While cardio and strength training typically come to mind when we think of fitness, stretching is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regularly stretching makes everyday activities more comfortable by alleviating muscle tightness, reducing mobility loss and increasing flexibility. Routine stretching can also boost blood flow and energy, improve poor posture, mitigate back pain and lower the risk of injury or falling.
If you want to start seeing the benefits of stretching at home, but aren't sure where to start, this article will give you a list of easy stretch activities. Keep reading to learn how you can begin increasing your flexibility today.
Top 10 Stretches for Flexibility Training
Whether you want to improve your flexibility, posture or fitness overall, check out this list of daily stretches for at-home practice.
1. Cross-Arm Stretch
The cross-arm stretch is ideal for loosening up your shoulders and upper back muscles to increase upper body flexibility. To complete the stretch, bring one of your arms across your chest and hold the elbow with your opposite hand, gently pushing the arm across your chest closer to your body. Hold this position for about 15 seconds before switching arms.
While you can do this exercise from a standing position, sitting in a chair will provide more back support and improve your posture.
2. Quad Stretch
The quad stretch is an excellent move to alleviate knee pain and prevent future injury. To start, stand on one leg and grab your opposite ankle, bending at the knee to bring the foot toward your glutes. Keep your knee pointed straight at the floor and hold the position for about 20 seconds before switching to the other side.
If you have trouble balancing, hold onto a chair for support. For a deeper quad stretch, push your hips forward once you've raised your foot to your backside.
3. Hamstring Stretch
Stretching your hamstrings can help prevent injury and reduce lower back pain. For a thorough hamstring stretch, put one foot forward and bend down from the hips, keeping your back flat and resting your hand on the thighs for support. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides and repeating.
You can deepen this hamstring stretch by reaching your fingers down to your toes. If your hamstrings are exceptionally tight or you feel shaky, try wrapping a resistance band around your foot for more leverage.
4. Calf Stretch
Lengthening the calf muscles through stretching helps make everyday activities like walking easier. For an easy at-home calf stretch, stand facing a wall with your hands flat against it and arms straight. Bend one leg and bring it forward while keeping your back foot flat on the floor with the leg straight. Lean toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the back leg, and hold that position for 20 seconds before switching legs to repeat.
You may need to adjust your stance a few times before finding the position that allows you to feel the maximum stretch. Try widening the distance between your front and back legs until you find what works best for you.
5. Chest Stretch
Lengthening the chest muscles is essential to maintaining good posture. To stretch the chest, clasp your hands together behind your back while keeping your arms straight and gently pulling your shoulders down and back. Once you feel your pectoral muscles opening up, hold that position for about 15 seconds before repeating.
If your shoulders are especially tight, you can try keeping the arms behind you straight out to the sides instead of clasping your hands together.
6. Triceps Stretch
Stretching the triceps is crucial to keeping the upper arms loose. Begin stretching your triceps by extending your arms straight up toward the ceiling and bending one of your elbows behind your head, while using the other hand to gently cup the opposite elbow, pulling it further into the stretch. Hold that position for 20 seconds before switching arms.
Get the most out of this stretch by keeping your shoulders relaxed and reaching the stretching arm's fingertips down the spine.
7. Upper Back Stretch
Keeping the upper back loose and flexible is crucial for good posture. Sit in a chair for this stretch and round your back forward, pressing your arms away from the body with your hands clasped in front of you. Once you feel the stretch in your upper back, hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and repeating.
Get even more out of this upper back stretch by contracting your abs while you hold it.
8. Seated Side Stretch
This seated side stretch will stretch out your oblique ab muscles, which also help you maintain good posture. Start by sitting in a chair and clasping your hands straight up above your head with your palms facing the ceiling. Raise your torso up and tilt toward one side until you feel a stretch down the opposite side. Hold this position for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. Make sure you keep your hips square and your shoulders relaxed, down and away from the ears.
9. Figure 4 Stretch
For an excellent glute and hip flexor stretch, the figure 4 will be your new go-to move. To do this stretch, lie on your back with your knees bent, so your back is flat on the ground. Cross one of your legs on top of the other, resting the ankle of the crossed leg on your other knee. Interlace your fingers behind the uncrossed leg's hamstrings and ease it toward your chest. Hold this pose for up to two minutes to get a solid stretch.
For a deeper stretch, lean on the knee of the crossed leg to open up your hip flexor even more.
10. The Downward Dog
To stretch your legs and lower back simultaneously, try the downward dog pose. Form a 90-degree angle with your body by placing both hands and feet flat on the floor, keeping your heels down to lengthen your spine. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart and pressed into the ground. Hold this position for about a minute and remember to breathe through it.
Do this pose several times throughout the day to keep your blood flowing and preserve good posture.
Increase Your Flexibility at the Gateway Region YMCA
If this list of stretches has inspired you, consider taking yoga classes as an excellent way to enhance your flexibility and the mind-body connection. Boost your flexibility training by signing up for a Mind & Body class at the Gateway Region YMCA. Mind & Body classes at the Y focus on helping you relax and improve your flexibility by stretching and strengthening your muscles.
To join a Mind & Body class, find a YMCA near you today!