5 Best full-body stretches
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These 5 Stretches Will Make Your Body Make You Feel 100x Better

Unfortunately, current workout trends tend to underemphasize recovery and mobility exercises in favor of high-intensity workouts.

High-intensity workouts often include heavy impact activities such as running, sprinting, and jumping.

The problem is: these two workout modes shouldn’t be mutually exclusive! Stretching exercises complement high-intensity workouts and vice versa.

Furthermore, how we sit while working can put a significant amount of strain on our muscles and joints. Prolonged sitting positions can leave us stiff and weak without proper stretching to counteract said postures.

In this article, I will review the primary benefits of thoroughly stretching the entire body. Additionally, I will outline a total body stretching program that you can easily incorporate into your current routine.

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Stretching Benefits

Benefits of stretching

A common reason why so many people are averse to stretching is because they feel as if it is boring. Beyond being boring, some people may feel that stretching is useless to their overall goals.

After all, if you’re a busy person, with many personal and professional commitments, you don’t have much time to devote to exercise.

For these reasons, you’re more likely to prioritize high-energy, calorie-burning exercise modes (if you choose to exercise at all).

But studies have found that even just a few short bouts of total body stretching a week can lead to significant benefits such as:

Increased Range of Motion

One of the most obvious benefits of stretching is increased range of motion (but you probably already knew that). What you may be wondering is “why is it important to have a good range of motion?”

In short, having good flexibility throughout all of the joints of the body could lead to improved force generation throughout a greater range of motion. Therefore, with the addition of a stretching routine, you may notice more power generation in your workouts.

Decreased Risk of Injury

Flexible muscles and joints are associated with a lower risk of injury. For example, one study found that hamstring flexibility was associated with fewer instances of hamstring injury during sprinting activities. Of course, this flexibility should also be balanced with some strength training as well. You never want to be too flexible.

Improved Mood 

Through study, researchers have demonstrated that stretching can improve mood and overall mental state. There are multiple theories on why this is the case, but it may be partially due to the fact that stretching forces us to slow down and breathe. This, in turn, allows us time to reflect on things in life and to improve our mental health.

The Best Stretches for the Entire Body

Best stretches for your entire body

In the next section, I will review the specific parameters and stretches I recommend to encourage mobility throughout every joint of the body.

While recommendations for stretching frequency may vary, It’s important to note that any mobility exercise is better than none. 

For example, let’s say you don’t do any stretching at all right now. So, what If you commit to completing one 10-minute stretching session next week consisting of some sciatica stretches? 

If you complete that one session, you have already made improvements to your current mobility program. Then, maybe the following week, you complete two 10-minute stretching sessions. From there, the sky’s the limit!

Each stretch in the next section will target a different part of the body. When combined together, you’ll have a comprehensive stretching program.

I recommend performing the following stretching program 3-5 days a week. It doesn’t matter whether you stretch on the same days you perform resistance training or different days. What matters is that you complete your stretches at some point!

Total Body Flexibility Routine

Below you’ll find 5 flexibility exercises that can be combined to stretch the entire body. If you’re just starting out: take your time, focus on your breathing, and try to enjoy the relaxation that comes from a good stretch.

1. Cat-Cow Stretch

Cat Cow Stretch - stretches

Cat-Cow is a classic yoga pose that is frequently incorporated into many different stretching and mobility routines. It is an excellent exercise to help people improve their breathing, coordination, and spinal flexibility.

Target Muscles: Abdominals, upper back muscles, anterior and posterior neck muscles

Parameters and Extra Notes

Hold each position (cat and cow) for 15 seconds or for the duration of three deep breaths in and out (whichever is longer). Immediately switch to the cow after performing cat and vice versa until you have completed 5 rounds of each stretch.

How to Perform

  • Place your hands and knees on the ground, keeping your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips.
  • Begin by rounding the upper back, bringing the chin to the chest and keeping your elbows straight (cat).
  • Once you’ve held the stretch for the indicated amount of time, you will switch to “cow” by reversing the motion: extend the head slightly, arch your back and continue to keep elbows straight.
  • If there is any pain, decrease the stretch or discontinue the exercise until you’ve been evaluated by a qualified medical professional.

2. Band Shoulder Stretch

Band Warm-up Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder mobility is severely lacking in many sedentary and active individuals. Movements such as this one are perfect choices for before workouts, after workouts, or at any time throughout the day!

Target Muscles: Pecs, various shoulder muscles

Parameters and Extra Notes

You’ll need either a band, towel, or dowel rod for this exercise. Don’t stress if you can’t find a band, anything that you can hold on to is perfect!

This stretch can be quite intense, so ease into it. Hold for 15 seconds, breathing deeply in and out for the duration of the stretch.

Complete 10 rounds, aiming for slightly further range with each repetition.

