Many beginners overlook the importance of stretching, but it's a key element in any fitness regimen.
As a certified personal trainer with extensive experience, I've seen firsthand how incorporating simple yet effective stretching exercises can significantly benefit those just starting their fitness journey.
In this article, we'll explore a variety of easy-to-follow exercises that are specifically tailored for those new to fitness or looking to enhance their daily routine.
From head to toe, these stretches will help you unlock your body's potential for greater movement and flexibility.
- The best beginner-friendly stretches include shoulder rolls, wall chest stretch, triceps stretch, eagle arms, back flexion stretch, quad and hamstring stretches, child’s pose, and walking lunge.
- Stretching exercises are of two types: static (holding a muscle stretch for a prolonged period) and dynamic (involving active joint movements).
- Stretching improves flexibility, reduces injury risk, relieves stiffness, enhances posture, and boosts performance in activities and sports.
- While stretching has many benefits, it's important to stretch with good form to prevent stretching-related injuries.
10 Best Stretching Movements for Beginners
Over the years, I've realized that stretching isn't to be feared or something you can only do in the gym.
Here are some easy-to-do stretches that are versatile and can be practiced anywhere, targeting multiple areas of the body simultaneously.
If you’re short on time, select a few movements from this list to stretch multiple muscle groups efficiently.
“A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily.”
- David Nolan, Physical Therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital
1. Shoulder Rolls
Shoulder rolls are an excellent exercise to release built-up stress and tension in the shoulder area while enhancing joint circulation.
This movement warms up and stretches the muscles, tendons, and joints of your upper body, relieving shoulder pain and stiffness.
Here’s how to do this stretch:
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and arms relaxed.
- Lift the shoulders gradually without bending the arms, and roll them back in a circular motion.
- Perform as many reps as needed and then reverse the movement by rolling them forward.
2. Wall Chest Stretch
This upper body stretch elongates the pectoral muscles in the chest, allowing a wider chest opening.
It promotes better postural alignment by enabling the pectoral muscles, shoulders, and upper back to move backward.
To perform a wall chest stretch:
- Stand next to a wall or a door frame.
- Raise your arm to shoulder height and place your palm and forearm on the wall. Your elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly turn your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Keep your arm in contact with the wall at all times.
- Hold the stretch for as long as needed, and repeat with the other arm.
Learn More: Best Chest Stretches Before a Workout
3. Behind-Head Tricep Stretch
The behind-the-head triceps stretch targets the longest head of the triceps muscle and enhances its flexibility, contributing to an improved range of motion.
Follow these steps to perform this exercise:
- Straighten your left arm upward, keeping the elbow near your head.
- Flex the left elbow, allowing the left hand to lower behind the neck.
- Grasp the left arm behind the elbow with your right hand and gently pull it towards the left downward along the back.
- Maintain the position for 10 seconds, followed by a 5-second break, then repeat the steps with the right arm.
Related: Overhead Triceps Stretches
4. Eagle Arms
The eagle arms is a yoga pose involving a crossing and wrapping action that works the upper back and shoulder muscles, including the lats, rhomboids, and trapezius.
These muscle groups are often prone to tightness and overuse from repetitive activities and can be relieved through this stretch.
To perform an eagle arm stretch:
- Begin in a seated position with feet flat, ensuring your spine is upright and your hips are aligned.
- Cross your right arm underneath the left arm, bending the elbows.
- Interlock your arms by touching the palms or grasping the left fingers with the right hand.
- Raise your elbows to shoulder level and maintain the position for 15–30 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat the steps.
5. Back Flexion Stretch
The stretch focuses on forward bending of the lower back while minimizing backward bending.
The goal is to strengthen the gluteus and abdominal muscles. This exercise is particularly recommended for individuals experiencing low back pain.
Here are the steps to do a back flexion stretch:
- Begin by standing upright with your arms hanging naturally at your sides.
- Bend forward at the hips, maintaining a straight back.
- Continue the forward movement until you can touch your toes or grip your ankles.
- Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in your hamstrings.
- Return to the standing position.
6. Standing Quad Stretch
This is a great warm-up or post-exercise stretch for activities like cycling, running, and yoga.
We recommend it for maintaining back health, especially if you sit for extended periods throughout the day.
To do the standing quad stretch:
- Stand with your legs straight and feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your right knee and raise your foot behind you, gripping the top of it with your right hand.
- Maintain a tucked pelvis and ensure your right knee points towards the floor, aligned with your left knee.
- Use your arm to gently pull the heel towards your glutes, feeling the quad muscles stretch.
- Hold this position for 5–10 breaths.
- Release your right leg and repeat the exercise on the other side.
7. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The kneeling hip flexor stretch is a beginner-friendly exercise suitable for regular stretching routines before exercise.
It focuses on stretching the quadriceps, which work as hip flexors and psoas muscles, while also providing a stretch for the knees.
Here’s how to perform the kneeling hip flexor stretch:
- Assume a half-kneeling position with your right foot flat on the floor and your right knee aligned above your ankle. Place your hands on your right leg.
- Keep your left knee and the top of your left foot on the floor while maintaining a flat back, a lifted chest, an engaged core, and square hips.
