Five Best Full Body Stretches

*Christi Shingara*

Photo: Alex Shaw

Stretching is a vital part of any workout and keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Stretching before and after a workout decreases risk of injury, improves performance in physical activities, helps relieve post workout aches and pains, improves posture and reduces stress. There are a ton of different stretches that you can do and knowing which ones to do to get the best results is key. Below are some of the best full body stretches.

Neck and Shoulder Roll

To perform a neck roll, tilt your head to the right and slowly roll it down and to the left. Then roll it to the right. Repeat five times in each direction. Only roll your head and neck sideways and forward — not to the back, since doing so increases the pressure on your cervical spine.

To perform shoulder rolls, starting in a position of proper alignment, roll your shoulders up, then back, then down in a fluid motion. Repeat this movement about 5-10 times, and then reverse it, rolling forward about 5-10 times.

Downward Dog

Start off on all fours and make sure your knees are slightly behind your hips. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and spread your fingers out wide. Press your hands into the mat and gently tuck your toes under and take a deep inhale, then keeping your hands pressed into the mat exhale deeply, lifting your knees off the floor and straightening your legs as much as you can.

Lying Spinal Twist

From knee to chest use your opposite hand to gently push your top knee across your body, twisting your spine as you do. Extend your arms into a T-position and turn your head to the opposite side of your bent knee. You can increase the stretch by crossing the left knee over the right thigh.
Hold here for at least 10 seconds, feeling your spine lengthen and twist. You may even hear some cracks.
Use your abs to lift your knees back to center. Repeat the sequence on the other side.

Lunge Stretch

Stand in a split stance with your right front forward and your left foot straight back. Bend your right knee so that it is at about a 90-degree angle. This should put you into a forward lunge position. Place your hands on your forward knee. Keep your shoulders relaxed, your hips even, your chest open, and your gaze straight ahead. Press down with your hands and drive the hips forward until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip, groin, and thigh on your left side.
Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds. Release and repeat on the other leg.

Calf Stretch

Stand about an arm’s length in front of a wall. Place the right leg in front of the left. Reach both arms to the wall. Press the back (left) heel into the floor and straighten the back leg while keeping the front leg bent. Hold this position for 15–20 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

Have some favorite stretches? Let us know in the comments below.

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