The 10 Best Stretches For Better Flexibility

Tight hamstrings? Sore back? Stiff hips? Loosen up, already! Perform some of these super-effective, easy-to-follow stretches once or twice a day (any time, other than right before a workout), a few days each week, and you’ll start feeling the flex benefits in no time.

Stretches provided by: Julie Erickson, Endurance Pilates & Yoga; Lashaun Dale, Equinox

Hip Flexor/Quad Stretch

Kneel on floor with both knees bent, shins on floor. Lunge right leg forward, so right knee is bent 90 degrees in front of you, right foot is flat on floor directly under knee, and left leg is still bent underneath you, parallel to right. Place both hands on top of right knee and press back hip forward, leaning into stretch, keeping torso upright. Hold for 30 seconds; release. Do three reps; switch legs and repeat.

Stretches hip flexors, quads, hamstrings

Bridge With Leg Reach

Lie faceup on floor with knees bent 90 degrees, feet flat on floor, arms extended by sides. Extend right leg in front of you, and then slowly lift hips toward ceiling until you form a diagonal line from right knee to right shoulder, pressing upper back into floor and opening up chest. Lift right leg straight up toward ceiling; lower. Do 10 controlled reps, holding the last rep for 10 seconds. Switch legs; repeat.

Stretches chest, abs, hip flexors, glutes, legs

Seated Trunk Twist

Sit tall on floor, abs engaged, and legs extended and together in front of you. Rotate ribcage to right, keeping nose in line with breastbone and abs engaged. Lift ribcage off hips to rotate further to right, growing taller, twisting as far as possible. Return to center; repeat to left to complete one rep. Do 10 reps, holding final twists for 30 seconds each.

Stretches back, abs, obliques

Foldover Stretch

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by sides. Exhale as you bend forward from hips, lowering head toward floor, while keeping head, neck and shoulders relaxed. Wrap arms around backs of legs and hold anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes. Bend knees and roll up slowly to release.

Tip: If you’re not comfortable reaching that far, bend knees more and/or place hands on elevated surface, like yoga blocks.

Stretches neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Butterfly Stretch

Sit tall on floor with soles of feet together, knees bent out to sides. Grasp feet with hands, engage abs, and slowly lower body toward feet, going only as far as comfortable, and then holding there for 45 seconds to two minutes. Slowly release. If this pose is uncomfortable for you, elevate hips onto a couple of blankets, and then try again.

Stretches neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, thighs


Reclining Pigeon

Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Cross flexed right foot over left thigh, hook arms around left hamstring, and lift left foot a few inches, keeping back and shoulders on floor. Gently pull right leg in toward you, until you feel a stretch; hold for 45 seconds to two minutes. Lower back to start, switch legs and repeat.

Stretches lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings

Swan Stretch

Lie facedown on floor with hands in front of shoulders, fingers facing forward, legs together and extended behind you. Press into hands to lift belly off floor. Keeping abs engaged, shoulders down and pelvis grounded, lengthen upper body away from mat, reaching out and up from crown of head. Draw shoulder blades together, opening chest. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds; release. Do five reps.

Stretches shoulders, back, chest, abs, obliques, hip flexors

Standing Triceps Stretch

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead. Bend right elbow so right palm lands on upper back. Reach left hand over to grasp just below right elbow. Gently pull elbow back and toward head; hold for about 45 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.

Stretches neck, shoulders, back, abs, triceps

Twisted Arm Stretch

Sit (or stand) tall, with abs engaged, legs crossed and shoulders down. Extend arms out to shoulder level in front of you and cross right arm over left. Lock elbows, lift hands toward ceiling, and then work to twist hands around until palms face each other. Hold for about 45 seconds; unwind and repeat on other side.

Stretches shoulders, back, triceps

Standing Thigh Release

Stand tall with abs engaged, feet together, arms by sides. Bring right heel toward butt and grasp top of foot with right hand. Extend left arm overhead (or place on chair) to help balance. Press right foot into hand to increase stretch along front of thigh. Hold for about one minute; release, switch sides and repeat.

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