Daily Stretching Routine For Increased Flexibility

Introduction | Benefits of a daily stretching routine | 10-Minute Daily Stretching Routine

A 10-minute daily stretching routine has been shown to reduce injury risk by up to 50% (ACSM). In The Complete Guide to Stretching, Norris cites studies showing that injury risk decreases when flexibility increases. These studies found that athletes who participated in a daily stretching routine suffered 15% fewer injuries when compared to athletes that did not stretch.


But a daily stretching routine can confer more benefits beyond reducing injury susceptibility.

According to Harvard Health (2019), ‘stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy.’


Moreover, flexibility training reduces muscle tightness while also maintaining an optimal range of motion in the joint. It’s for these reasons, and those that follow, that it is important to implement a daily stretching routine.


This article provides you with a comprehensive daily stretching routine that targets all the major muscle groups. In addition, for those who are new to stretching or have not adopted it as part of their training process, you will discover the dos and don'ts of safe stretching. This way, when you start your daily stretching routine, you will know how to apply each stretch correctly.


Daily stretching routine benefits

  • Reduces injury risk

  • Improves the range of movement around a joint

  • Increases joint mobility

  • Has been shown to improve post-exercise recovery

  • Can reduce the severity of delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS)

  • Can improve postural alignment

  • Promotes a sense of wellness


Essential reading: Stretching | The Complete Guide To


Daily stretching routine safety

It’s helpful to approach stretching as you would when performing a body weight or resistance exercise. That is, observe recognised safe techniques and avoid committing common mistakes. What follows is a brief overview of the most important stretching techniques. Concluding the overview is a list of the dos and don’ts of stretching.

Stretch under control

To stretch safely you should always do so under control. ‘All exercises,’ Norris counsels, ‘should be performed slowly, encouraging, rather than forcing, the action,’ (Stretching | The Complete Guide To). Furthermore, the stretch should never induce pain or discomfort. As you gently ease into the position, pause when you feel a mild stretch sensation in the muscle.


Optimal stretching time

The duration that each stretch is held for is largely determined by your flexibility training objective. If you just want to maintain the range of movement around a joint, 10-seconds is enough.


However, to increase the range of movement and develop muscular flexibility, the ACSM ‘recommends that each stretch should be held for 30-90 seconds,’ (Personal Training). This time parameter is supported by a study cited in Norris’ Complete Guide to Stretching.


A group of subjects with limited knee extension was put through a daily stretching routine. The group was split into three and subjected to either 15-, 30-, or 60-second static stretches. After six weeks the ‘results showed that both the 30- and 60-second stretches were more effective than the 15-second stretch.’ (Stretching | The Complete Guide To).

Static stretching protocol

Concerning stretching protocol, research has shown that applying a ‘sets and reps’ method delivers the best outcome. ‘Stretching training uses duration and sets in the same way as other training aspects,’ (Personal Training).


So, when progressing through the daily stretching routine below, apply each position for 3 to 4 sets of between 30-90 seconds. In addition, when working through your routine, ensure to implement the dos and don’ts of safe stretching.

This is a table showing the dos and don'ts of stretching. In it it says: 	Ensure to warm-up before performing a stretching routine. 	Before applying the stretch take a deep breath and then exhale as you slowly progress into the position. 	Always relax into your stretch. 	While holding the stretch position breathe slowly as this helps ease tension. 	Stretch on a comfortable surface – i.e., a soft Yoga mat. 	When stretching be mindful of what you are doing and concentrate on the muscle being stretched. 	Timing your stretches with a watch will ensure each stretch is applied for equal durations. 	Wear loose-fitting clothing when stretching. V	Never bounce in the stretch position. V	Never stretch a cold muscle. Always warm-up prior to applying a stretch. V	Do not force a stretch to the point where it causes pain in the muscle. V	While stretching never push or put any pressure against a locked joint. V	Do not rush your stretching routine. V	Do not hold your breath during a stretch. V	Don’t allow another person, such as a training partner or personal trainer, to apply your stretch. Only trained professionals, sports therapists/physiotherapist, know how to facilitate a stretch safely.

