Top 10 Everyday Must-do Stretches
According to Dr. David Musnick and Mark Pierce, A.T.C. (in their book
"Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness"), "The goal of
stretching is to lengthen a
muscle and move the corresponding joints through the full range of motion,
thereby allowing both the contractile (muscle and tendon) and the
noncontractile (ligament and joint capsule) structures to lengthen."
relieve muscle tension
flexible, which can help your posture and
lengthen muscles and increase range of motion, which helps
lengthen your stride
help prevent muscle and joint injuries by elongating and
flush lactic acid out of your muscles.
Do a walk or slow
jog for 5-10 minutes, and then stretch.
Neck, Scalene and Upper Trapezius
This stretch helps to re-align the cervical spine and is good for
improves breathing and alleviates
neck pain. Office workers constantly on
computers can do this stretch five or six times a day, and people who carry bags
over one shoulder should also do it regularly.
Place a hand on the side of your head and breathe in. The hand is used only as
a guide and does not drive the motion.
Active the opposing scalene muscles by flexing the neck to the side until you
reach your barrier. Once your barrier has been reached, gently pull and hold for
two seconds while breathing out, then return to neutral (the starting position).
Repeat 10 times.
There are three scalene muscles that move the neck in slightly different
directions. Scalene are used in breathing but also stabilize the neck.
Pectoralis Minor (chest)
This stretch will help pull your
shoulders back into their rightful spot, reduce
rounding of your shoulders and improve your breathing. Your lungs get compressed
if your shoulders are rounded; you canít breathe in properly because your
ribcage is also compressed. This stretch will help bring your center of gravity
back into alignment.
Breathe in and place your hands in a position like youíre under arrest.
Pull your shoulder back and breathe out, extending the elbows and contracting
the muscles in the back (rhomboids, middle trapezius). When you reach the end
point, lift your shoulders at a 45-degree angle to target the pictoralis minor.
Hold for two seconds and release back to neutral. Repeat 10 times.
Posterior Deltoid and shoulder capsule
This stretch is more focused on the shoulder capsule, the most mobile part of
the body. A lot of people have adhesions Ė sticky and gluey tissues in the
shoulder capsule Ė which restrict mobility. People who slouch, as well as tennis
players, cricket bowlers and baseball pitchers, will benefit greatly from this
Sitting down, take a deep breath. Donít lean forward. Keep your back straight
and tighten your stomach.
Breathe out, raise one arm above your head to maximum range, pointing your
fingers upwards, and bring the other arm backwards to the maximum point as a
counterbalance. The anterior deltoid is the prime mover here. Hold for two
seconds. Repeat 10 times on each side.
The long head of the
triceps also gets a stretch, as do the posterior deltoid
and the gleno-humoral (ball and socket) joints. This is a great warm-up for the
connective tissue around the joint, which is being supplied with lots of blood
Erector Spinae (back extensors)
The objective here is to lengthen the spine, which helps to extend your
giving you more of an upright stance. This is one of the most important postural
muscles; it keeps your back straight. Most people are weak and tight in this
area, and people who sit at desks all day are particularly vulnerable. This
stretch helps correct slouching.
Sitting up, hold the upper
(rectus abdominus). Breathe in and lengthen
through your spine. Relax your neck and shoulders.
Contract your abdominals, which releases and relaxes the erector spinae muscle
group. Lean forward with a straight back and grab hold of your ankles. Pull
through to your barrier, hold for two seconds, then release back to neutral.
Repeat 10 times.
This stretch also works into the sacro-spinalis attachments in the lower
lumbar region of the lower back. It lengthens through all three muscles (spinalis,
longissimus, illio-costalis) on each side of the erector spinae muscles. This
muscle group keeps you erect; if itís weak, you slump forward and buckle.
Upper Quadriceps (thigh)
This should be an integral part of any daily stretching routine because it works
what could be the most used muscle in the body. This is whatís called the
proximal attachment of the rectus-femorus, the second most important postural
muscle, after the hip flexors. This stretch will improve knee extension and
improve your gait. Itís also integral to increasing speed,
Itís essential to have strong but flexible quads, which give you a solid base
and are important in stabilizing your knees.
Sitting in a neutral position, breathe in and lift your heel into your bottom.
Keep your back straight and your stomach tight.
Extend the hips using the
hamstring and the gluteals (buttock muscles), which
are driving the movement; the hand is merely a guide. When you reach your
barrier, use your hand to pull through the barrier to the point of light
irritation. Hold for two seconds and release back to start. Repeat 10 times.
The upper quad is generally the tightest part of the thigh. You should feel
the stretch at the Alls (anterior inferior iliac spine) attachment of the rectus
Seated Bent Leg Hamstring
The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the
hip. They work synergistically with
the gluteus maximus. This stretch will improve your speed and make climbing
stairs effortless. Tight hamstrings slow the action of your quads, pulling you
backwards like reins on a horse. The vast majority of people who work out have
weak hamstrings and gluteals because they over-train their thighs and
under-train their hamstrings.
