8 Relaxing Total Body Stretches

Stretches From Head to Toe

Cardio and strength training, or some combination of the two, are the cornerstones of any solid workout program. But one of the most overlooked elements of a comprehensive program comes at the end of the workout—stretching.

Stretching is something you know you should be doing, but it's also the part of the workout that's very easy to skip. You may think you don't have time for it, don't need it, or don't want to waste your time, but this is probably one of the best ways to end any workout.

Stretching when your muscles are warm has a number of benefits including:

  • Building greater flexibility overall
  • Relaxation and stress relief
  • Helping your body get back to its pre-exercise state
  • Giving both your mind and body a chance to reflect and feel the impact of the workout you just did

The great thing about stretching is that you don't have to spend a lot of time on the exercises to get the benefits. This total body flexibility workout proves it with stretches so simple, you can do them anywhere—after a workout, at work, or even when you're watching TV.

These exercises promote flexibility, coordination, and relaxation. They feel good after a hard workout. This workout targets all the major muscles of the body, including those that are chronically tight like the chest, shoulders, back, arms, hips, and legs. Try these exercises to get rid of any extra tension you may be carrying around. See your doctor if you have any medical conditions, illnesses, or injuries that may affect your ability to stretch.

How to Do the Stretches

You will need a chair, exercise ball, or bench. 

  • Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardio or do this after a workout or a bath when your muscles are warm.
  • Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat one to three times.
  • Try to stretch every day if you can for better results.
  • Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort and only stretch as deep as you can. The stretch should feel good and shouldn't hurt. If your muscles are shaking, you need to back off a bit and let your muscles relax more.

1
Quad Stretch

John Fedele/Blend Images/Getty Images
  1. Stand and hold onto a wall for balance if needed.
  2. Grab the top of the right foot and bend your knee, bringing the foot towards the glutes, knee pointing straight at the floor. You should feel a stretch right down the front of your leg.
  3. Squeeze your hips forward for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times.

2
Standing Hamstring Stretch

Standing hamstring stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Take your left foot forward and tip from the hips, keeping the back flat.
  2. Lower down until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
  3. Rest the hands on the upper thighs to give your back some support. 
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times.

If you feel shaky or your hamstrings are tight, try using a resistance band to give you more leverage.

3
Chest and Shoulder Stretch

Chest stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Sit or stand and clasp your hands together behind your back, arms straight.
  2. Lift your hands towards the ceiling, going only as high as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating one to three times.

If your shoulders are a little tight, try just taking your arms out to the sides like an airplane.

4
Upper Back Stretch

Upper back stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Clasp your hands together in front of you and round your back, pressing your arms away from your body to feel a stretch in your upper back.
  2. Make sure you contract the abs, to really get the most out of this stretch.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating one to three times.

5
Biceps Stretch

Biceps stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Take your arms out to the sides, slightly behind you, with the thumbs up, like you're a hitchhiker.
  2. Rotate your thumbs down and back until they are pointing to the back wall to stretch the biceps.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating one to three times.

6
Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Take your right arm straight across your chest and curl the left hand around your elbow, gently pulling on the right arm to deepen the stretch in the shoulders.
  2. Try dropping the shoulder down if you're not feeling a stretch. 
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times.

7
Seated Side Stretch

Seated side stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Sitting or standing, clasp your hands straight up overhead, palms facing the ceiling.
  2. Stretch up and then over to the right, feeling a stretch down your left side.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times.

8
Triceps Stretch

Triceps stretch. Paige Waehner
  1. Bend the left elbow behind your head and use the right hand to gently pull the left elbow in further until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  2. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times. 

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