Even if you’re not a gym rat—crushing a high-intensity workout on a weekly basis will most likely leave you feeling stiff more often than you like. Or a daily run of just a mile or two is enough to make your body yarn for some stretches and relief from soreness and tightness.
When you think about it, most of us spend the majority of our day sitting down at a desk, in front of a keyboard all day long, not using our muscles in the way we are supposed to, if at all.
If we were to take a picture of our sitting posture, it’ll be slouching over a keyboard with rounded shoulders.
It'd be a moment of truth for many of us.
As you know, a poor posture like hatched back places way too much stress on your neck, lower back, hips and all the other places.
That’s where these amazing stretches come in handy.
Stretching our bodies is important as it lengthens tight and otherwise shorten muscles, allowing us to use them to their fullest capability, without injuring ourselves, says Sara Kova, a Yoga instructor and Teacher in Honolulu Hawaii.
Stretching helps increase blood flow to our tight muscles, improving and lengthening muscles which leads to further improvements in everything from moving better in our daily lives to placing less stress on our joints.
It even boosts physical performance while decreasing the risk of injury.
According to Dr. Michael Clark C.E.O of National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) a leading health and fitness Organization responsible for educating and certified personal trainer, stretching is an extremely important technique to prevent injury, warm-up your body before exercise, and cool your body down after exercises.
For those of us looking for overall improvements in health and quality of life, stretching also offers more practical benefits like better sleep, better breathing, more pleasant wake-up, and of course, and better posture.
The bottom line is, aches or tightness in your lower back is a wake-up call from your body needing some quality "lower back stretches"—And this goes out to all the other body parts like hips and inner thigh that need stretches.
To get you properly stretched out and send you on your way to better health, physical performance and better sleep, we asked Sara to come up with a list of the best "stretching exercises" you can easily do at home.
They will completely stretch out every part of your body and help you rejuvenate to make you feel amazing again!
These refreshing, simple feel-good stretches include hip flexor stretches, back stretches, hamstring stretches, IT band stretches, hip stretches, piriformis stretch, and even sciatica stretches.
Also, while it’s not widely known, there are many types of stretches.
Knowing when to do what forms of stretching and how to pair different stretches can make a world of a difference in getting your body properly stretched and warmed-up.
This is because different stretching techniques serve different purposes.
There are 4 main forms of stretches:
- Self-myofascial release (foam rolling)
- Static stretching
- Active stretching
- Dynamic stretching
As for stretching sequence and pairing, Dr. Clark, DPT recommends the following sequence:
Warm-up (prior to exercise)
- Foam roll
- Static stretching on tight muscles
- Active or Dynamic Stretching
Cool-down (after exercise)
- Foam roll
- Static Stretching
The flexibility exercises included in this post are static stretches, and they are best performed after foam rolling your muscles. Be sure to also note that these flexibility exercises are not meant to be done right before vigorous workouts. For that, dynamic stretching is much better suited.
Before we get to the list of stretches, here is another word of caution.
Without a doubt, exercising our muscles is amazingly good for our bodies, but when done incorrectly, it can also lead to tight muscles and painful, annoying aches that do more harm than good.
So be sure to follow the instructions as you try these stretching exercises and stop if you feel discomfort or pain.
Without further adieu, here are simple yet amazing stretching you can do at home. Let’s get started!
Full-Body Stretches for Every Tight Muscle
* Scroll down past the stretch poster to get each stretch's full descriptions and instructions on how to perform with correct body positioning.
1. Chest Stretch
Tight chest and shoulder muscles can put a ton of unnecessary stress on your neck and upper back.
And it’s not just vigorous activities that cause tightness and stress on your muscles. More often than not, it’s the periods of prolonged inactivity such as long days and weeks working at a desk that make your muscles tight.
The most common scenario is seating at a desk. At the position, your hips are in a bent or flexed position, putting the muscles on the front of the hip (hip flexors) in a shortened position and muscles on the back of the hip (glutes) in a lengthened position.
As you reach forward to reach your keyboard and computer from a seating position, you are also putting your chest muscles (pectorals) in a shorted position and upper back muscles (rhomboids) in a lengthened position.
Over time, this can cause muscle imbalances, the shortened muscles becoming "tight" and the lengthened muscles becoming weak, says Victoria Brautigan, B.S., and ACE certified personal trainer.
It’s important to properly stretch the tight chest and shoulder muscles in the front to keep them healthy and balanced.
Though, stretching helps lengthening the tight chest muscles, the key to preventing muscle tightness is to be mindful of your posture while sitting, adds Victoria.
Stretch the Chest:
- Stand tall with your arms extended and hands together directly in front of you. This will be your starting position.
- While keeping your arms straight, take a deep breath. As you exhale slowly, open up your chest and shoulder muscles by moving your arms as far back as you can comfortably handle.
- Once your arms are back and feel your chest and shoulders open up, squeeze your shoulder blades back together. Hold the stretch position for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
One of the main reasons triceps tend to feel tight is because it doesn’t get much activity like biceps. Muscles that lack any activity can get tight overtime as a result of their restricted movement, and left uncared for, it can further lead to muscle imbalances.
You can also feel tightness in triceps more often than the biceps.
Part the reason this happens is because the triceps are generally weaker than the biceps. Also because triceps get worked less often in everyday activity, they'll feel tighter when isolated and activated in exercise, explains Sara.
