When I was a runner, stretching was always a necessity. Sometimes, my post-stretch run would take 30 minutes or more. To be honest, most of the time I would cut the stretching part short after my run. That was until I started attending a yoga class, where stretching is the main event, and it really challenged me.
It’s easy to get lost in stretching and start zoning out, but it’s essential to focus on what you are trying to accomplish while stretching. I never focused on my stretches before. But now that I’ve started weightlifting, stretching has become especially important and crucial for my workouts.
Some of the benefits of stretching: increased blood flow, joint flexibility, protection against tears and injuries, and improved posture. You do have to be cautious while you are stretching because it is possible to strain something if you push too far. Many workout programs tell you to focus on your breath, but it is important to focus on your movements too. You shouldn’t have jerking movements, but fluid, natural motions.
I know I always lose track of time when I am holding a stretch, and luckily it’s not how long you hold it that is important, but how you feel while you do it. Instead of counting, consider how it feels when your muscle returns to its relaxed position.
Here are 40 stretches and the muscles they target. Build a stretch routine that works for you using some of these stretches:
1. Camel Pose: Rectus Abdominus & External Obliques
Kneel with your legs spread shoulder-width apart and arch your back, letting your head relax and hang back.
2. Wide Forward Fold: Adductors (inner thigh muscles)
Sit upright with your legs stretched apart, hands touching the floor behind you, and toes pointing upward. You should feel your inner thighs stretching.
3. Frog Pose: Adductors
Put your arms on the floor in front of you, as if you are about to do a push-up, and then spread your knees apart so that they touch the floor on either side. Bring your feet up in the center so that they are almost touching. It’s as if you are doing a forward squat.
4. Wide Side Lunge Pose: Adductors
This is also called the “tiger stretch.” Keep your feet apart, lunge to one side, and hold. Then lunge to the other.
5. Butterfly Stretch: Adductors
This one is pretty well-known and very simple. Just press your feet together, making your legs into a diamond and hold.
6. Forearm Extensor: Forearm Extensor
This is one of the most common arm stretches, and it requires you to stretch one arm all the way forward, and then lightly pull the palm of the extended arm back with your other arm so that the top of your extended arm feels the stretch.
7. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck: Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
Turn your face to the side, looking up slightly.
8. Neck Rotation Stretch: Sternocleidomastoid
With your hand on your chin, push your face to either side, facing forward.
9. Neck Extension Stretch: Sternocleidomastoid
Simply look up and jut your chin forward.
10. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance: Sternocleidomastoid & Upper Trapezius
Lift one hand over your head and place it on the top of the ear at the other side of your head. Pull your head gently to the side.
11. Half-Kneeling Quad: Psoas & Quadriceps
Get into a full lunge position, and place your hand on the ankle of your back leg, pulling it forward slightly.
12. Forearm Extensor #2: Forearm Extensor
Stretch out your arm at a downward diagonal, with your palm facing in front of you; fingers pointed down. Gently pull your fingers down in front of you with your other arm.
13. Lateral Shoulder Stretch: Side Deltoid
Bring one arm straight across your body and hold it with your other arm, feeling the stretch in your upper forearm.
14. Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch: Trapezius Muscles
Just pull your head forward with both of your arms, look down, and bend slightly at the knees. You should feel it in the back of your neck.
15. Lats Stretch with Spinal Traction: Latissimus Dorsi
Stretch your arms upward into a V, reaching up.
16. Lat Stretch at the Wall: Latissimus Dorsi
Hold on to the corner of a wall or a vertical pole with both hands and stretch your hip out in the opposite direction, making a C with your body. Then switch sides.
17. Child’s Pose: Latissimus Dorsi
A famous yoga pose, this only requires you to kneel, sit on your heels and press your head to the floor, reaching your arms forward, palms resting on the floor.
18. Standing Calf Stretch: Soleus and Gastrocnemius
Stand to face the wall and rest your toes on it at an angle with your heels on the floor. You should feel the stretch in your calves.
19. Front Split: Psoas & Hamstring
This one will take some practice and flexibility. It is the quintessential splits, one leg in front of you, one behind, with your bottom pressed to the floor.
20. Seated Forward Fold: Hamstrings & Soleus
In a sitting position, touch your toes with your legs together, toes pointed upward.
21. Single Leg Forward Bend: Hamstrings
Standing, bend on one leg and straighten the other leg forward so that your heel touches the ground.
22. Deep Squat: Glutes
Squat all the way down so that the back of your thighs touches your calves and your hands touch the floor in front of you.
23. Seated Half King Pigeon Pose: Glutes
Sit with one leg straight in front of you and pull the other one up to your chin at the knee. Turn the lower part of your leg to the side at a 90-degree angle.
24. Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall: Soleus & Gastrocnemius
Lunge with your hands pressed to a wall in front of you and your back leg extended straight, touching the floor.
25. Lateral Flexion at the Wall: External Obliques
Tilt sidewise toward a wall, stretching your further arm in an arc over your head so that the side the farthest from the wall feels the stretch. It’s like a modified half-moon pose.
26. Supine Twist: Glutes and External Obliques
Back flat on the floor, one leg extended, bring your other leg over the extended one by pulling the knee up and to the side.
27. Lateral Flexion with a Dowel: External Obliques & Latissimus Dorsi
Take a dowel that is about the length of one of your arms and tilt to the side holding the dowel on either end with both hands.
28. Triangle Pose: External Obliques
Stand in a warrior pose, where your legs are stretched far apart; arms are straight out on either side of you. Then tilt downward so one of your hands touches the ground and you make a triangle in the space between your arm, side, and leg.
29. Chest Stretch at the Wall: Pectorals
Stand next to a wall, at least an arm’s length away, lift your arm closest to the wall and press it against the wall, feeling the stretch in your pectoral muscle. Then switch to the other side.
30. Assisted Chest Stretch: Chest and Latissimus Dorsi
Back flat on the ground with your legs stretched over your head and have a partner gently pull your arms back further into a stretch.
31. Seated Half Pigeon Variation: Anterior Tibialis
Sit upright on the floor and take one leg, fold it over the other at a 90-degree angle.
32. Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch: Subscapularis
On a bench, with your arm hanging off of it and your shoulder resting on it. Keep your arm in a parallel line to the bench, bend 90-degrees at the elbow.
33. Down Dog Variation at the Wall: Pectorals & Latissimus Dorsi
Stand to face a wall at arm-length away and bend forward, pressing your palms to the wall, leaning as far down as you can go.
34. Assisted Chest Stretch Variation: Pectorals
On your stomach, have a partner lift your arms behind you, straight up.
35. Low Cobra: Chest, Hip Flexors & Latissimus Dorsi
Also called the mermaid pose, this stretch requires you to be on your stomach with your arms in front of you, palms down. Drag your arms back so that your hands are even with your shoulders and push your upper body up slightly by your palms.
36. Star Reach: Shoulders, Pectorals, Hips, & other joints
Stand up straight and reach up!
37. Shoulder Opener: Trapezius
You can do this with or without a resistance band. Stand with your legs apart and put your hands behind your back, and pull your hands back, feeling your chest and shoulders open.