Chest, Leg, and Full Body Stretching and Flexibility Exercises

1
Chest Stretch with a Resistance Band

Paige Waehner

This is a great stretch for the muscles of the chest as well as the front of the shoulders. This is a particularly good stretch if you spend much of your time typing on a computer or driving, which often means your shoulders are hunched forward for hours at a time.

  • Sit or stand and hold a resistance band in a wide grip.
  • Take the band straight up over the head with arms in a v shape. There should be some tension on the band, so adjust your hand position as needed to create more or less tension.
  • Pull the hands apart and down, taking the arms just slightly back as you lower them down.
  • Lower down until you feel a gentle stretch in the chest and shoulders.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds.

Tips

  • If you don't have a band, you can try this move by using a doorway - simply prop your arms on either side of the door and gently press forward until you feel a stretch in the chest.
  • If you have shoulder problems, you may want to avoid this stretch. It does involve the rotator cuff muscles, which may cause problems for some exercisers.
  • Keep the abs in and make sure there's enough tension on the band to feel a stretch across the front of the chest.

2
Calf Stretch

Paige Waehner

A basic calf stretch should always be a part of any post-workout flexibility routine, especially after cardio exercise. Almost every cardio workout will involve heavy use of the calves and it's easy for those muscles to become tight over time if you don't stretch them.

  • Begin on your hands and knees and straighten the legs, taking the hips towards the ceiling in an upside-down v-shape.
  • Bend the right knee and straighten the left leg, pushing the heel towards the floor, feeling a stretch in the calf.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
  • You don't have to touch the heel to the floor. Only push the heel as far down as you comfortably can.

Tips

  • You can also do this move while standing against a wall or by standing on a step and dropping the heels down towards the floor.
  • Bend the knee of the leg you're stretching to get a deeper stretch.

3
Kneeling Calf Stretch - Soleus

Paige Waehner

The traditional calf stretch is great for stretching the outer part of the calf, or the gastrocnemius. There is a smaller muscle that lies under the gastroc called the soleus. To target this muscle, try a kneeling stretch. This stretch is a bit more subtle and may require shifting your position to find what feels best for you.

  1. Kneel on the floor and bring the left foot forward between the hands.
  2. Gently press your body forward while pressing the heel towards the floor, feeling a stretch in the calf.
  3. The heel doesn't have to be on the floor. Only press the heel down as far as you comfortably can.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Tips

  • If you find this position difficult or can't get a deep enough stretch, try the move standing. Simply stand in a split stance and bend the knees, keeping the back heel pressing into the floor.
  • Press your chest into your knee to get more leverage, but avoid any jerking or bouncing, which could cause injury.

4
Chest and Ab Stretch on the Ball

Paige Waehner

This exercise is perfect for stretching the chest and abs. By relaxing on the ball and letting your arms fall out to the side, you can stretch the entire front body while getting full support from the ball.

  1. Lie face up on the ball and roll down until your back, head and neck are fully supported.
  2. Relax your hips and let your arms fall out to the sides for a relaxing chest stretch.
  3. Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat as many times as you like.

5
Body Stretch on the Ball

After a workout, there's nothing better than a relaxing, whole body stretch. This exercise fits the bill, allowing you to stretch your entire body while being supported on the ball. You might want to skip this exercise if you feel dizzy or disoriented with your head upside down.

  1. Sit on the ball and roll forward until you're at an incline.
  2. Straighten the legs and stretch your body back, arms over the head.
  3. Drape yourself over the ball, letting your head relax and your arms hang towards the floor.
  4. Relax and breathe, holding for 15-20 seconds.

6
Hip Stretch on the Ball

Paige Waehner

If you sit at a desk for much of the day, you probably have tight hips that could use a good stretch. This hip stretch, sometimes called a pretzel stretch, allows you to stretch all the small muscles that support the hips and pelvis. The ball allows you to deepen the stretch will giving the lower body some support.

  1. Lie on the floor and put your right foot on top of the ball, foot flexed.
  2. Cross the left foot over the right knee and use the right foot to gently roll the ball in until the right knee is bent to about 90 degrees.
  3. You can gently press the left knee open to deepen the stretch.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

7
Lying Quad Stretch

The front of the body, including the hips and quads, often don't get much of a stretch in daily life. This lying quad stretch is a great way to gently stretch the front of the thighs as well as the hip flexors.

  1. Sit on the floor with the right leg bent in front of you, left leg bent behind you.
  2. Lean to the right on the forearm. abs engaged.
  3. Grab onto the top of the left foot with the left hand.
  4. Gently pull the heel towards the glutes to stretch the front of the thigh.
  5. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

8
Seated Hamstring Stretch

Paige Waehner

Tight hamstrings can cause a number of problems including knee pain, back pain or even pulled muscles. Taking time to stretch after a workout or after sitting for long periods of time can keep the hamstrings flexible and supple. This seated stretch is a great way to build flexibility in the hamstrings from a supported position.

