Best Morning Stretches (Great Day-Starting Routine)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Morning stretches can aid in energizing you for the day, especially when you feel sluggish and stiff after waking up.

Stretching exercises and yoga positions can help relieve muscular stiffness, enhance range of motion, relieve pain, and improve posture. But it depends on the type of morning stretches you are performing.

As a certified fitness coach with over eight years of experience, I have incorporated many stretches into my morning routine and created a list of the ones that stood out best.

In this article, I will provide my expertise on the best stretches and tips for stretching safely.

Quick Summary

  • The best morning stretches include the tricep stretch, shoulder stretch, upper back stretch, two-knee spinal twist, knees-to-chest stretch, standing quad stretch, neck stretch, child's pose, and thread the needle.
  • These stretches are designed to relieve muscular stiffness, enhance range of motion, and improve posture, making them ideal for starting the day.
  • Research published in PubMed suggests that morning stretches can effectively refresh the body and increase serotonin levels, enhancing overall mood and energy for the day.
  • Personally, I believe incorporating these stretches into a morning routine is essential for a healthy and energized start to the day, especially to combat the stiffness from sleep.

The Best Morning Stretches

A person doing morning stretches

Stretching in the morning may be an effective way to wake up refreshed and increase serotonin levels, according to the research published in PubMed [1].

Morning stretches can also enhance blood flow and flexibility, preparing your body for the day's activities [2].

Enhance your morning stretch routine by consciously connecting your breath to each movement. This practice not only improves flexibility but also fosters a deeper sense of relaxation and mindfulness, setting a positive and calm tone for your day ahead.

"Morning stretches might help ease sleep-related discomfort or joint stiffness after waking up. It may also boost your mood, allowing you to get things going on the right foot."

- Yaw Boachie-Adjei, Doctor of Medicine

Here are the best stretches to include in your morning stretching routine.

Learn More: Morning Stretches for Men

Tricep Stretch

In my morning routine, I've found the tricep stretch particularly effective for easing the tightness in my arms from computer work.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with both feet shoulder-width apart and stretch your right hand across your body.
  2. Connect your left arm to your right elbow. Gently pull your right elbow closer to you.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds while taking five deep breaths.
  4. Return to your starting position and repeat the stretch on the opposing side.

Read More: Best Triceps Stretches to Avoid Injuries

Shoulder Stretch

A person doing shoulder stretch workouts

This shoulder stretch has been a game-changer for me, especially after long hours of coaching.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with both feet hip-width apart.
  2. Reach your left arm across your torso and gently use the right hand for a deep stretch while relaxing the shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly return to your starting position.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Upper Back Stretch

I recommend the upper back stretch to all my clients for immediate relief from desk job strain.

How to perform:

  1. Sit on the side of the bed with both feet flat on the ground.
  2. Interlock the fingers and extend forward, bending from the center of your back.
  3. Stretch your arms straight up to shoulder level. You should be able to feel a stretch between the shoulder blades.
  4. Maintain this stretch for ten seconds.

Two Knee Spinal Twist

A person doing two knee spinal twist workouts

The two-knee spinal twist has been a staple in my routine for years, helping to alleviate lower back tension.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Extend your arms in a "T" formation.
  2. Bring the knees together and lift your hands to the sky. Then, gradually drop your knees over your right side until they fall on the bed.
  3. Turn the head to your left while firmly keeping your shoulders on the bed.
  4. Maintain the stretch and take five deep breaths.
  5. Slowly return to the beginning.
  6. Repeat on the left side.

Knees-to-Chest Stretch

I find the knees-to-chest stretch essential for easing morning stiffness in my lower back.

How to perform:

  1. Lie down, knees bent, your left and right arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly raise your knees and bring them as near the chest as possible.
  3. Take both hands and clasp your knees. Try placing your forehead on the knees for a deeper stretch.
  4. Breathe deeply five times before returning to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for reps.

Standing Quad Stretch

A person doing a standing quad stretch

I've always included the standing quad stretch in my morning sessions; it really helps loosen up my legs for the day's activities.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. With your left hand, grab the left leg behind you. Maintain proper thigh alignment and keep your left foot parallel to your hip.
  3. Feel the stretch in your hips and left thigh for five deep breaths.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

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Neck Stretch

The neck stretch is a personal favorite for relieving tension from long coaching sessions.

How to perform:

  1. Relax the shoulders and move your left ear gently towards the left shoulder, putting your left arm on your head to assist.
  2. Only extend as far as you are comfortable.
  3. Pause for ten seconds before repeating on the opposite side.

Child's Pose

A person doing a child's pose

Child's pose has been a calming start to my mornings, helping to center my mind before a busy day.

How to perform:

  1. Begin by bending your knees. Maintain the knees hip-width apart.
  2. Bring your body down to your knees.
  3. Stretch out your arms, palms down.
  4. Lower your torso until the chest is near the mattress or the ground.
  5. Stretch both arms as far away from you as is comfortable.
  6. Hold for five seconds.

Thread the Needle

Thread the needle has been fantastic for opening up my shoulders and upper back, especially after weightlifting.

How to perform thread the needle exercise:

  1. Begin on all fours.
  2. Lift your right arm off the mat and move it under your left forearm, bringing your right shoulder and hand to rest on the ground behind your left palm (hips remain elevated) and resting your right ear on the mat.
  3. Hold for three deep breaths on each side, or repeat until you feel relaxed and comfortable.

Tips for Stretching Safely

A person stretching outside

Stretching is meant to avoid problems, not to exacerbate them.

From my coaching experience, I always emphasize proper form and mindful breathing to ensure a safe and effective stretch.

Keep these tips in mind when stretching every morning to stretch safely:

  • Take note of your posture. Put appropriate form before going very deep in the stretch. We're aiming for greater health rather than ending up with injuries.
  • Listen to your body. Stop immediately if the muscle groups are aching. Overstretching can result in damage, so aim for a smooth release rather than intense pain.
  • Breathe. Stretching already improves circulation, but breathing when stretching allows the tissues and muscles to relax into the movement.
  • Speak with an expert. Consult your physician if you have an injury or are unsure where to start with your stretching regimen. You may work together to develop a regimen that meets your needs. Remember that stretching should never give you discomfort.

For those who find it hard to get moving right after waking up, try incorporating stretches that can be performed right in your bed. These gentle movements can ease the transition from sleep to activity, helping to awaken your body in a soothing and comfortable manner.

FAQs

Is It Good To Stretch as Soon as You Wake Up?

Yes, it is good to stretch as soon as you wake up. Stretching early in the morning will help your body function better in everyday tasks, including exercising.

Should I Stretch Every Day?

Yes, you should stretch every day. Stretching every day is not only suitable but also recommended. It produces 'feel good' hormones in the body, lubricates joints, and helps you retain your range of motion.

What Happens if You Don't Stretch After Waking Up?

You will not have flexibility if you don't stretch after waking up. Muscles shrink and stiffen when they lack flexibility. As a result, when you engage in a task with tense muscles, your muscles become weak and incapable of extending.

Supplementing Your Morning Stretches

Increase focus by including these stretches in your morning stretch routine before beginning your day.

You'll allow yourself some "me time" before starting your daily activities. You will also stimulate your organs, muscles, brain, and focus.

To further boost your focus, concentration, and energy, supplement your morning stretches with these strongest pre-workout supplements.

They have proven effective in increasing muscle blood flow and improving the focus and energy required to carry out your daily tasks effectively.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24477734/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29623692/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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