Sitting down, hold your hamstring just above the knee. Breathe in and contract
The quadriceps extends the knee and drives the motion. The hands are guides;
move them below the knee to the calf. Lock your knee, but donít hyperextend.
When you get to the end of the movement, use your hands to push slightly forward
to the point of light irritation. Hold two seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.
The biceps femoris and the semi tendonosis (inner and outer hamstrings) cross
the knee joint at the least flexible attachment point. There is a relationship
between quad strength and hamstring flexibility. People with weak quads have a
harder time extending their hamstrings.
Psoas Major and Minor (hip flexor)
This is one of the most important stretches you can do for lower back
flexibility and general mobility. Itís also very beneficial for playing sports
because it opens your stride and makes movement more efficient.
The hip flexor is considered the bodyís number one posture muscle.
Rest one knee on a cushion. Your back should be straight and your stomach
tight, with your pelvis in a neutral position. Place one hand on your hip and
the other on your knee. With shoulders and arms relaxed, take a deep breath.
The driving force of this stretch is the opposing muscle in the gluteus maximus. Tighten your buttocks to extend your hip and push forward from your
hips. Keep your hand passive until your reach your barrier, then use it to push
through to a point of light irritation. Hold for two seconds and return to
neutral. Repeat 10 times. Itís important to not allow the knee to go over the
front of the foot to avoid straining the patella ligament (where the quads are
attached just below the kneecap.
The effects of stretching the hip flexor run from the upper thigh into the
anterior lower lumbar attachments. Interestingly, not everyone has a Psoas
minor. The only way to know is to have an MRI.
The spine contains your central nervous system, in a small hollow column called
the dural tube. This little passageway goes all the way through your spine. Each
of the 24 vertebrae need to move independently to create optimal motion. This
rotational movement is one of the most important stretches for sports,
particularly for golfers, batsmen or throwers. People who have weak backs due to
prolonged sitting should do this stretch daily.
Sitting down, keep your back straight. Cross one leg over the other. Relax
your spine, using your palms as balance to help keep it straight. Breathe in
deeply. The objective is to achieve elongation and rotation of the spine.
Breathing out, rotate your spine to your maximum position, putting your arm
against your knee for leverage. The back hand is a second lever. Rotate your
head and try to look over your shoulder. Hold for two seconds and return to the
starting position. Repeat 10 times.
While one side of the erector spinae (back extensors) is being stretched, the
other side is contracting, driving the movement. You can feel this stretch from
the bottom of your spine all the way through to the base of your neck. The
rotators and the multifidus (the little muscles that rotate and flex each
vertebra) also get stretched. This stimulates the synovial fluids that lubricate
Internal obliques (sides of upper body)
This stretch opens the internal obliques and is useful for sports people like
golfers, or for any lateral lunging movement. People who do a lot of sitting in
offices often favor one buttock, which tends to lock the hips in an upward
position. If you carry a suitcase and lean to one side, it will tilt and
compress your obliques. Symmetry is essential. If your pelvis is misaligned, all
your vital organs will be as well. If one side is high and the other low, your
kidney gets crunched. So this stretch offers relief for your vital organs.
Standing, breathe in and side-bend as far as you can.
Breathe out and extend the opposite arm upwards. Look up at your pointed
fingers for deeper movement.
This is a slightly advanced movement for those with sufficient flexibility.
Lean across at 45 degrees to finish off the motion. The internal obliques range
from the top of the hip to the 12th rib.
Outside Lateral Gluteus Maximus (buttock)
This muscle group is used mainly to enhance speed. When youíre running and your
leg is straight, it is powering and pushing off. The most important advantage of
this stretch is that it works one of the muscle groups that help strengthen the
pelvis. Itís also good for keeping the back in alignment. If the pelvis is out
of alignment, spinal mobility will be affected. When you lie on your back, 50%
of your weight is taken off your spine.
Lying on your back raise your knee to 90 degrees and externally rotate your
thigh by turning your foot in. Breathe in.
The muscles driving this action are the quads and hip flexors. Put one hand on
your knee and one on your ankle. Move your knee to the opposite shoulder.
Breathe out, hold for two seconds, release back to start. Repeat 10 times.
This stretch will increase the stability of your upper leg and the mobility of
your hip extension.
There appear to be more benefits from stretching than disadvantages, but the
picture is not as clear as most athletes would like. The research suggests that
a stretching program should be individualized according to the athlete's
physical make-up and level of conditioning.
Resource: Stretch Your Life
by Tim Noonan & Chris Watts
Dated 01 November 2012