35 Stretches Your Body Is Begging For
Rest days, recovery, self-care . . . all things that are too often overlooked. We're here to tell you: don't skip the stretch! Stretching is essential for keeping your body healthy, preventing injury, and ensuring that you'll be in good shape for the next workout. After every workout, be sure to give the muscles you worked some TLC. If you're unsure where to start, let this be your guide!
Modified Hurdler Stretch
- Sit on the floor and straighten your left leg in front of you. Bend the right knee, placing the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh.
- Fold over your left leg, keeping your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Note: This basic stretch is perfect for targeting one leg at a time and is great for those with really tight hamstrings.
Active Hamstring Stretch
- Standing on your right leg, step your left leg forward with your toes flexed.
- Reach your left hand to your toes, keeping your back flat — you should feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this position for just a moment, then place your left food next to your right as you return to standing upright.
- Switch sides to stretch your right hamstring. Continue alternating sides for 20 to 30 seconds.
Scissor Hamstring Stretch
- Stand with your feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet and bend forward from your hip joint, keeping your back and both legs straight. After holding for 30 seconds, switch sides.
Note: Safe for injured backs, this hamstring stretch is great if you're really tight.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Prop your left heel up on a surface that is a little lower than your hip, such as a chair or bench. Flex your foot.
- To increase the stretch, bend forward toward your flexed foot by creasing at your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Note: This is a good option if a traditional hamstring stretch is not deep enough for you. It's perfect for doing on a bench after a run in the park.
Seated Forward Bend
- Sit on the floor, extending both legs straight out in front of you, legs together.
- Flex your feet and reach your hands to your toes by bending at your hips (trying to not round your back too much) and focus on the stretch for the backs of your legs. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Reclined Hamstring Stretch
- Lie on your back. Raise your left leg as high as you can, keeping your pelvis flat on the ground. Hold your lower thigh and encourage the leg to move toward your head. Flex your foot to stretch your calf too.
- To deepen the stretch, place a yoga strap or towel on the ball of your foot and use your hands to pull the strap toward you. After 30 seconds, switch legs.
Forward Bend With Rounded Back
- Sit on the floor, extending both legs straight out in front of you, legs together.
- Fold your torso over your thighs, gently rounding the back but keeping the legs straight. Hold here for 30 seconds and then sit up.
Note: This stretch targets both hamstrings as well as the lower back.
Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand on your right leg with your knees touching. If you need to, grab hold of a chair or wall for support.
- Grab your left foot with your left hand and pull your heel toward your butt. Do your best to keep your chest upright, and don't worry about how close your foot is to your butt. Focus on the stretch on your left quad.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Kneeling Quad Stretch
- Begin in a runner's lunge with your right foot forward. Slowly lower your left knee to the floor.
- Take a few moments to find balance, and once you're stabilized, grab your left foot with your left hand.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
IT Band Stretch
- Bend in half at the waist and hang over, crossing your right foot behind your left and pressing your right big toe into the floor.
- Twist your upper body to the right, reaching your right arm to the ceiling. You should feel a gentle pull on the outside of your right leg. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Uncross your legs and switch legs to stretch the other side.
IT Band Stretch
- Cross your left leg behind you, putting weight on the outside of your left foot. Reach your left arm toward the sky.
- Press your left hip out to the side to increase the stretch of your left IT band. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Standing Piriformis Stretch
- Bring your right knee toward your chest, then open the knee to the right. Cradle your right shin, and gently rock your leg from side to side to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and switch sides.
Note: This is a standing variation of the yoga pose Pigeon, which targets the deep glutes.
- Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your left ankle on your right thigh just above your knee. See the shape of the number 4? It is there, just upside down.
- Clasp your hands around your left thigh and slowly pull your thigh toward your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- From standing, step your right foot forward, coming into a lunge. Place your hands just above your right knee for support.
- Reach through your left heel to lengthen the front of your left hip. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Lunge With Reach and Twist
- From a runner's lunge, place your right hand on the outside of your right foot. Reach your left hand to the ceiling, increasing the stretch on the left side of the body. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Then place the left hand at the inside of your right foot. Twist to the right and reach your right arm to the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Repeat this sequence on the other side.
- Begin in a plank pose with your hands under your shoulders, then lift your pelvis up, making a "V" with your body. Walk your feet toward your hands if you need to.
- Work on bringing your heels toward the ground to stretch your calves.
- To deepen the stretch, try pedaling lightly by pressing down on one heel while bending the other leg (as shown). Hold a few seconds per leg and then switch.
- Hold or pedal your feet for 30 seconds.
Wall Calf Stretch
- Stand a little less than arm's distance from the wall.
- Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel.
- Bend your left knee and press through your right heel.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Wall or Curb Stretch
- Find a wall and stand a few inches away. With one foot, put your toes on the wall, keeping your heel on the floor, and flex.
