Basic Stretching

Flexibility is the ability to bend and move the joints through a full range of motion. Flexibility improves quality of life, helps prevent and relieve symptoms associated with arthritis, lower back pain, and other injuries specific to the muscles and joints. It helps decrease the likelihood of having accidents, such as falls, and having good flexibility improves performance in sports and every day activities that require a full range of motion. Stretching is the key to having good flexibility.

Just like warming up your car, you need to warm up your muscles. Warming up your body allows the blood to pump to your muscles, raises your body temperature, and gets your heart pumping faster, which is critical in preparing your body to do more work. Warm up at home can be as easy as being in a gym. You can start by marching in place, swinging your arms, and tapping your toes. If you have an exercise bike, it can be a great warm up tool. Your warm up should consist of about 3-5 minutes in duration. It is important to stretch as a warm-up to more vigorous activity, for a cool down to that activity and it is also beneficial throughout a typical day.

When stretching make sure to do the following:

• Make sure and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. (You should feel a gentle pull through the muscle)
• Never bounce or stretch to the point of pain.
• Take nice deep breaths. (This will help you to relax)

General Stretches
The following stretches are your basic or general stretches that can be performed during warm up, cool down, or at any point throughout your day. Each stretch should be held for 30-60 seconds and you may do each stretch more than once.

Download a stretching worksheet here

 

Calves 
Calves

Start by standing with your right foot in front of your left foot by about 12-18 inches. While pressing your heels towards the floor, slowly bend forward to bring your hands down to your right foot. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and switch your feet to get the other calf.
Chest, Upper Back and Shoulders
Chest Upper Back Shoulders
Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. Clasp your hands behind your back with your palms facing in toward your body. Slowly push your chest forward, keeping your back and abdomen steady. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and release.
Child's Pose
Child Pose
From the Downward Dog or Cat/Cow stretch, start on all fours. Slowly move your stomach toward your thighs and your forehead just above the floor. Stretch your arms out in front of you with your palms facing the floor. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds and repeat as needed.

Cat/Cow
CatcowCowCat

1. Position yourself on your hands and knees so that your wrists are underneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips. Make sure to keep your neck in line with your spine.


2. During an inhale, going into the cow pose, you will need to curl your toes and drop your belly towards the floor. Move your head so that your chin is facing the ceiling.

3. During the exhale, going into the cat pose you will need to round the spine and drop the head so you are looking towards your belly button. Return to the cow pose going back and forth between the two according to your breathing.

Downward Dog
Downward Dog
Starting on all fours (hands and knees), curl your toes under and press back raising your hips and straightening your legs. Let your head and neck remain in line with your spine. Your hands and legs should create an upside down “V.” Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and continue to Child’s Pose.
Groin
Groin 2
Sitting up tall with your back straight, bring the soles of your shoes together in front of your body. Let your knees lower toward the floor. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat as needed.
Hamstrings
Hamstrings
Sitting on the floor with your legs together straight out in front of you, slowly lower your upper body towards your ankles and feet. If you cannot reach your toes just go as far down as you can comfortably without causing any pain in your hamstrings. You should feel a gentle pull in the back of your legs. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat as needed.
Lower Back
Lower Back
Starting on your knees with your calves, ankles, and feet under your thighs, sit up nice and tall. You should be sitting on your feet. Next take your right hand and place it directly behind your right foot, flat on the floor. Take your left arm and reach at a diagonal towards the right back wall. Make sure you are reaching beyond your core. You should feel a gentle pull in the lower back muscles. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat the opposite side.
Neck
Neck
Standing tall with your feet together, knees soft, bring your hands up to your chest. Place your left hand to the left side of your chest just below your neck. Place the right hand cupping over the left hand. Slowly tilt your head toward the right shoulder and hold for about 30 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
Quadraceps
Quad
Standing up nice and tall, bend your left knee and bring your foot towards your buttocks and hold it in place with your left hand. Keep your knees together and do not arch your back. If you are unsteady with your balance you can place your hand against a wall or hang on to an immoveable object. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat using the opposite leg.
Shoulders
Shoulders
Keeping your feet together, and knees soft, cross your right arm in front of your chest. With the opposite arm gently pull your right arm toward your body and hold for about 30 seconds. Repeat using the opposite arm.

Triceps and Sides
Triceps and Sides 

Standing with your feet together and knees soft, bring your left arm up over your head. Bend the elbow and drop your hand toward the middle of your back. With your opposite hand gently pull your left elbow towards the opposite elbow. Tilt your body to the right to stretch the muscles in your side. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat using the opposite arm and side.

 

Upper Back and Shoulders
Upper B and S

Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. Start by bringing your hands and arms up over your head. Next bring the fingertips of both hands together and bend your elbows so your hands are directly behind your head and touching your upper back if possible. Make sure to keep your elbows pushed away from your ears and open up your chest. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and release.

Hip Flexor Easy
Hip Flexor Easy
 Start by keeping both feet together. With your knees bent reach both hands down to the floor and step back with your left leg. If you can’t reach the floor you can always rest your hands on your right knee. Keep a 90 degree angle in the right knee. Your left leg should be straight back. If you cannot see the laces of your shoe you may need to straighten the leg or come up to a higher position. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Hip Flexor Medium
Hip Flexor Medium
 Start by keeping both feet together. With your knees bent reach both hands down to the floor and step back with your left leg. Once you have your left leg back, you can drop your knee and bring your forearms down to the floor on the inside of your right leg. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Hip Flexor Difficult
Hip Flexor Diff
 Start by keeping both feet together. With your knees bent reach both hands down to the floor and step back with your left leg. Then slowly lower your forearms down to the floor on the inside of your right leg. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.