Videos Compiled By Eric Astrauskas, Spec. Hons. B.A. (Kinesiology), P.T.S.
Personal Trainer in Toronto
Below are a collection of my favourite stretches for the whole body. Stretching and flexibility can help improve performance and prevent injury. Dynamic (moving) stretching and mobilization can prepare you for movement and performance. Static stretching can help enhance performance, reduce the likelihood of injury, and aid recovery. Static over-stretching can also inhibit performance. For example, it is beneficial to have tighter hamstrings for vertical leaping abilities. Being overly flexible can reduce power production. Timing of static stretching can hinder performance and training – avoid held stretches before workouts.
There are added benefits of stretching on physical and mental relaxation. It is meditative and a great way to get in touch with your body, feeling where tension lies and releasing it. Flexibility training and relaxation techniques can also help lower cortisol levels.
Perform the following static stretches after a workout or before bed. Try to hold each stretch from thirty seconds to over one minute (depending on your problem areas). Take deep breaths, exhaling for longer periods (5-7 seconds) as you are stretch deeper. Hold the positions and don't bounce. Perform 3 or more sets of each. For the dynamic stretches, spend thirty seconds to one minute for each prior to your workouts or sport. Select only the dynamic stretches that are appropriate as a warm-up for your sport or training session. For example, if you are training your upper body, there is little need to focus much on a lower body dynamic stretching.
Stability Ball Chest Stretch
A tight chest and rounded shoulders is a problem for a high percentage of people. This is especially true for those who work at a desk and drive a lot. For this stretch, have your upper back on a stability ball. Have your arms outstretched to your sides and rotate your thumbs pointing away from you and towards the floor.
Chest Stretch with Resistance Band
This is another good chest stretch. With a thick resistance band you can get a deep stretch. Anchor the band to a pole or to a door using a door anchor accessory. Have the arm outstretched and turn your head and body away. This chest stretch can also be done against a wall.
TRX Chest, Anterior Deltoids, and Biceps Stretch
With TRX stretches you control the depth of the stretch by using your body weight and changing the height of the straps. In these videos, I am stretching my chest, shoulders, and biceps using two different angles.
Wall Angels (Note: can be static or dynamic)
Wall angels are a great stretch to help improve rounded upper back (kyphotic) posture which usually occurs from sitting hunched for long periods. Try to keep your upper arms against the wall as you raise them up and down. Keep elbows at around 90 degrees. Your butt and upper back should be in contact with the wall throughout the movement.
TRX Overhead Lat (Latissimus Dorsi), Shoulders, and Abdominal Stretch
This TRX overhead stretch is a time-saver – stretching back, shoulders, and abs all at once. Many people struggle to lift their arms straight overhead while maintaining a neutral spine. This stretch helps you improve your shoulder range of motion. This stretch can also be performed using a stability ball.
Abdominal Stretch on Stability Ball
Lying with your back on a stability ball, reach your arms overhead and tilt your head back.
Posterior Deltoid (Shoulder), and Rhomboid Stretch
This is an effective stretch for rear deltoids (shoulders) and rhomboids. It is a beneficial stretch for anyone but especially for racket sport athletes or any athlete that relies on a lot of external shoulder rotation. Cross an arm across your body and behind your back with a bent elbow. Using the free arm pull back on your elbow.
Anterior Deltoid Stretch with Rope or Band
This stretch is for the front shoulder muscle. This is another problem area for desk workers and drivers. With one arm behind your back, grab a rope, towel or resistance band (I am using a mini strength band/booty band in the video). Using the other arm pull up until you feel a good stretch in the front of the shoulder of the arm that is behind your back.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
Have one arm with a bent elbow overhead (pointing to the ceiling) and pull on that elbow in a sideways/lateral direction using the free hand.
Lats (Latissimus Dorsi), Obliques, and Quadratus Lumborum Stretch with Pole
Grab a pole with overhand grip and arm over head and reaching over laterally. Point your hip away to get a deeper stretch of the lats, obliques, and quadratus lumborum.
The “Cat and Cow” Pose – A Stretch for Lower Back and Abdominals
This is a classic yoga pose, dual stretch. For the cat pose, in a kneeling position on hands and knees, drop your belly and raise your butt and tilt your head up (note: in the video, I could be tilting my head up more). This stretches your abs very well. For the cow pose, reverse that movement, rounding your lower back and tucking in your chin. This stretches your lower back.
Thoracic Rotational Stretch - Upper Back Mobility Exercise (Static or Dynamic)
This stretch is a very important stretch for athletes that require spinal mobility. Any throwing athlete, hockey player, golfer, tennis player, and baseball player shoulder perform this stretch. Kneel with one arm supporting your upper body. Reach under and through with your other arm. Then twist/rotate and try to have your arms make a "T" perpendicular to the floor. Exhale as you rotate, inhale as you reach across.
Downward Dog Pose with Crossed-Over Legs
This is a classic yoga pose. Crossing one leg over the other enables a deeper stretch of the calves and hamstrings by putting more weight on the leg that is being stretched. Try to keep your heel down on the floor or as close as possible.
This stretch focuses on the calves and hamstrings. Standing with one leg straight in front and the other leg behind and bent, lift up the front leg’s toes (and pull them up with your hand) while keeping your heel on the floor.
Calf Wall Stretch
The calf wall stretch isolates the calf for stretching. Have one leg back and straight and the front leg with bent knee. Keep the back heel down. Move the straight leg further back if you are not feeling a deep enough stretch.