- Hold for about 10-15 seconds, then alternate with your other foot.
- You can also do this stretch using a curb or step and hanging your heels off the ledge.
Seated Calf Stretch
- Sit comfortably on the floor. If the backs of your legs are really tight and you find yourself slumping, sit on a pillow so you can keep your spine straight.
- Fold your right leg in and reach your left leg long.
- Wrap a yoga strap or Theraband (or an old tie or belt from your bathrobe) around the ball of your left foot.
- Use the strap to pull your toes toward your head.
- Do not jam your knee into the floor, and keep your left heel on the ground.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
- Step your right foot back about a foot. Keeping your feet parallel, bend both your knees.
- Press your right heel into the ground as you shift your weight forward to increase the stretch.
- Step your right foot back about two feet, bending your left knee.
- Press your heel into the ground to increase the stretch.
- Reach your right arm overhead to lengthen the right side of your body. Maintain the length as you bend your right elbow, bringing your fingers to the middle of your upper back.
- Grab your right elbow with your left hand and gently pull the right elbow toward the left.
- Increase the stretch by lengthening the right side of your torso even more by bending sideways to the left.
- Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then switch sides.
Standing Side Bend
- Stand with your feet under your hips, and interlace your fingers above your head with your palms toward the ceiling.
- Lengthen the right side of your torso as you lean to the left. Hold this for five seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two to three times on each side.
- Reach your left arm across your body at chest height. Support the left arm with your right elbow.
- Use your right arm to pull the left arm closer to your chest to increase the stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then switch sides.
Seated Heart Opener
- Begin sitting on the heels as if coming into Reclining Hero pose.
- Lean back and place your palms flat on the floor about eight to 10 inches behind you so your fingertips are pointing away.
- Press your hands firmly into the ground to lift the chest high, arching your back and pushing your hips into your heels. To increase the stretch, lower your head behind you, stretching through your throat and the front of your chest even more.
- Stay for 30 seconds, then lift your head and torso up.
Chest Opener With Forward Bend
- Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together to stretch your chest. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head.
- Relax the back of your neck, and if the stretch is too intense, release your hands, placing them on the backs of your thighs, and soften your knees. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly roll up to standing.
Seated Neck Release
- Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Extend your right arm next to your right knee or along the right side of the chair. Place your left hand on the top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch.
- To feel a deeper stretch, you can hold onto your right knee or the seat of the chair. This stabilizes the torso and allows you to isolate the stretch on the side of your neck.
- Hold on this side for 30 seconds, then slowly lift your head up and repeat this stretch on the other side.
Seated Clasping Neck Stretch
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor.
- Clasp your hands and bring both palms to the back of your head. Sitting with a tall spine, ground your hips firmly into your seat.
- From here, begin to gently press your hands down toward your thighs, tucking your chin into your chest. As you press down, use the heels of your palms to pull your head away from your shoulders. This will intensify the stretch even more.
- Hold here for at least 30 seconds, and then slowly lift your head up and release your hands.
Behind-the-Back Neck Stretch
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart, arms by your sides.
- Reach both hands behind your backside, and hold onto your left wrist with your right hand. Use your right hand to gently straighten your left arm and pull it away from you slightly.
- To increase the stretch in your neck, slowly lower your right ear toward your shoulder.
- Stay here for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Sumo With a Twist
- In a wide stance with your toes pointing out, bend your knees, so your thighs are parallel to the ground and knees are at 90 degrees.
- With your hands on your thighs, straighten your right arms to twist to the left. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Give your back and inner thighs some relief by adding a twist to your sumo squat.
- Pull your right knee toward your chest to round and stretch your low back. Increase the stretch by pulling your abs toward your spine.
Note: This is a quick way to relieve any tension in your low back.
- Lie on your back and draw your knees to your chest to give your low back a gentle stretch.
- Increase the stretch by bringing your forehead toward your knees. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and place your right heel as close to your left sit bone as you can.
- Reach your right arm behind you, and plant your palm or fingertips on the floor. Place your left hand or elbow on your right knee or thigh, and gently pull your knee to the left until you feel the stretch in your glutes.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the left side.
Lying Low-Back Twist
- Lying on your back, extend your arms out to your sides. Bend your knees, and cross your right leg over your left.
- Slowly rotate your knees to the right, allowing them to come to the floor. It's OK if your left shoulder comes off the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Then, slowly bring the knees back to the center.
- Reverse directions and twist to the left. Repeat as needed.
Child's Pose With Reach
- Kneel on your mat with your knees, and lie your torso down onto your thighs and your forehead on the ground. Reach your arms forward. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Walk your hands over to the left to lengthen the right side of your spine. Focus on breathing into your right rib cage. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then walk your hands to the right to stretch the left side of your back.