Stretching is one of those things that tends to get dropped to the bottom of people’s healthy to-do lists, but adding it to your daily routine can be highly beneficial. Research shows that post-workout static stretching—where you hold a pose for 10 to 30 seconds—can improve range of motion around your joints.
“Stretching after you exercise can help move inflammation out of your muscles and increase blood flow,” says Ben Greenfield, a personal trainer and author of Beyond Training. Spending time lengthening your limbs also has mental benefits. “Going through a series of stretches can reduce stress and cortisol levels,” Greenfield adds.
While the best time to stretch is when muscles are warm—say, after a walk or a workout—stretching is so beneficial that whenever you can squeeze it in, you should. Use the following routine to get started. Try to hold each stretch for as long as it takes to breathe five to six slow, deep breaths.
Daily Stretching Sequence
Muscles targeted: chest, shoulders
- Stand facing a corner of a room. With your arms at your sides and elbows bent at about shoulder height, press one palm into each wall while staggering your feet behind you.
- Slowly lean inward, pressing your chest towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your chest.
- Hold without allowing your forearms or hands to move.
Muscles targeted: glutes, quads, core
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet as close to your pelvis as possible.
- Press down through your heels and lift your pelvis off the floor.
- Continue lifting until your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (your shoulders should still be on the floor). Keep your knees in line with your feet.
- Hold at the top before lowering back down.
Muscles targeted: piriformis (a gluteal muscle)
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet pressed into the ground.
- Cross your left ankle over your right knee, and then reach your hands around your right thigh.
- Pull your right thigh towards you (keeping your upper body on the floor). Hold, then repeat on the other side.
Muscles targeted: spinal flexors, obliques
- Sit with legs extended straight in front of you.
- Cross your right leg over your left, planting your right foot outside your left knee.
- Twist to the right, placing your left elbow outside your right knee, and look over your shoulder. Hold, then repeat on other side.
Muscles targeted: hamstrings
- Lie on your back with both legs flat against the ground.
- Lift your right leg up off the ground, placing your hands behind your right thigh.
- Keeping your right leg straight, pull it towards your chest as far as you can. Hold, then repeat on other side.
Muscles targeted: glutes
- Lie on your back with your left leg bent and your right leg straight up in the air.
- Loop a band around the sole of your right foot.
- Keeping your left foot planted firmly on the mat, pull your right leg in towards your chest. Hold, then repeat on other side.
Muscles targeted: Hip extensors, adductors
- Sit on the ground with your legs straight and in the shape of the letter “V.”
- Hinge forward at the hips and reach your torso towards your toes, getting your upper body as close to the floor as possible between your outstretched legs. Hold, and then walk your arms back toward your body to sit back up.
Calf Stretch Against Wall
Muscles targeted: calves
- Standing near a wall, place the toes of your right foot on the base of the wall.
- Lean in towards the wall, feeling the stretch in your calf. Make sure not to bend your back leg—only go as far as you can while keeping it straight.
- Hold, then repeat on other side.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.