Stretching exercises: 22 effective exercises for your body
Stretching is a set of muscle stretching techniques known throughout the world and widely used in many physical and sports disciplines. In general, this definition can include all those exercises that have the ultimate goal of stretching and lengthening a muscle or a muscle chain of the human body, whether they are static or dynamic.
One’s personal approach to stretching is decidedly variable: there are those who do it to prevent, those to reduce pain, those for their sporting performance, those who think it’s good for them regardless and lastly those who don’t and enough. Everyone knows it, but many don’t know that stretching is to be considered a form of therapeutic exercise, therefore capable of healing and bringing benefits, but also of bringing with it contraindications or causing damage if done in the wrong way and/or at the wrong time. Read down below and find out which are the best stretching exercises for a better life.
Stretching exercises for seniors
Confined to the home and without the aid of complicated machinery which in some cases can even be dangerous, you can conduct a series of fairly simple exercises with the simple aid of a chair and small dumbbells (depending on your strength) .
In a chair, sit with your hips back and your back well against the backrest. Use a set of dumbbells (we recommend modest weights 2-3 kilos for beginners). Begin the lift with your elbows tucked in towards your body, lifting towards your chest, until you complete the movement back to the original position.
Still seated on your chair, lean your back against the backrest. Lift one elbow into the air with a dumbbell and drop it backwards before slowly lifting it over your head, supporting your elbow with your other hand. Repeat when you have reached the starting position.
Position your body against the back of the chair, and with a dumbbell in both hands lift the weights starting at a 90-degree angle. As soon as you have reached full extension, descend slowly, being careful.
Sitting on the edge of the chair, grip the sides of the chair firmly with both legs. Then proceed by stretching the legs with the toes pointing upwards. With the back straight, begin to slowly lift your legs, alternating them as high as possible, before slowly returning to the starting position.
Practice this exercise if you have a meditation ball, or other similarly sized object. While seated, lift the medicine ball to stomach height, keeping it away from your body. Then bend your elbows and begin to rotate your torso to the left, then towards the center, and then to the right, before returning to the original position.
Bent knee push-ups
When seated, grab the seat of the chair with both hands, move your body slightly forward, making sure your back is straight and stretch your legs, making a movement until your back touches the backrest.
Then slowly raise your legs and pull them towards your body, bending your knees. Slowly lower and return to the starting point.
In a chair, lean your back against the backrest, then grab the sides of the chair with both hands. Raise one leg in front of you until it is fully extended, then slowly return to the starting position. Alternate legs throughout the exercise.
Sitting towards the edge of the chair, keep your back straight and feet flat on the floor. With one hand, grip the seat for stability, then raise the other hand toward the ceiling in a stooped position. Slowly bend in the direction of the outstretched arm, hold for 10-20 seconds, then return to a straight position before repeating with the other arm.
Back stretching exercises
Position of devotion
Get down on your knees, resting your buttocks on your heels. Stretch by bringing your head and arms forward. Inhale by inflating the belly and exhale by pushing it back, as if sucking in the navel. Maintain the position for a minute, so as to stretch the lumbar area.
Stretching exercise with fitness ball
This exercise is used to lengthen the lumbar muscles and to combat hyperlordosis, ie excessive arching of the back due to poor posture, sometimes caused by wearing high heels. Get into a prone position on the fitness ball, wrapping it around and letting your legs hang down. If you don’t have a fitness ball, you can do the same movement using a chair. In this case, sit on the chair and push the torso forward, letting the head relax and causing the force of gravity to relax the back muscles.
Column unloading exercise on the ground
Sit very close to the wall and lift your legs straight up, resting your heels on the vertical surface. Open your arms, place the backs of your hands on the floor and focus on your breathing. Bad breathing causes bad posture so it’s important to focus on inhaling and exhaling, trying to relax your throat and shoulders and to breathe as naturally as possible and not forced. By doing this, the spine extends.
Stretching the hamstrings
Among the muscles that in some circumstances can cause back pain are the hamstrings, or those that cover the back of the thigh and fit on the ischium, the two small bones at the end of the pelvis. When they are too short they pull the pelvis into retroversion, nullifying the lumbar curve. To prevent this from happening, it is very useful to practice this stretching exercise aimed at lengthening them and bringing the pelvis back into line. Stand with your back on the floor and your legs bent. Grab a towel or scarf, pass it under one foot and stretch the corresponding leg, pushing the toe downwards and the heel towards the ceiling to stretch the calf and the back muscles of the thigh. Hold the position for 3 or 4 minutes. Repeat on the other side. If you want to make this exercise more difficult, extend the non-moving leg on the ground instead of keeping it bent.
Stretching exercises for beginners
Torso rotation with wall support
With this exercise we want to stretch the brachial biceps , the pectoral muscles and all those muscles that are responsible for adduction (ie the act of bringing towards the center of the body) and internal rotation of the upper limb.
Steps to perform the exercise correctly (instructions relating to the right side):
- Stand with your right side next to a wall (about an arm’s length away) so that your feet are parallel to it.
- Extend your arm so that your palm rests completely on the wall, hand at shoulder height, fingers pointing back, in the direction your back is facing.