  1. Sit on a step or on a chair with another chair in front of you.
  2. Stretch the left leg out on the step, keeping the right foot on the floor for support.
  3. Sit up tall and lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Avoid rounding forward, but keep the torso as straight as you can.
  4. Use your left hand on the thigh, shin or foot to gently pull forward, deepening the stretch.
  5. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 1-3 times on each leg.

9
Iliotibial Band Stretch

Paige Waehner

The iliotibial band (which is part of the tensor fasciae latae muscle) attaches at the hip and runs down the side of the leg to the knee. Keeping the IT band flexible can help you avoid knee pain that can sometimes happen if the IT band becomes tight. Runners are especially vulnerable to IT band syndrome, but every exerciser can benefit from regularly stretching this part of the lower body.

  1. Take the left foot behind and to the right of the right leg.
  2. Take the left arm up and gently lean the right.
  3. As you lean to the right, gently press the left hip out to the side to feel a stretch down the side of the leg.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 1-3 sets on each side.

10
Knee Crossover Stretch

Paige Waehner

This stretch is great for targeting the hips, iliotibial band and the lower back. The key to this move is to bring the knee across the body, just a few inches, while keeping both hips down. You may want to avoid this stretch if you have knee problems.

  1. Lie down and bring the right knee in towards the chest.
  2. Keeping both hips on the floor, gently pull the right knee a few inches across the body, towards the left shoulder.
  3. You should feel a stretch in the hip and down the outside of the right leg.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 1-3 sets on both legs.

11
Total Body Ball Roll

Ball Roll Stretch
Paige Waehner

Tight hamstrings are a common problem, with most of us sitting much of the time, which is why I love this total body stretch.  The ball gives you that ability to reach a little deeper into the stretch, really feeling it in the hamstrings, the lats, and the arms.

  1. Stand with feet about hip-distance apart, the ball in front of you.
  2. Roll the ball out as you bend at the hips, keeping the back flat.
  3. Roll the ball out as far as you can, keeping a slight bend in the knees.
  4. Once you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, hold that position and then, reach the ball out just a little further.
  5. Hold for 15-30 seconds.

12
Ball Back Stretch

Ball Back Stretch
Paige Waehner

This is by far my favorite stretch for the lower back.  You can really use the ball here to get deep into the stretch, feeling it all the way up the back to the neck.

  1. Sit on the ball with feet planted and abs engaged.
  2. Keeping the abs engaged, wrap the elbows under the thighs, grabbing onto the forearms with opposite hands. 
  3. Using the thighs as an anchor, round the back as you contract the abs, pulling the back up and away from the legs as you relax your head, feeling a stretch all the way down your back. 
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat.

13
Seated Chest Stretch with the Ball

Seated Chest Stretch
Paige Waehner

This may be one of my all-time favorite exercises for stretching both the chest and the shoulders.  The ball allows you to work within your range of motion to get the best stretch you can without going too far.

  1. Sit or kneel on the floor, abs braced and back straight.
  2. Place one hand on the ball and roll it back behind you, arm straight.
  3. Rotate through the torso, still sitting tall, as far as you can.
  4. When you reach your range of motion, keep rolling the ball back until you feel a stretch in the shoulder and chest.
  5. Take care not to go too far, just until you feel a gentle stretch.
  6. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch sides.

14
Inner Thigh Ball Stretch

Tight inner thighs are often and issue and not all of us are comfortable doing the

  1. Lie down on the floor and place the heels on an exercise ball, legs straight.
  2. Let the feet flop out to the sides and keep the hips down as you roll the ball in, bending the knees out to the sides.
  3. Grab onto the ankles and gently pull the heels in, using the elbows to press down on the knees for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat.

15
Spinal Twist

spinetwist.jpg
Paige Waehner

The spinal twist is one of the most common exercises for stretching the lower back but, too often, we don't get the most out of this exercise.  The key is in your positioning.

  1. Begin lying on the back and bend the right knee in, bringing the foot onto the left knee.
  2. Rotate to the left, bringing the right knee across the body while keeping the right shoulder down on the floor.
  3. At this point, check on your hips and see if they're stacked on top of one another.  If not, shift until you're resting completely on the left hip, right hip on top.
  4. Gently use the left hand to press on the right knee, deepening the stretch.
  5. Use your breath to let go of any tension you might be holding in the glutes and lower back.
  6. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

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