Standing/Bent-Over Calf Stretch
Another way to isolate the calf for stretching is to cross one leg over the other. Bend over and reach for the toe of the straight leg that is behind the bent one. Calves are typically tight in sprinters, basketball and tennis players, and any other athlete that spends a lot of time on their toes.
Tibialis Anterior Stretch
The tibialis anterior can get very tight if you train or run on uneven surfaces or if you do a lot of walking and running up hills. To get a deep stretch in this muscle, get into the kneeling position on your shins. Lean your weight back as far as you can without pain onto your ankles. It is good to have something to hold onto so you don’t fall backwards. It can be a wall. Here I am using the cable cross-over machine to prevent falling.
The torso twist stretches the obliques and erector spinae. It is beneficial to have a wide range of motion in the torso for many sports (racket sports, hockey, golf, football, baseball, and many more). The torso twist is performed in a seated position on the floor. Cross one leg over an outstretched leg. Using the opposite arm, pull on the outside of the thigh of the leg that is crossed over. Reach behind you with your other arm as far as comfortably possible.
Hip Adductor Stretch
The inner thigh (adductor) stretch is an important stretch especially for agility athletes who rely heavily on lateral movements. Some of these sports include; racket sports, basketball, football, and hockey). Perform this stretch in a seated position on the floor. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Sit upright and keep the chest high. Press down on your thighs and tilt forward.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor stretch is one of the essential stretches for anyone who sits for a long period of time on a regular basis. Tight hip flexors often lead to lower back pain as the pelvis gets pulled and tilted. For this stretch, have one leg forward with bent knee and the other leg straight and behind with the knee and lower part of thigh on the floor. Raise the arm of the side that is being stretched to get a deeper stretch. You can have a partner pull the arm up and back. You can also grab onto a bar (I am gripping a mini strength band attached to a chin-up bar in the video). If you tilt your upper body slightly forward that also deepens the stretch.
Lying Quadriceps Stretch
This is a great stretch that targets several muscles at once. It stretches your quads, hip flexors, and anterior tibialis. By doing this on the floor instead of standing, you tend to avoid hyper-extending your lower back.
The pigeon pose is one of my favouriate yoga stretches. It targets the glutes and lower back. Have one knee bent close to 90 degrees and (sit on that hip) while extending the other hip back with a straight leg.
Glute Cross Body Stretch
This stretch mainly focuses on the glutes, especially the gluteus medius and lower back. Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other bent. Raise the bent leg and use the opposite arm to pull the leg across your body. Try to keep your upper back/shoulders flat on the floor. This stretch helps to relieve lower back tension and pain.
“Threading the Needle” Glute Stretch
This is a stretch that really isolates the glutes. Lying on your back, cross one bent leg over the other bent leg with your ankle resting on your knee. “Thread” your arm through your legs and grab your shin and pull back. Keep your back and head on the floor as you are pulling back.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
The lying hamstring stretch is better than the bent-over stretch in a standing position. It focuses on the hamstrings and not on the lower back. Lying on the floor, bring one leg up straight without bending the knee. To get a deeper stretch, I am using a strength band to pull back – a towel works just as well.
Forearms Extensors and Flexors
This stretch is especially beneficial for office workers and racket players – although most lifters and athletes develop tight forearms. To stretch the forearm extensions, have one arm extended in front of you. Use your other hand to pull on the back of the hand of the extended arm towards you. For stretching the forearm flexors, pull back on the fingers of the extended arm.
Neck Flexion and Extensions
Tight neck flexors (scalene muscles) are a common problem with desk workers/computer workers. These muscles get overused and tight with tilting the head forward. This leads to “computer neck” or “reader’s neck” where the head shifts forward. This can lead to a chain reaction of postural problems and lower back pain among other issues. Combined with rounded shoulders, this problem gets worse. It is best to have upright posture with your head back while at a desk. The computer really needs to be at eye level. Also try not to tilt your head down using your Smart phone.
To stretch the neck flexors, tilt your chin up. Pull down on your chest at the same time. To get an even deeper stretch, close your jaw. The neck extensions are usually less of a problem area for tightness but shouldn’t be ignored. To stretch them, tuck your chin down and use your hands to pull down on the back of your head.
Upper Trapezius and Lateral Neck Muscles (Scalenes) Stretch
These muscles get tight if you are tense and shrug a lot. Depending on how tight you are, you may require assistance from someone pulling down on the arm of the side that is being stretched. I like to weigh down the side that is being stretched using a dumbbell. Tilt your head to one side and deepen the stretch by pulling laterally on the side of the head. Hold a weight in the free hand.
Upper Body Dynamic Stretching, Mobility Exercise Sequence
The following moving stretching exercises are a good warm-up for mobilization and to improve blood flow to the working muscles. Forward and backward arm circles, arm cross-overs, and shoulder reaches mobilize the shoulders and scapula.
Lower Body Dynamic Stretching, Mobility Exercise Sequence
Butt kicks and leg swings help mobilize the hip and knee joints and get blood flowing to the quads and hamstrings. For lateral mobility there, is the dynamic side to side lunge movement. The inner thigh muscles tend to be especially tight for athletes who focus on a lot of lateral movements like tennis and basketball players. The dynamic stretches should cause no discomfort and should be a smooth movement. Notice I am not going very deep into the stretch at all for this one as I am very tight from all the basketball and tennis I play. Lying on the back, leg cross-overs are great for hip and lower back/spinal mobilization. This dynamic stretch focuses on glutes and erector spinae muscle. This movement is good preparation for athletes who change direction a lot (good examples are basketball, football, and tennis).