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The Best Stretching Exercises





 

Whether you’re a chronic sitter, a daily exerciser, or a weekend warrior, you probably know stretching is a critical habit. By sending blood flow to your muscles and helping your joints move through their full range of motion, stretching improves your posture and athletic performance while lowering your risk of pain and injury.

But when you do yoga or a flexibility routine, do you know which muscles you’re actually stretching? Or whether you’re performing each stretch correctly? CHECK OUT THESE STRETCHING DIAGRAMS!


Check these awesome illustrations!


1. Camel Pose

Muscles highlighted: Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques. This stretch is best reserved for people who have good flexibility already.  Sit on your heels and place your hands behind you as you push your hips up and forward. Avoiding putting too much pressure on your lumbar spine. If you have neck problems do not drop your head back.

2. Wide Forward Fold

Muscles highlighted: Adductors. This is a great exercise to open the hips, and stretch the adductors and hamstrings.  Start this stretch with your knees bent, and spine straight.  As your muscles begin to release you can slowly straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet.  Lightly pull on the bottom of the balls of your feet to release the calf muscles as well.  If you can not reach your feet you can use a belt or towel. You can also perform this stretch lying on your back with your feet going up the wall.


3. Frog Pose
Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. This is a deep groin stretch that can place pressure on your knees so it’s helpful to be on a soft surface.  Start by resting on your hands and knees and slowly bring your knees wider until you feel a good stretch in your groin muscles. You will feel slight variations in the stretch as you actively push your hips back and forward.

4. Wide Side Lunge Pose
Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start with both feet forward in a wide stance with your legs as straight as possible.  Slowly walk your hands to your right foot while bending your right knee and rotating your left toes up to the ceiling, sitting into your right hip.  Keep your right foot flat on the ground.


5. Butterfly Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Progress this stretch by placing pressure on your knees with your hands. The closer your feet are to your body the more you will stretch your groin muscles.  Bring your feet farther from your hips and slowly round your upper body to release your back muscles.

6. Forearm Extensor Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.



7. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck
Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair and grabbing the bottom of the seat. This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.

8. Neck Rotation Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by slowly rotating your neck, while keeping your chin slightly elevated to isolate the SCM.  If you would like to get a deeper stretch apply pressure with the opposite hand from the direction that you are rotating.


9. Neck Extension Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by placing your hands on your hips, while keeping your spine long start to tilt your head back, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine.

10. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance
Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM” and Upper Trapezius.  Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair while grabbing the bottom of the seat.  This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.



11. Half Kneeling Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Psoas and Quadracep. Start in a half-kneeling position. As you slowly bring your right hip forward you should begin to feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Grab your back foot and squeeze your back glute to increase the stretch on your Hip Flexors.

12. Forearm Extensor Stretch
Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.



13. Down Dog Variation at the Wall
Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals and Latissimus Dorsi. Position yourself far enough from a wall or rack so that when you touch the wall your body becomes parallel to the ground.  Move into this position by hinging at the hips and keeping your spine straight.  Once in position, push your chest forward creating a slight arch in your upper back, stretching your lats and chest muscles. If you have tight hamstrings try bending at the knees.

14. Assisted Chest Stretch Variation
Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals. Start by lying face down on the floor with your palms facing down. As your partner pulls back on your hands you will feel a deep stretch in your chest muscles. Avoid this stretch if you have impingement of the shoulder.