Daily stretching routine

So far in the article, we’ve considered the benefits of regular stretching and safe stretching practices. Now we are going to turn our attention to the daily stretching routine.


Below, under the title Stretching exercises, are seven stretches each one targets a separate muscle group. By implementing the stretches as part of a daily routine, completed in the morning or after exercise, you will enjoy a whole-body stretch.


The stretches are accompanied by a list of primary and secondary muscles targeted, an outline of how to apply the stretch, and points of note. In addition, the explanations are supported by an image of the position.


Essential reading: Stretching Scientifically


Daily stretching routine upper body phase

arm stretches

A guy performing an arm stretch as part of a daily stretching routine.

Primary muscles stretched: Biceps, anterior deltoid, and pectorals.


Other: Forearm.


Stretching method: To apply this stretch stand side on to a wall and place the hand of the arm to be stretched behind you. The arms should be pressing against the wall and running parallel to the floor. You are looking forward and away from the arm.


Hold the stretch on each arm for three sets of 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 3-minutes


Points of note: Because this is a severe stretch that puts the muscle under significant tension, ensure to apply it with caution. If you feel the stretch start to ease off, turn your body away from the object against which your arm is supported.


shoulder mobility stretch

A guy performing a shoulder stretch as part of a daily stretch routine.

Primary muscles stretched: Posterior deltoid and trapezius.


Other: Medial deltoid, triceps, middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.


Stretching method: Hold the arm across the body as demonstrated in the picture. The arm being stretched remains parallel to the floor for the duration of application. Use the other arm to help maintain the correct position. Avoid holding at the elbow joint and instead support the arm at the triceps.


Hold the stretch on each arm for three sets of 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 3-minutes


Points of note: The common mistake when executing this stretch is to allow the arm to flop down. Doing so deteriorates the effectiveness of the exercise. For optimal application ensure to support the arm parallel to the floor for the duration of the stretch.

chest stretches

Primary muscles stretched: Bicep, forearm, and pectorals.


Other: Anterior deltoid.


Stretching method: To apply this stretch stand side on to a wall and place the hand of the arm to be stretched behind you. The arms should be pressing against the wall and running parallel to the floor. You are looking forward and away from the arm.


Hold the stretch twice on each arm for 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 2-minutes


Points of note: Here you are performing the exact same stretch outlined above for the biceps. This one has been repeated because there are few stretches that release tension in the chest as this one does. Also, if you keep a slight bend in the elbow, and focus on rotating the chest away from the wall, stretching emphasis shifts from the biceps to the pectoral.


upper back stretches

A guy performing back stretches as part of a 10 minute flexibility routine.

Primary muscles stretched: Trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and posterior deltoid.


Other: Rhomboids, teres major and minor.


Stretching method: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, place the hands out in front with one clasped over the other. Keeping the arms slightly bent, push the hands away from the body ensuring to round the back as you do so.


Hold the stretch for three sets of 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 1-minute, 30-seconds


Points of note: To maximise the range of muscles targeted, you must keep the elbows bent. Straightening the arms reduces this to an upper trapezius stretch.


Daily stretching routine lower body phase

Hamstring stretch

A fitness trainer performing a hamstring stretch.

Primary muscles stretched: Hamstring (specifically the semitendinosus and biceps femoris longus), gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius, and erector spinae.


Other: Semitendinosus, semimembranosus, gracilis, adductor magnus and longus, lower latissimus dorsi, medial side of soleus, medial and lateral head of gastrocnemius.


Stretching method: Take a seat on a soft training mat, your legs straight and pressed together. To initiate the stretch slowly ease the torso forward and down. As you do so ensure to keep your hands on your shins for support. Remember to keep your head up and your eyes fixed on a point just beyond your feet. Throughout the exercise, the toes should point up.