- Push your hips forward and press down with your left foot.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat the exercise.
8. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Sports activities involving running or sprinting can lead to tight or injured hamstrings.
Regularly performing hamstring and thigh stretches helps maintain flexibility and mobility.
To perform this exercise:
- Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and arms by your sides.
- Keep your right leg straight and flex your left leg, ensuring your heel remains on the floor.
- Place your hands on your left thigh and gently lean forward, lifting your right toe.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise on the other side.
9. Child’s Pose
The child's pose is a vital resting posture in yoga that offers a gentle stretch to multiple body areas, including the shoulders, back, hips, thighs, neck, and ankles.
It can alleviate back pain and promote deep breathing, mindfulness, and relaxation, which can lead to reduced blood pressure and improved lung function.
Follow these steps to do this exercise:
- Kneel on the floor with your toes touching, and spread your knees as wide as possible.
- Inhale deeply, then exhale as you lower your torso between your knees.
- Extend your arms forward and press your palms into the floor.
- Rest your forehead on the ground, or use a pillow/yoga block to support your head if needed.
10. Walking Lunge
This stretch strengthens and tones the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and hips and improves core stability.
The walking motion in this exercise adds cardiovascular benefits to this lower-body workout.
Here are the steps to perform walking lunges:
- Stand upright with your legs extended, feet hip-width apart, and arms by your sides.
- Maintain proper posture with a lifted chest, shoulders back, engaged core, and flat back.
- Take a large step forward with your left leg, lowering your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and both knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- Push through your left leg, specifically your heel, as you bring your right foot forward to return to a starting position.
- Repeat the lunge, this time leading with your right foot.
Types of Stretching
Stretching can be divided into two broad categories: static and dynamic stretching. Both have their benefits, which is why I ask clients to do both.
That said, it's crucial to understand when to use them and when to avoid them.
1. Static Stretching
Static stretching involves holding a specific position that stretches a targeted muscle for a prolonged period, usually around 20–45 seconds.
Finding a point of tension without experiencing pain is essential during static stretches. These stretches aim to gradually lengthen tight muscles over time.
Perform static stretches only after a workout when the muscles are warm and more pliable. Stretching cold muscles statically can increase the risk of tears and strains .
Dynamic stretching requires actively moving your muscles and joints through their full range of motion.
This type of stretching is commonly used as a warm-up before a workout to prepare the muscles and joints for physical activity. It helps increase blood flow and flexibility while reducing stiffness.
Dynamic stretches can also be performed throughout the day to promote circulation and maintain mobility.
Why Should You Stretch?
You should stretch because it increases flexibility and reduces the risk of injuries such as strains and sprains. I realized that the older I get, the more important stretching really becomes for injury prevention.
Additionally, regular stretching also comes with the following benefits:
- Increases flexibility and mobility: Regular stretching helps to lengthen muscles and improve joint range of motion, allowing for greater flexibility and mobility .
- Reduces the risk of injury: Stretching helps to loosen tight muscles, making them less prone to strains and injuries. Dynamic stretching before a workout prepares the muscles for movement and reduces the risk of injury.
- Relieves stiff, tight muscles: Sitting for extended periods can lead to muscle tightness. Stretching helps to alleviate stiffness, improve muscle function, and enhance overall movement .
- Improves posture: Tight muscles can affect posture by pulling the body into misaligned positions. Regular stretching corrects imbalances, improves posture, and reduces muscular tension .
- Aids recovery: Stretching after exercise promotes muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. It helps reduce muscle soreness and prevents muscles from tightening due to microtears.
- Enhances performance: Improved flexibility and mobility from stretching positively impact performance in sports and exercise. It allows for better form, speed, and power during physical activities.
- Improves sleep quality: According to Medical News Today, some research suggests that stretching may improve the quality of sleep duration .
- Reduces anxiety: A study in PubMed suggests that regular stretching may reduce stress and anxiety, leading to better mental health .
"Stretching improves your body's ability to move and can increase your mobility significantly while decreasing exercise-related pain."
- Carlos Teasdale, ATC, CSCS
Over the years, I've found that it's easy to injure yourself when stretching.
So, follow these safety precautions to avoid any stretching-related injuries:
- Avoid locking the joints during stretching to prevent hyperextension and potential injury.
- If a stretch causes pain, refrain from forcing the movement and take a break to prevent sprains or strains.
- Do not bounce while stretching, as it can heighten the risk of injury.
- Maintain good posture throughout each stretch to ensure proper alignment and effectiveness.
How Often Should I Stretch as a Beginner?
As a beginner, you should stretch at least twice a week and gradually increase the frequency as you become more comfortable. Aim for at least three days of stretching per week to see noticeable improvements in flexibility, with longer stretches of 1–2 minutes each.
Is It Bad To Stretch Every Day?
No, it is not bad to stretch every day as long as you stay within your body's limits and avoid overstretching. However, if you feel pain or discomfort during a stretch or have an injury, consult your doctor before starting a stretching routine.
What Stretches Do I Need To Do Daily?
You need to do stretches that target all major muscle groups, such as shoulders, pectorals, abs, hamstrings, quads, calves, and hips, to ensure a well-rounded stretching routine.
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