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7 Best Stretching Exercises: Basic Stretch Routine

By Marc Perry / December 31, 2018

What Is Stretching & Why Is It Important?

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion within a joint along the various planes of motion. Within each joint there is an optimal range of motion (ROM) that is essential for peak performance.

Stretching refers to the process of elongating the muscles to improve ROM. I already introduced you to Dynamic Stretching (See: Dynamic Stretching: Best Full Body Warm Up), which is ideal for stretching before exercise. Static stretching is when you stretch while staying stationary, which is the preferred type of stretching during and after exercise.

There are many naysayers who believe static stretching is a waste of time and doesn’t prevent injury. I think it’s possible that a seasoned athlete with optimal ROM may not benefit as much from stretching, but I think for anyone who can improve ROM, static stretching is very, very helpful, if not essential. If you are interested in the physiology of stretching and how range of motion increases, you can check out this article: Physiology of Stretching.

Major stretching benefits:

• Increased movement efficiency
• Decreased risk of injury
• Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
• Increased neuromuscular coordination
• Decreased risk of low back pain
• Reduced muscular tension
• Improved balance and postural awareness

5-Minute Stretching Routine Instructions

The routine below is a basic static stretching routine designed to complete on an exercise mat at the end of your workout. It takes 5-10 minutes max and you can get all the preceding benefits.

• Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds and repeat 2x with each leg.

• You should feel mild discomfort as you stretch, but nothing too intense

• Don’t bounce as you stretch, just relax and exhale as you stretch the muscle

Stretching Exercise #1: Hamstring Stretch

There are two primary ways to do the seated hamstring stretch (1) split your legs apart like I do in the photo above, or (2) you can bend one leg and keep the other extended straight in front of you. It looks a little like the butterfly stretch below, but one leg is extended forward and the bent leg is against the ground. Both stretches are a great way to stretch your hamstrings, which are the muscles on the back of your thigh that can cause low back discomfort if they are too tight. To make the stretch more intense, pull you toe towards your body, flex your quads, and reach as far as you can.

Stretching Exercise #2: Butterfly Groin Stretch

I am pressing my elbows down in an effort to increase the stretch. The closer you put your feet to your body, the more intense the stretch will be.

Stretching Exercise #3: Lying Hip Stretch

My hands are supposed to be around my right knee to pull the left leg towards my body. This is a great hip stretch that I think you should incorporate into your routine. Most guys have very tight hips, so this is particularly important for guys.

Stretching Exercise #4: Lying Quad Stretch

Of all the stretches listed, this one you may consider doing while standing while holding on to your foot with both hands. I included the lying quad stretch because the theme is doing all the stretching exercises on the ground, but try it out and see what you think. The further you bring your knee backwards, the more intense the stretch. The quadriceps are muscles on the front of your leg.

Stretching Exercise #5: Calf Stretch

The standing version is pushing against a wall, but you can also do this exercise simply by pushing against the ground. Many runners in particular can have very tight calves, so this stretch is particularly important if you do a lot of high volume cardio. Feel free to play around with the angle that your foot is pressing against the ground. The further greater the angle of your foot, the more it works your upper vs. your lower calves.

Stretching Exercise #6: Shoulder Stretch

This stretch engages primarily your medial and posterior deltoid (shoulder) and is easy to execute. This is a stretch you should definitely perform as you workout as well. Simply press while pulling your opposite elbow towards your opposite shoulder


Stretching Exercise #7: Triceps Stretch

This movement stretches all three heads of the triceps muscle. To make the stretch more intense, pull your elbow behind your head as far as possible while keeping the hand of the arm that is being stretched close to the shoulder.

I hope you will give this stretching routine, or any of the stretching exercises shown a try. Let me know what you think.

Are there any other seated stretching exercises you think I should have included?

Show 1 References

  1. Physiology of Stretching. Stretching and Flexibility.


  • Mike says:

    I don't know how many times I see people come into the gym, especially in the winter, and the first thing they start to do is stretch. Not a good idea at all.

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Mike - Well I think it depends on the type of stretching. Dynamic stretching is I think the best way to get ready for exercise, which I show in this video here: Best Full Body Warm Up: Dynamic Stretching. I do believe static stretching, as I'm demonstrating in the above video, is certainly not helpful, and possibly even counterproductive right before exercise. Thanks for the comment!

  • Jessica says:

    Torso and back muscles are important too! I like adding the cobra/upward facing dog yoga pose and child yoga pose (with arms out to the front) at the end of my stretching routine to sort of finalize everything. They're really easy to do to.

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Jessica - Thanks for sharing that tip!

  • Toni says:

    This article touches upon the principle dynamic of yoga where the stretch of the muscles elongates the body - thus giving you that 'lean look'. My three favorite poses are: downward-facing dog, triangle pose and the tree pose. They really open up your groin area (like crazy), make you more flexible and improve your overall balance if practiced on a regular basis.

  • Zalaba says:

    How do i stretch before pull ups and push ups

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Zalaba - I would foam roll your lats and upper back, then use a massage ball (or lacrosse ball, or softball) to massage out your chest. I do this before all my chest/back workouts. Then you can do some shoulder mobility exercises using a dynamic warm up. I should create a video with some warm ups, because the exercises are too tough to describe.

  • Zalaba says:

    Thanks for reply...I want to get maximum results from a workout and that means nutrition with before/post meal,recovery,stretching,warm-up...So the stretching is a little hard for me,because i don't need all movements for all muscles...So that's why i asked...

  • rust says:

    can these stretches increases my height

    • Kristin says:

      If you're dealing with postural issues, then stretching and improving your muscular imbalances can definitely make you taller. We have another great article about the most common postural issues and how to fix them. You can check it out here: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/11/28/posture-problems/

      -Kristin Rooke, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • rust says:

    how can I increase my height

  • rust says:

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