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18 Stretches You Can Do Anywhere, Anytime (No Gym Required!)

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18 Stretches You Can Do Anywhere, Anytime (No Gym Required!)

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Have you ever reached for something on the top shelf and felt a twinge in your shoulder?

Or maybe after a long run, your legs feel as stiff as boards?

Stretching exercises can be the answer to these (and many other!) aches and pains. It’s like giving your muscles a big hug, keeping them loose and limber, and ready to take on whatever your day throws your way.

In this post, we’ll learn everything about stretching, from the benefits for beginners to best stretches routines for runners and athletes.

So, grab your comfy clothes, roll out your yoga mat. And let’s get stretching.

Daily Stretching Routine – Step-By-Step Tutorial

1) Before Stretching: Warm-up

Before starting any stretches and exercises, it’s important to warm up your muscles with some light activity like jogging in place for 2-3 minutes. This will help to prevent injuries.

2) After Stretching: Cool-down

After completing your stretches, take a few minutes to cool down with some light walking or gentle stretches.

General Reminders

  1. Breathe slowly and deeply throughout each stretch.
  2. Don’t bounce while stretching. Static stretches are held for a sustained period.
  3. Focus on feeling a gentle pull, not pain. If you feel pain, ease off the stretch.
  4. Hold each stretch for the specified time and repeat for the designated sets.

Now let’s get stretching!

Full Body Stretch Routine: For Beginners

These are just some of the many stretches for fitness you can incorporate into your daily routine. Be sure to listen to your body and modify any stretch as needed.

1. Neck Roll

Neck Roll

Muscles Worked: Neck Muscles

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Gently lower your chin towards your chest.
  • Slowly roll your head in a clockwise direction for one complete circle, taking about 7 seconds.
  • Rest for 5 seconds, then repeat the roll in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Perform 3 sets of this neck roll.

2. Shoulder Roll

Shoulder Roll

Muscles Worked: Shoulders

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Without bending your elbows, slowly raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Then, roll them backwards in a circular motion.
  • Make 5 backward rolls, then reverse the direction and roll your shoulders forward for another 5 rolls.
  • Perform 2 sets of this shoulder roll.

3. Behind-the-Head Triceps Stretch

Triceps Stretch

Muscles Worked: Triceps

  • Extend one arm straight up towards the ceiling, keeping your elbow close to your head.
  • Bend that same arm at the elbow and reach your hand down your back towards your shoulder blades.
  • Use your other hand to gently press down on the elbow of the stretched arm, pushing it slightly further down your back.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, feeling a gentle pull in the back of your upper arm.
  • Relax your arm and repeat the stretch on the other side. Perform 3 sets of this triceps stretch per arm.

4. Standing Hip Rotation

Standing Hip Rotation

Muscles Worked: Hips, Glutes

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips.
  • Gently rotate your hips forward in a circular motion for 3 complete rotations.
  • Bring your hips back to centre, then repeat the rotations in a counter-clockwise direction for another 3 circles.
  • Perform 3 sets of these hip rotations.

5. Standing Hamstring Stretch

hamstring stretch

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Calves

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping one leg straight, bend the other knee slightly and reach forward from your hips, hinging at your waist.
  • Reach towards your toes or shin of the straight leg, keeping your back flat.
  • Feel a gentle stretch in the back of your straight leg.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then relax and switch legs. Perform 3 sets of this hamstring stretch per leg.

6. Quadriceps Stretch

Quadriceps Stretch

Muscles Worked: Quadriceps

  • Stand tall holding onto a sturdy object like a wall or chair for balance.
  • Keep one leg straight behind you with your foot flat on the ground.
  • Gently pull your other foot up behind you towards your buttocks, grabbing your foot with your hand.
  • Keep your hips square and avoid arching your back.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, feeling a pull in the front of your thigh.
  • Relax your leg and repeat the stretch on the other side. Perform 3 sets of this quad stretch per leg.

7. Ankle Roll

Ankle Roll

Muscles Worked: Calves, Ankles

  • Stand on one leg with the other foot slightly off the ground.
  • Keeping your toes pointed forward on the standing foot, roll your ankle in a clockwise direction for 10 circles.
  • Repeat the rolls in a counter-clockwise direction for another 10 circles.
  • Switch legs and repeat the ankle rolls.

8. Child’s Pose

Child's Pose

Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Glutes, Hip flexors

  • Kneel on the floor with your toes together and knees hip-width apart.
  • Sit back on your heels and lower your torso down between your thighs.
  • Rest your forehead on the floor and extend your arms out in front of you, palms facing down.
  • Breathe deeply and relax your body for 30 seconds. Perform 3 sets of Child’s Pose.

Hip Flexibility –

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hip Flexors, Piriformis, Inner And Outer Thighs

9. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Knee to Chest Stretch

  • Lie flat on your back with both legs extended.
  • Keeping one leg straight, gently pull the other knee towards your chest, clasping your hands around your shin or thigh.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, feeling a gentle pull in your hip and lower back.
  • Relax your leg and repeat the stretch with the other leg. Perform 5 sets of this knee-to-chest stretch per leg.

10. Hip Abduction

Hip Abduction

  • Lie on your side with one leg stacked on top of the other.
  • Bend the bottom leg slightly for stability.
  • Lift the top leg up towards the ceiling, keeping your hips stacked and your core engaged.
  • Avoid arching your back or digging your elbow into the ground for support.
  • Hold this stretch for 5 seconds, then lower your leg back down for 2 seconds.
  • Perform 4 sets of 5-second holds per leg.
  • Switch sides and repeat the hip abduction on the other leg.

