No-one ever regretted a good stretch, yet most of us don’t take the time to do it regularly. Stretching might not be a cure-all that fixes your posture and heals any niggles at a stroke, but making sure you stretch a few times a week will go a long way to helping your body deal with the demands you place on it.
Those demands could be spending most of your weekdays sitting at a desk or in a vehicle, or running every other day, or hitting the gym for strength workouts. Whatever your reasons are for wanting a good stretch, this full-body routine can help.
It’s been put together by Rachele Gilman, director of stretch inc. (opens in new tab), a studio with two locations in London that specialises in guided and assisted stretching.
1 Leg swing
Reps 10 each side
Leg swings are a dynamic movement that works the hips, glutes and thighs. Keep your back straight and your core engaged to get the most benefit.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and keep your toes, knees and hips in alignment. Bring your right foot forwards, then swing it back. Do this 10 times on each side, increasing the range of motion to increase the stretch. Then perform side-to-side swings. Swing the leg out and in, crossing it over in front of your standing leg. Repeat five times on each side.
2 Tibialis anterior stretch
Time 20sec each side
This will work the lower leg and ankle. For some people, it will also provide some relief for shin splints. Most people will feel it in the ankle and toes because these are rarely stretched areas.
Stand with your feet slightly less than hip-width apart. Move your left foot behind you and place the tops of your toes on the floor, with your heel facing up. Keep the top of your foot on the floor and move your weight forwards to increase the stretch. You can also move your ankle from side to side to change the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds in any variation, then switch sides.
3 Quad stretch
Time 30-45sec each side
This is a static stretch that works the thighs and the hip flexors. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your lower right leg behind you, moving the heel towards your bum. Use your right hand to help pull the foot or ankle closer to your bum. Hold this for 30-45 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Focus on keeping your core engaged, your tailbone tucked and your knees in alignment with each other and your hips.
4 Standing figure four
Time 30sec each side
This will help to improve your balance and it’s a great stretch if you spend a lot of time sitting. It’s a deep stretch that helps keep the hips and glutes healthy and mobile. In particular, it stretches the piriformis, which is deep in your glutes and aids hip rotation. Problems with the piriformis can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause pain and discomfort in the hip and buttocks.
Shift your weight onto your left foot and lift your right knee up. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh slightly above the knee. Place your hands on your hips or in front of your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
5 Trunk twist with eagle arms
Reps 5 each side
This will improve your spinal mobility and stretch your upper back, shoulders and forearms. Achieving full eagle arms often requires a lot of practice, especially if you lift heavy weights.
Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing down. Cross your right arm under the left. Keeping your elbows as close together as possible, bend your elbows and bring the backs of your hands together. If you feel the stretch here then stay. If you want to go deeper, take the palms further by working them into prayer position without moving your elbows.
In whatever hand position you reached, slowly raise your elbows until they’re in line with your chin. Once your arms are in position, stand with your feet hip-width apart and twist your trunk to the left side. Return to the middle and twist to the other side. After five repetitions, change your arms, so you cross the left arm under the right and repeat five more times.
Reps 5 each side
Windmills keep you mobile in your lower back, glutes, obliques and hamstrings, and help improve your core stability.
Stand with your feet wide apart and your toes pointing forwards. Raise one arm and bend from the waist to touch the floor (or as close as you can get) with your other hand between your feet. Switch sides without rising from the fold. Repeat five times on each side.
This is a dynamic movement which includes a forward fold and a high plank. This movement works your core and upper body as it stretches your glutes, lower back and hamstrings.
From standing, fold forwards, bending your knees as much as needed to place your chest on your knees and your hands on the floor. You will feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Slowly walk your hands out until you are in a high plank. Then walk your hands back until you’re in the forward fold position. Do this four times in total, and then on the fifth, finish by walking your feet to your hands and slowly “roll” back up to standing.
8 Full-body stretch
Sets 3 Time 10sec, 5sec, 10sec
Lie on your back, reach your arms behind your head and extend your legs to elongate your whole body. You should feel like your arms and legs are being pulled in opposite directions. Keep stretching as you press your lower back into the floor and pull your lower ribs in to avoid arching the lower back. Hold this for 10 seconds and then relax. Contract your entire body, hold for five seconds and release. Then repeat the stretch for another ten seconds.
stretch inc. (opens in new tab) has studios in Brixton and at Seven Dials, and offers online classes. Prices start at £15 for online classes and £25 for studio sessions.
More Stretches To Try
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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