend fingers towards floor, opening up forearm and biceps.

Chest

Stand in a doorway. Bend the arm closest to the doorway at 90 degrees with forearm against the doorway. Gently lean your body away from the arm to feel a stretch in the pecs. Play with the angles of the elbow; try below 90, at 90, and above 90 for a full pec stretch.

Triceps

Start either sitting or standing. Put one hand over the opposite shoulder between your shoulder blades. Make sure that hand is pointing downwards and the elbow is pointing upwards. Use your opposite hand to gently press down on the elbow until you feel a stretch in the triceps.