Stretching Exercise Guides with Photos and Instructions

0

Including stretching as a part of your overall fitness program is very important for improving flexibility, increasing blood flow, helping to assist in having better posture and improving balance. We provide step-by-step instructional guides to help you choose the best stretching exercises for each muscle group. Each instructional exercise guide has detailed photos and training advice to show you how to properly perform the stretching movements so you can execute the exercises safely and effectively!

ABDOMINALS – The important core muscles of your abdominals are crucial for having a strong trunk for everyday activities like pickup up your kids, lifting groceries and even getting out of bed in the morning. Stretching your abs will help to lengthen and strengthen these key muscles which offer so many amazing benefits.

Abdominal Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie face down on a mat on the floor with your legs completely extended and your toes pointing outward. Keep your torso up off the mat using your arms as support in a sort of semi push-up position. Slowly arch your back by lifting your head up and back as far as you can comfortably go in order to really stretch your abdominal region. Hold this position at the peak of the movement for a 3 to 4 second count, return to the start position and repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

stretching-prone-abdominal-stretch

Abs Active

Exercise Advice: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your palms on the small of your back. Push your hips forward while slowly arching backwards as far as you can.

stretching-abs-active

Abs Passive

Exercise Advice: Lie back on a stability ball, lace your fingers behind your head, and plant your feet on the floor. Let your head and shoulders drape over the ball. Hold for ten breaths then slowly pull yourself upright.

stretching-abs-passive

BACK – The back is one of the most injury-prone areas for millions of people. Back injuries often result in pain, so it’s absolutely vital that you implement several stretching exercises each week to target this key area of the body to stay healthy and pain-free. 

Back Active

Exercise Advice: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Roll your shoulders forward, round your back, and reach out as if you’re going to hug a tree. In the same motion, bring your arms slowly back to your sides.

stretching-back-active

Back Passive

Exercise Advice: Stand like a rag doll, letting your shoulders, arms, and head roll forward. Focus on fully relaxing your upper back and shoulders. Breathe deeply ten times.

stretching-back-passive

Cat Stretch

Exercise Advice: Kneel on your hands and knees on a mat on the floor. Slowly arch your back up to the ceiling as high as you possibly can go. Hold in that position for a 3 to 4 second count, return to the start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

stretching-cat-stretch

Lower Back Twist

Exercise Advice: Lying on the floor, place your left leg over your right leg. Using your right hand, gently pull your right knee towards the floor, twisting your spine and keeping left arm straight out, hips and shoulders on the floor. Switch sides.

stretching-lower-back-twist

Spinal Twist

Exercise Advice: Lying on the floor, place your left leg over your right leg. Using your right hand, gently pull your right knee towards the floor, twisting your spine and keeping left arm straight out, hips and shoulders on the floor. Switch sides.

stretching-spinal-twist

Standing Cat Stretch

Exercise Advice: This is the same as the kneeling cat stretch, except that you will be standing with your feet just beyond shoulder width apart and your hands will be placed on your knees. Slowly arch your back up to the ceiling as high as you possibly can go. Hold in that position for a 3 to 4 second count, return to the start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

stretching-standing-cat-stretch

Lower Back Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie on your back on a mat on the floor with both legs tucked into your chest and being held there with your arms. Stay in this position for a 10 second count, relax and repeat for 3 to 4 total sets.

stretching-supine-low-back-stretch

BICEPS – Too many gym-goers neglect to stretch this muscle group on a regular basis even though it’s one of the most commonly overtrained muscles of the body. Adding a few key biceps stretches will help to lengthen the muscle belly and might even help to spur additional growth.

Kneeling Biceps Stretch

Exercise Advice: Kneel on a mat on the floor with your hands out in front of you on the mat as well. Turn your palms completely around so that the backs of your wrists are pointing away from the rest of your body. Push against your wrists to a point determined by your own comfort level and hold for a 3 to 4 second count.

stretching-kneeling-biceps-stretch

CHEST – Stretching the pectoralis muscles of the chest is beneficial for elongating this commonly used muscle group along with increasing flexibility which is beneficial when doing important compound exercises like the barbell bench press.

Behind Back Chest Stretch

Exercise Advice: Reach both hands behind you and interlock your fingers together. Try to straighten your arms and pull your shoulder blades together and down as you lift your chest up, keeping neck down. You should feel a small amount of tension through your chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

stretching-behind-back-chest-stretch

T Stretch

Exercise Advice: While standing, extend your arms straight out to the side, with palms up. Relax neck as you press straight arms back and hold, feeling mild tension through the chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

stretching-t-stretch

FOREARMS – The forearms are used in every upper body exercises as a secondary muscle group so it’s critical that you include a few stretching sessions per week for this key area.