How to Perform

  • Hold the towel in both hands, with palms facing down.
  • Start with a grip that is roughly the width of your shoulders.
  • Raise your arms up and over your head until you feel a stretch across your chest.
  • Ensure that you do not hold your breath at any point during the stretch.
  • Return to the starting position and take a few seconds to recover before completing the next repetition.

3. Adductor Stretch on Wall

Adductor Stretch on Wall

Jean-Claude Van Damme was on to something with his famous splits. Increasing mobility in the legs, specifically in the adductors is an excellent way to encourage hip and lower body health in general.

Target Muscles: All hip adductors, hamstrings, calves (with modification)

Parameters and Extra Notes

Depending on whether you’ve practiced mobility in the past or not, you’ll want to be cautious with this exercise. Overstretching the adductors before your body is ready can lead to pain and discomfort for days after the stretching session.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, trying to increase the range of motion slightly every few seconds.

Complete at least 4 rounds of this stretch per session or more, if you’re feeling up to it.

How to Perform

  • Lying on your back with legs straight on a wall, slowly allow your legs to separate to the sides as if you’re opening a pair of scissors.
  • Ensure that your back stays flat on the floor throughout the exercise. If possible, keep your buttocks in contact with the wall throughout the movement.
  • Focus on your breathing as you increase the stretch, and listen to your body. If it feels like you’ve gone too far, decrease the stretch slightly.
  • You can also add in some calf and hamstring stretching by flexing your feet backward (dorsiflexion) during the movement.

4. Dead Hang Stretch

Dead Hang Stretch

Hanging encourages traction throughout the spine. Traction is a difficult goal to achieve without having something to hang from, so if you don’t have a pull-up bar, see if you can find a low-hanging tree or a strong support beam with which to complete this stretch.

Target Muscles: Lats, biceps, abdominals, spinal segments.

Parameters and Extra Notes

Relax everything but your hands as you slowly sink into this hanging stretch. If your grip is limiting you, experiment with some different styles of gripping the bar, such as wrapping your thumb over or under.

Attempt to hold for 30 seconds, taking a break in between each hang. Repeat 4-5 times.

How to Perform

  • Hang from the bar with a comfortable grip.
  • Slowly relax all of your muscles (except for your forearms as they grip the bar).
  • Allow yourself to sink lower and lower, feeling relief throughout your spine.
  • If you experience any pain with this exercise, attempt to slightly adjust your hold on the bar. If pain persists, ensure that you are evaluated by a qualified medical professional.

5. Backward Abdominal/Hip Flexor Stretch

ard Abdominal/Hip Flexor Stretch

This stretch can be modified in many ways but is important to perform in some capacity. So much of our lives are spent in a flexed position, and this exercise reverses that motion to the extreme!

Target Muscles: Abdominals, hip flexors

Parameters and Extra Notes

If this exercise bothers your knees, feel free to place some extra padding or pillows beneath you. This will take some of the pressure off and allow you to fully experience the benefit of the exercise.

You’ll want to ease into this stretch, much like all of the others, and ensure that you don’t experience any back pain as you move further through the range of motion.

Once you’ve reached the end of your range, hold for 30 seconds. Complete 4-5 repetitions of this exercise.

How to Perform

  • While kneeling, lean backward and slightly press your hips forward.
  • Attempt to grasp the back of your ankles with your hands as you move through the stretch, you can use your ankles as “handles” to pull yourself further into the stretch if needed.
  • Do not hold your breath at any point during this exercise and if you feel lightheaded or experience any pain, stop the movement immediately, promptly following up with your doctor.

Conclusion

There are many other great exercises that could be incorporated into your stretching program. For instance, you may even want to include the classic “toe touch” or some piriformis stretches.

The program described above works well for anyone. In fact, it includes stretching exercises for beginners as well as ones designed for more advanced exercisers.

Whatever your ability level is, ensure that you get your stretching in as often as possible!

References

  1. The acute and prolonged effects of 20-s static stretching on muscle strength and shear elastic modulus
  2. Sato S, Kiyono R, Takahashi N, Yoshida T, Takeuchi K, et al. (2020) The acute and prolonged effects of 20-s static stretching on muscle strength and shear elastic modulus. PLOS ONE 15(2): e0228583. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228583
  3. Wan, X., Li, S., Best, T. M., Liu, H., Li, H., & Yu, B. (2021). Effects of flexibility and strength training on peak hamstring musculotendinous strains during sprinting. Journal of sport and health science10(2), 222–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2020.08.001
  4. Sudo M, Ando S. Effects of Acute Stretching on Cognitive Function and Mood States of Physically Inactive Young Adults. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 2020;127(1):142-153. doi:10.1177/0031512519888304
  5. Page P. (2012). Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. International journal of sports physical therapy7(1), 109–119.

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