Overhead Triceps Stretch:
- Reach right arm over your head, bend at the elbow, and place left hand on the right elbow.
- Gently pull the right elbow back and down until you feel tension. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
3. Lower Back Stretch
Our back muscles are one of the most important and delicate muscle groups in the body.
Many other major muscles including lats, glutes and abs are all connected to the back and get affected by the health of your back muscles.
Backs are also responsible for many things.
They support your torso, keep your spine healthy and even help the arms move and back bend.
Because so many movements affect your backs, backs are more prone to injury, tightness and soreness. It’s easy for anyone to hurt the backs with the slightest movement.
And when the back muscles get overworked and develop tightness, that when’s our aching back start. "This is why I always encourage my clients to perform daily stretching exercises to keep the back muscles healthy." says Sara.
For stronger and healthier back, Sara recommends head-to-toe, or yoga regular may call it half-butterfly.
It’s easy and stretches not only the back muscles, but also the hamstrings and the calf muscles.
- Sit up straight with your legs in front of you. Stretch your heels and the back of your knees. Bend the right leg.
- Bend your right leg and bring your foot to the inside of your leg tight let the right leg drop.
- Take a deep breath and breath out place your right hand on your lower back for support. Keeping both your buttocks on the floor stretch forward and upward from the right hip and catch your left foot with your left hand. Hold the stretch position for 20-30 seconds. Switch and repeat on the other side.
4. Hamstrings Stretch
Hamstring flexibility is important for your back, hips and knees.
Tight hamstrings can affect movement, cause muscle imbalances, and puts unnecessary stress on your lower back.
It can also very easily pull or injure your leg.
Stretch the Hamstrings:
- Lie flat on your back with legs fully extended and arms at your side. Raise the leg to be stretched with your knee slightly bent.
- Grab your hamstring with both hands, lacing your fingers together if you wish. Keeping your head and shoulders resting on the floor, extend your leg as straight as you can make it without locking your knee joint. Your foot should be flexed.
- Once you feel your hamstrings being stretched, hold it there for 20-30 seconds to push your leg straight and hold there for 20-20 seconds then relax. Repeat for 2-3 times. Switch and repeat on the other leg.
5. Piriformis Glute stretch
The piriformis is primarily an external rotator, one of small, deep muscles that externally rotate the leg outward at the hip.
It’s notorious for causing sciatic pain.
This is why the piriformis stretch is one of the sciatica stretches that often gets prescribed for immediate relief.
When the piriformis gets tight, it pinches the sciatic nerve and causes a burning sensation pain at various points along the nerve’s path, which runs from the buttock all the way down to the foot.
Tightness in the piriformis muscle can also bring hot pains in the buttock during hip stretches.
Piriformis can afflict forward bending with a feeling of tension in the buttocks around the hip joints and sacrum. Limitations in the piriformis can translate to pain and strain in the lower back, as well—even during everyday activities and a movement of bending forward can cause pain.
Though piriformis seems nothing more than a troublemaker causing pain far out of proportion to its function, this muscle serves an important purpose.
Its most fundamental job is to provide stability to your sacrum, the triangular bone that connects the back of your pelvis to your spine. It’s essential to stretch your piriformis on a regular basis for its health and pain prevention.
To Stretch the Piriformis:
The 90 / 90 stretch stretches the part of the piriformis muscle that seems to cause the main problem.
- To begin, start by sitting down on the floor with your front leg at 90 degrees and your back leg at 90 degrees as shown in the picture.
- Have your chest and spine upright keeping a slight lower lordotic curve in your back. Be mindful of how the arms are positioned with your shoulder blades. They are retracted and spine is kept in a neutral position.
- Bring your chest forward towards your front leg to feel a deeper stretch in glutes (piriformis). Hold this stretch for 20- 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
6. Calf Stretch
The calf is one of the most overworked and overused muscle groups in the body—Many women wear heels during the day and some of us even go on a regular run for cardio. Though these may seem ordinary activities, they are enough to cause tight calves.
In fact, Yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Kova explains with constant nature of being on our feet, walking and running, it’s no surprise how the calf is always sore and tight.
To properly care for your overworked calves, stretching is a must and often the best cure.
If you feel tightness and soreness in your calves, it may be time to add a calf stretch to your daily routine.
While there are many different calf stretches you can do to loosen and stretch out your calf, the wall calf stretch is the most basic one and provides almost instant relief in your calf.
The fact that you only need a wall to perform this stretch is a big plus. It’s doable outdoor, in the office, home studio or even in your living room. And, it only takes a few minutes.
To Stretch the Calf
- To start, stand a little less than arm's distance from a wall. Keeping feet parallel, step left foot forward until toes touch wall in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and lean forward to place hands on wall while keeping back leg straight and pressing heel into the ground.
- Hold the calf for 20-30 seconds and switch legs.
To stretch the inner calf muscle (Soleus)
- Bend both knees and focus mainly on the back knee.
- Bring your weight forward onto your toes but make sure you keep the heels down at the back.
- Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
There you have it! You learned 6 stretches to stretch every tight muscle in your body.
These stretches are featured in our stretch poster, a bonus poster when you purchase our 4 women’s workout poster pack available on Amazon. Grab your poster pack today to get this beautifully designed, functional and resourceful stretch poster.
Special thanks to our Expert, Sara Kova, registered Yoga Teacher and founder of Kova Yoga in Honolulu, HI.