- Slowly rotate your torso (keeping your back straight) so that your back is at least partially facing the wall, keeping your arm stretched out and your palm resting on the wall. You should feel the muscles in your upper arm, forearm, and the front of your shoulder and chest stretch.
- Hold the tension for about twenty seconds, then release and repeat the exercise on the other side.
Passive flexion and extension of the wrist
The focus of this exercise is on stretching those forearm muscles responsible for wrist extension and flexion. These are structures that are not often treated with the proper attention, but which play an important role in exercises that require maintaining a grip on a heavy object, such as dumbbells and kettlebells .
Steps to perform the exercise correctly (explanation for the right side stretch):
- From a sitting or standing position (it makes no difference as long as you keep your back straight), extend your right arm in front of you, fingers pointing forward and palm facing the ground.
- With your left hand, bend your right wrist down so that your fingers point to the floor. You should feel a stretch in the muscles in your upper forearm. Hold the position for about ten seconds.
- Now, use your left hand to bend your wrist in the opposite direction, so that your right hand fingers point towards the ceiling. For more stretch, you can push directly on the fingers of your right hand instead of the palm. You should feel the stretch in the lower forearm muscles. Again, hold the position for about ten seconds.
- Alternate between the two positions, never exaggerating in passive mobilization, two or three times, then repeat the exercise for the left limb.
This exercise is used to stretch the triceps, a muscle located in the back of the arm and responsible for extending the elbow. In addition to being essential in everyday activities and a central element of many exercises, it, together with the biceps, is the main muscle responsible for providing a toned appearance to our arms, so it is even more important to keep them strong and healthy especially if you are doing rock climbing.
Steps to perform the exercise correctly (example relating to the right side):
- From a sitting or standing position, with your back straight, extend your arms overhead and bend your elbow so that your right hand is touching your left scapula (back of the shoulder).
- With the other hand, grab your right elbow and pull it to the left. You will feel your right hand sliding down your back and tension in the extensor arm of your right arm.
- Hold the position for about thirty seconds, then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Often, when we think about exercise and stretching, we forget the importance of the neck , which is one of the most mobile and articulated parts of the body . Tension in this area can lead to numerous health problems, including neck pain and headaches , which can have a major impact on our quality of life.
With this exercise we want to stretch and relax the trapezius , the muscle that connects the neck to the shoulders and which is responsible, together with others, for lateral movements and rotation of the head.
Steps to perform the exercise correctly (example relating to the right side):
- From a seated position, with your back straight, raise your left arm and place your hand on the head in correspondence with the right parietal region (with the base of the palm in correspondence with the apex of the skull and the fingers towards the right ear).
- Gently apply force to tilt your head to relax the muscles on the right side of your neck. It should take only a little movement to start feeling the stretch.
- Hold the tension for about twenty seconds, then repeat the exercise for the opposite side of the neck.
Hip stretching exercises
Open your legs by spreading them, placing your hands on the ground to maintain balance and correct back posture. Do not force too much but with light tension on the inner thigh keep the static working position. The feet are parallel and the knees straight.
Front split with hammer feet
Re-widening the flexed leg from the position under the pelvis I find the maximum frontal split resting on the heels and the toes pointing upwards. I recommend using hand support to avoid dangerous loss of balance in maximum ROM.
- Sit on the floor and bend your legs inward until the soles of your feet touch.
- Keep your back straight while sitting.
- Using your palms, gently push your knees into the ground.
- Hold the pose for a few seconds, before gently releasing your knees.
For a slight variation on the butterfly stretch, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends the glute stretch: Start in the same sitting position as the butterfly stretch, however, instead of touching the soles of your feet together, tuck a foot under the opposite thigh. Now lean forward and hold the pose for about 30 seconds.
Stretching exercises for flexibility
Shoulder and back stretching
Shoulder stretching often also involves the back: so let’s see some exercises that will be useful for maintaining good muscle relaxation in the shoulders and back. Get yourself a towel and grab it at the ends, bringing your arms straight up; at this point, move your straight arms back and forth, holding the towel in a fluid motion; this exercise must be performed 7 times and will loosen the muscles of the arms, shoulders and chest.
Stretching of the legs, sitting on the floor
First open your legs to your maximum leaving them straight. Inhale, without bending your back, and bring your arms up. Now exhale as you bring your torso down towards one of your legs. Push yourself as if you want to reach the foot. The most important thing is not to bend your knee or turn your head abruptly. Breathe deeply and gently return to the center. Repeat the exercise with the other leg. To start seeing results, you need to repeat this exercise at least 20 times for each leg every day.
Touch your toes without bending your knees
Inhale deeply. Stand upright, with your heels together. You can keep your feet slightly apart if you prefer. Choose the way you feel most comfortable. Contract your abdomen. Inhale through your nose and stretch your arms vertically up. Now arch your back gently backwards, paying attention to your posture. Return to the starting position, straightening your back and exhaling through your nose as you bring your hands down to the floor. Try to touch your toes with your toes while keeping your legs straight. If you don’t succeed, don’t worry, little by little you will gain more flexibility. Hold the posture for at least 30 seconds as you work on your breathing