Stretching and Flexibility Exercises

Updated:Jun 22,2015

If you have medical problems or if you have been inactive and want to exercise vigorously, check with your doctor or other healthcare provider before starting a physical activity program. Your doctor can help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition. If you're at high risk of heart disease, your doctor may conduct an exercise stress test to identify any potential problems.

 
Illustration of Woman Bending Torso 
  
  
Illustration of Woman Twisting Torso 
  
          Torso Stretch

Purpose: Stretch the midsection (waist).

Starting Position: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

Action:

  • Place hands behind your head, as shown, with elbows out to the side. You can also cross your arms over your body or leave them at your sides, whichever is most comfortable.
  • Bend your body to one side, bending at the waist. Keep your head facing forward. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Repeat: 6 to 8 times on each side. Rest, then do a second set.
            Torso Twist

Purpose: Stretch the midsection (waist).

Starting Position: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

Action:

  • Place hands behind your head, as shown, with elbows out to the side. You can also cross your arms over your body or leave them at your sides, whichever is most comfortable.
  • Slowly twist your body to one side so you face the side wall. Your head should follow your body as you turn. Be sure to twist from your waist without moving your hips.
  • Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.
  • Slowly return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat: 6 to 8 times on each side. Rest, then do a second set.

 
Neck Stretch Illustration 
  
  
Seated March illustration 
  
        Neck Stretch

Purpose: Improve neck flexibility

Starting Position: Sit tall, feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

Action:

  • Slowly turn your head to look over your shoulder. Keep your back against the chair and your shoulders facing forward.
    Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.
  • Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat: 6 to 8 times on each side. Rest, then do a second set.

       Seated March

Purpose: Increase hip flexibility.

Starting Position: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

Action:

  • Raise one knee as high as you comfortably can.
  • Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat: March 12 to 16 times (6 to 8 times per leg). Rest, then do a second set.

 
Quadriceps Stretch Illustration 
  
  
Illustration of Woman Stretching Hamstring 
  
  Quadriceps Stretch

Purpose: Stretch quadriceps muscle (front of thigh) and strengthen hamstring on back of thigh.

Starting position: Stand with your left side to the wall, 12 to 18 inches from the wall. Place your left hand against the wall for balance, keeping that arm slightly bent.

Action:

  • Raise your right heel towards your buttocks. Reach back with your right hand and grab your foot at the heel, ankle or sock. If you can't reach your foot, grab your pant leg or just raise your foot as high as you can and still feel comfortable.
  • Hold for two to three seconds. Be sure you're standing tall and looking straight ahead. Your knee should be pointing toward the floor and your ankle should be in a straight line with your leg, not twisted to the side.
  • Let go of your foot and slowly return to starting position. Then repeat.
  • Complete one set, then turn around and hold the wall with your right hand when working your left leg.

Note: Keep your standing leg slightly bent for better balance and to avoid injury. Stand tall and avoid leaning over. If you’ve had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before trying this stretch.

Repeat: 6 to 8 times with each foot. Rest, then do a second set.

     Hamstring Stretch

Purpose: Stretch hamstring (back of thigh).

Starting Position: Stand with your left side to the wall, 12 to 18 inches from the wall. Place your left hand against the wall for balance, keeping that arm slightly bent.

Action:

  • Place your left heel on the floor in front of you. Lean forward from your hip (not your waist).
  • Push your hip back and reach toward your toe with your right hand. Your foot can be pointing up (as shown) or flat on the floor, whichever is more comfortable for you. Make sure to keep your shoulders and back straight as you reach forward.
  • Hold for two to three seconds.
  • Return to starting position. Then repeat.
  • Complete one set and then turn around and work the other leg.
Repeat: 6 to 8 times with each leg. Rest, then do a second set.
 
Illustration of Man Stretching Calf Muscle 
  
  
            Calf Stretch

Purpose: Stretch the calf (lower part of the back of the leg).

Starting position: Stand facing a wall slightly farther than arms length from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.  Lean against the wall, with both hands on the wall.

Action:

  • Bend one leg, and place the foot on the ground in front of you. The other leg extends behind you with the knee slightly bent. Both feet point straight ahead.
  • Slowly move your hips forward, keeping your lower back flat. Be sure the heel of your back foot is flat on the floor, and your weight is in your back heel.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds. Then return to starting position.
  • Repeat with other leg.
  • Continue alternating legs.

Repeat: 3 to 5 times with each leg. Rest, then do a second set.

  




This content was last reviewed on 01/13/2015.

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