11. Standing IT Band Stretch

Standing IT Band Stretch

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Cross one leg over in front of the other, placing your foot behind your ankle.
  • Shift your weight onto the leg that’s standing forward.
  • Gently lean your torso away from the crossed leg, reaching your arm overhead on the same side.
  • Maintain a flat back and avoid twisting your hips.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, feeling a pull along the outside of your thigh.
  • Relax and repeat the stretch on the other side. Perform 4 sets of this IT band stretch per leg.

Daily Stretching Routine: For Runners

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Calves, Quadriceps, Glutes

12. Supine Hamstring Stretch

hamstring stretch

  • Lie flat on your back with both knees bent.
  • Gently lift one leg straight up towards the ceiling, keeping your knee straight.
  • Loop a towel or yoga strap around your foot if you can’t reach your leg with your hands.
  • Use the towel or your hands to pull the straight leg towards you, keeping your back flat on the ground.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, feeling a gentle pull in the back of your thigh.
  • Relax your leg and repeat the stretch on the other side. Perform 4 sets of this supine hamstring stretch per leg.

13. Quadriceps Stretch

quadriceps stretching

(refer to full body routine instructions)

14. Side Lunge

Side Lunge

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a large step out to the side with one leg, keeping your toes pointed forward.
  • Bend the knee of your front leg and lower your hips towards the ground, keeping your back straight and your heel flat on the floor.
  • The other leg should be straight but with a slight bend in the knee for stability.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, feeling a deep pull in your inner thigh.
  • Push back up to the starting position and repeat the lunge on the other side. Perform 5 sets of this side lunge per leg.

15. Cobra Stretch

Cobra Stretch

  • Lie flat on your stomach with your toes flat on the ground.
  • Place your palms flat on the floor under your shoulders, elbows tucked in close to your body.
  • Gently press your upper body off the ground, lifting your head, chest, and shoulders.
  • Keep your hips on the ground and avoid arching your back.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, feeling an opening in your chest and shoulders.
  • Relax back down to the starting position. Perform 4 sets of this cobra stretch.

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Daily Stretching Routine: For Athletes

Muscles Worked: It varies depending on the specific sport. But generally, includes major muscle groups in the legs, core, upper body, and arms

16. Forward Lunge

Forward Lunge

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a big step forward with one leg and lower your hips down, bending both knees at about 90 degrees. Keep your torso upright and avoid leaning forward past your front knee.
  • Hold this lunge position for 30 seconds, feeling a stretch in the quad of your front leg and the hip flexor of your back leg.
  • Push back up to starting position and repeat the lunge on the other side. Perform 3 sets of this forward lunge per leg.

17. Side Seat Straddle

Side Seat Straddle

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended out to the sides, forming a V shape.
  • Flex your feet so your toes point up towards the ceiling.
  • Lean your torso over towards one leg by reaching your arm towards your ankle or shin. Keep your back as straight as possible, avoiding hunching forward.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, feeling a pull along the inner thigh of the stretched leg.
  • Relax your torso and arm back to centre. Repeat the stretch by leaning towards the other side. Perform 3 sets of this side seat straddle stretch per leg.

18. Triceps Stretch

Triceps Stretch

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Bring one arm across your body in front of your chest, reaching your hand towards your opposite shoulder.
  • Use your other hand to gently push down on the elbow of the stretched arm, increasing the stretch in your triceps.
  • Avoid pulling on your neck or arching your back.
  • Hold this triceps stretch for 10 seconds, feeling a pull in the back of your upper arm.
  • Relax your arm and repeat the stretch on the other side. Perform 3 sets of this triceps stretch per arm.

“Important Note for Athletes”

The stretches listed above are a general selection for athletes. The ideal stretching program will vary depending on your specific sport.

It’s important to consult with a coach, trainer, or physical therapist to create a stretching exercise workout routine that targets the muscles most important for your sport and helps to prevent injuries.

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Stretching FAQs

Q1: Is stretching better than yoga?

A: Not necessarily! Stretching is a core component of yoga, but yoga offers more than just stretching. Yoga incorporates breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and strengthening postures alongside stretches.

  • Choose stretching if you specifically target flexibility improvement or injury recovery.
  • Choose yoga for a more holistic approach to improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stress reduction.

Q2: What is the golden rule for stretching?

A: There isn’t one golden rule, but here are two key principles:

  • Never bounce: Bouncing stretches can cause muscle tears. Focus on smooth, sustained holds.
  • Listen to your body: Pain is a sign you’re pushing too far. Ease up and relax the stretch.

Q3: Which of the 4 types of stretching is not recommended?

A: Ballistic stretching, which involves bouncing motions, is generally not recommended. It can increase your risk of injury. There are three safer stretching techniques:

  1. Ballistic stretching: Bouncing stretches (not recommended due to injury risk).
  2. Static stretching: Holding a stretch in a sustained position.
  3. Dynamic stretching: Active movements that prepare your muscles for exercise.
  4. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF): Partner-assisted stretching techniques.

Q4: What happens when you hold a stretch for 5 minutes?

A: Holding a stretch for 5 minutes is a form of passive stretching, which can improve flexibility over time. However, there’s no magic number:

  • There’s limited research on the benefits compared to shorter holds (30 seconds).
  • Not everyone needs 5-minute stretches.
  • Focus on proper form and listen to your body for the most effective stretch.

Q5: What is the 20/20/20 rule of stretching?

A: The 20/20/20 rule applies to eye strain during computer use, not stretching. It suggests taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.

There’s no specific “20/20/20 rule” for stretching. But aiming for 20-30 second holds for each stretch is common.

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