Palms Up Forearm Stretch

Exercise Advice: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and hold your hands out in front of your midsection. Simply press on of your hands against the other so as to bend the fingers and palm backward to really stretch the underside of the forearm. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and repeat on the opposite forearm.

stretching-palm-up-stretch

NECK – Neck pain and discomfort is extremely common in millions of people who work office jobs and sit behind a computer all day long. It is typically due to improper posture, so be sure to sit up straight and also include different stretching exercises for the neck to help strengthen this area.

Neck Circle Rolls

Exercise Advice: Slowly roll your head in giant circles. Complete 10 repetitions in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.

neck-exercises-circular-motions

SHOULDERS – The shoulders hold a lot of tension during normal day-to-day activities and carry the brunt of the work during upper body exercises. Therefore, it is very important to make sure to implement several of these key stretches to help increase the flexibility and stability of this important muscle group.

Cross Body Stretch

Exercise Advice: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and simply bring one of your arms across your body at about chest-level. Lock that arm in place and really stretch it by using your other arm to do so. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite arm.

stretching-front-body-cross

Kneeling Reach

Exercise Advice: Kneel down on a mat and sit back moving your buttocks toward the heels with your arms extending out in front of your body. Try to keep your elbows straight and palms pressing down into mat. Feel mild tension through upper arms and shoulders. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

stretching-kneeling-superman-reach

Rear Body Reach

Exercise Advice: Reach your left arm behind you and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle with your palm facing out. With your left hand, reach in front of your right arm and press your left hand back as you press your shoulder blades together, which will open up the chest, feeling mild tension in upper shoulder. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

stretching-rear-body-reach

TORSO – Increasing strength, stability and flexibility in your torso goes a long way for living a pain-free life since the torso is made up of many key muscles which include your core, abs and back.

Seated Torso Reach

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat with your leg extended and your right knee bent with your foot pulled in close to your body. Place your left hand flat on mat next to your left hip. Reach your right arm up and over head while bending your torso to the left. Try to lower your left elbow close to the floor. Feel mild tension up through right side of your torso. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat on your other side.

stretching-seated-torso-reach

Seated Trunk Twist

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat on the floor with one leg extended straight out in front of you and the other leg up crossed over the top of that outstretched leg. Twist your trunk in the direction of the crossed leg so as to try to look straight back behind you. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat with the opposite side.

stretching-seated-torso-twist

Standing Torso Reach

Exercise Advice: Stand with your feet shoulder width and your toes pointing straight ahead. Place one hand on your hip for support and reach your other arm up and over your head, bending your torso to the right. You should feel a small amount of tension up through your right side of torso. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat on other side.

stretching-standing-torso-reach

TRICEPS – The triceps are another muscle group that is commonly neglected when it comes to stretching but this muscle group works as a secondary support system for all chest and shoulder exercises so it’s vital that you include several key stretches that target this area.

Triceps Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lift one of your elbows up above your shoulder and point it straight to the ceiling. Pull that elbow back with your opposite hand and really stretch your triceps as far as you can. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat with the opposite triceps.

stretching-behind-head-tricep-stretch

CALVES – You use your calves every time you walk, let alone the amount of stress they are under when training your legs, so make sure to stretch out this key muscle group on a regular basis for optimal flexibility and stability.

Calf Stretch

Exercise Advice: On hands and knees, straighten your legs, but keep them slightly bent. Gently press one or both feet towards the floor, keeping back flat and abs in.

stretching-calf-stretch

Hands Down Calf Stretch

Exercise Advice: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees with a slight bend and toes pointing straight ahead. Place hands down flat on floor in front of you. Step back with right leg and press right heel to the floor. You should feel a small amount of tension in the right calf. Hold for 15-20 second and repeat on other side.

stretching-hands-down-calf-stretch

Standing Calf Stretch

Exercise Advice: Place your hands up against a wall and stand with your legs staggered, in a lunge-like position. Keep the heel of the leg that is extended furthest flat on the floor. Press your weight back so as to really stretch that calf. Hold for a 3 to 4 second count and repeat on the opposite calf.

stretching-standing-gastroc-stretch

GROIN & INNER THIGHS – Groin pulls are a common injury in athletes and regular gym-goers who weight train and do cardio exercise. An injury to this area will put you out for weeks, so increasing flexibility and overall range of motion in this area is very important.

V Stretch

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat on the floor with your legs spread and extended straight out. Slowly lower your torso down so as to try to touch your nose to the floor in front of you. You can also alternate legs and attempt to touch your nose to each knee. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat.

stretching-inner-thigh-v-stretch

Seated Inner Thigh

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat on the floor with both feet tucked into your groin area. Place your elbows on your knees and slowly press downward as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat.

stretching-seated-inner-thigh-stretch

Standing Inner Thigh

Exercise Advice: Stand with your legs extremely spread out and lean your weight onto one leg while keeping the opposite leg completely straight. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite leg.

stretching-standing-inner-thigh-stretch

HAMSTRINGS – Having muscle symmetry in your legs is crucial for not only aesthetics but, most importantly, to avoid injuries like muscle pulls, which could occur from having an imbalance between your quadriceps and hamstrings. So always remember to give equal attention to all of your leg muscles and include hamstring stretches to this commonly overlooked muscle group.

Hamstring Grab

Exercise Advice: From above lunge position, slowly move backward until leg is slightly bent. Bend forward at the hip, keeping back flat until you feel gentle pull in the back of the leg. Switch legs.

stretching-hammy-grab

Hamstrings Passive

Exercise Advice: Lie on your back with legs slightly bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg and grab it behind the knee. Keeping your right leg straight, pull it toward your chest and hold for 20 seconds. Lower leg to the floor. Repeat with left leg.

stretching-hamstrings-passive

Seated Spread Eagle

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat on the floor with your legs spread and extended straight out. Slowly lower your torso down so as to try to touch your nose to the floor in front of you. You can also alternate legs and attempt to touch your nose to each knee. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat.

stretching-inner-thigh-v-stretch

Seated Hurdler Stretch

Exercise Advice: Sit on a mat on the floor with one leg extended straight out and the other tucked in with the heel of your foot up against your groin. Slowly lower your torso down onto the outstretched leg so as to try to touch your nose to your knee. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite leg.

stretching-seated-hamstring-stretch

Standing Hamstring

Exercise Advice: Begin by standing with your legs together and completely straight. Simply bend at your waist and try to place your palms flat on the floor and hold them there for a 10 second count. You can also perform this exercise with your legs spread.

stretching-standing-hamstring-stretch

Lying One-Leg Hamstring

Exercise Advice: Lie flat on your back on a mat on the floor and simply lift one of your legs straight up using your hands to assist. Your other leg should remain straight and flat on the floor throughout the entire exercise. Hold in the extended position for a 10 second count and repeat with the opposite leg.

stretching-supine-hamstring-stretch

HIPS & BUTT – The hips and glutes are very important for lower body strength, power and day-to-day functioning, so include specific stretches for these muscles for increased strength and flexibility.

Prone Hip Stretch

Exercise Advice: Kneel on a mat on the floor on your hands and knees. Slide one knee forward and up under your chest area. Slide your other leg straight back behind you. Slowly lower your torso forward onto your elbows and hold for a 10 second count and then repeat.

stretching-prone-hip-stretch

Lying Hip Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie flat on your back on a mat on the floor and bring your knees up to your chest. Cross one foot over and in front of its opposite knee and slowly pull that in knee further in toward your chest with your hands. Hold for a 10 second count and then repeat on the opposite leg.

stretching-lying-outer-hip-stretch

Hip Stretch

Exercise Advice: This stretch is very similar to a basic lunge. Begin by striding forward with one leg to execute a regular lunge while keeping the other leg set in place back behind you. Be sure to really stride forward so that you get a great stretch. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat with the opposite leg.

stretching-kneeling-hip-flexor

Hip Flexors Active

Exercise Advice: While standing, extend one leg in the air behind you as far as possible by contracting your glutes (not your hamstrings). Keep the other leg, your torso, and head straight and upright. Switch legs and repeat.

stretching-hip-flexors-active

Glute Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Grab your right leg behind the knee (keep the left foot on the floor), pull the knee toward your chest, and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with other leg.

stretching-hamstings-glute-stretch

QUADRICEPS – Every time you get out of bed and walk around, you’re working the muscles of your quadriceps and this stimulus doesn’t even come close to the overload your quads get when you’re in the gym doing heavy squats, deadlifts, leg presses or lunges. So make sure you include several quadricep stretches after your leg workouts to keep this muscle group flexible and strong.

Prone Quad Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie on your stomach on a mat on the floor and grab one of your ankles. Pull that ankle back behind you so as to tuck it up under your hamstring, really stretching your thigh. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite leg.

stretching-prone-quadricep-stretch

Lying Side Quad Stretch

Exercise Advice: Lie on your side on a mat on the floor and grab the ankle of the leg that is nearest the ceiling. Pull that ankle back behind you so as to tuck it up under your hamstring, really stretching your thigh. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite leg.

stretching-side-lying-quadricep-stretch

Standing Quad Stretch

Exercise Advice: Stand on one leg and grab the opposite ankle with your hand so as to tuck it up under your hamstring, really stretching your thigh. Hold for a 10 second count and repeat on the opposite leg. This stretch is great for testing and improving your balance, too!

stretching-standing-quadricep-stretch

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 175,000 ShapeFit subscribers who are receiving our free weekly fitness newsletter and learn how you can build more muscle, burn off body fat and get into the best shape of your life!
We hate spam! Your email address will never be sold or shared with anyone. You can unsubscribe at anytime.
Share.

About Author

ShapeFit

ShapeFit.com is dedicated to providing health and fitness information to people so they can live a healthy lifestyle. ShapeFit has thousands of pages of fitness content with fun and interactive tools to help our visitors lose body fat, build lean muscle and increase their energy levels. We wish you great success in reaching your health and fitness goals!

Leave A Reply