Hold this stretch for three sets of 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 1-minute, 30-seconds


Points of note: A common mistake made during the hamstring stretch is to round at the lower back. By committing this stretching transgression, the torso and head of the stretcher come closer to the floor. This deludes them into believing that they possess greater flexibility than they actually do. But if this were the only negative outcome, I wouldn’t have bothered bringing it to your attention. However, rounding at the lower back also places pressure on the intravertebral discs in the lumbar and upper thoracic region of the spine. Thus, rounding should be avoided.


Hip flexor stretch

A fitness trainer performing a hip flexor stretch as part of a daily 10 minute stretching routine.

Primary muscles stretched: Hip flexors, lower and upper abdominals.


Other: Quadriceps and obliques.


Stretching method: Lie face down on a soft training mat. Your feet are flat against the mat and spaced shoulder-width. With the palms pressing against the floor, the hands are in line with the pectorals. Slowly and under control press away from the mat as you would when performing a press-up. However, when doing so you are only raising up your torso.


Hold three sets of 30-seconds.


Total stretch time: 1-minute, 30-seconds


Points of note: This position places the abdominal muscles under considerable tension. Thus, if you are a beginner or possess the flexibility of a dry piece of wood, apply with caution. One simple method of preventing over-stretching is to raise from the forearms as opposed to the hands. This reduces the possible range of motion by half.


quad stretches

Primary muscles stretched: Quadriceps (all four heads: rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius).


Other: Middle and upper sartorius, hip flexors, lower abdominus, and gluteus medius.


Stretching method: If you struggle to maintain balance it is recommendable to hold a solid object when performing this stretch. Alternatively, the quad stretch can be performed just as well laying down on your side on a soft mat. Grasp the foot of the leg that is to be stretched with the arm of that side: left leg/left arm. The supporting leg remains bent and both knees are directly in line. To apply the stretch ease the hips forward.


Hold three sets of the 30-seconds on both legs.


Total stretch time: 3-minutes


Points of note: Two mistakes are commonly made when performing the quad stretch. Mistake one: holding the stretched leg with the arm of the opposite side – left leg/right arm. This pulls the knee joint (which is a hinge joint – flexion and extension only) into an unnatural position and stresses the lateral collateral ligament. Not good. Mistake two: applying the stretch by pulling the foot of the stretched leg harder. No! Again, this serves only to stress the knee joint – specifically the patella tendon. To increase the stretch, it is both more effective and much safer to ease the hips forward.

 

Daily stretching routine FAQ

What ab stretches do you recommend?

One of the best abdominal stretches is the hip flexor stretch. To shift emphasis from the hip flexors to the abdominals, exhale as you apply the stretch and allow your stomach to ‘sag’ to the floor. Also, to further apply the stretch, you can gently ease your upper abdominals forward.

What’s pnf stretching?

PNF is an abbreviation for proprioception neuromuscular facilitation (passive/active). The full title of this method of stretching is contract-relax proprioception neuromuscular facilitation.


Typically performed with a trained professional, such as a sports therapist or physio, a PNF stretch is where force is applied against the limb of the muscle being stretched. In addition, as force is applied the subject resists by contracting the muscle for a pre-specified exposure. The subject then relaxes as the physio marginally increases the stretch.


For example, using the PNF method to stretch the hamstring, the subject is lying on their back with the stretched leg extended. The physio, who is supporting the leg with their upper torso and shoulder, resists the subject as they attempt to push their leg to the floor. When the subject stops contracting (relaxes) the physio eases the leg forward thus increasing the stretch.


And the purpose of all this? PNF stretching ‘utilises the stretch reflex to allow the GTO [Golgi tendon organs] to fire during the active phase which allows the muscle to relax further in the passive phase, therefore producing a greater ROM [range of movement],’ (Personal Trainer).

stretches for lower back pain

In his book, The Complete Guide to Back Rehabilitation, Norris outlines a range of stretches for lower back pain. He also provides a comprehensive overview of the structure of the back and how to rehabilitate multiple back injuries. In addition, the book covers the following criteria:

  • The range of back conditions

  • The role of posture and muscle imbalance in back pain

  • The principles of back rehabilitation

  • Client assessment and rehabilitation planning

  • Gym-based back rehabilitation

  • Functional retraining for the back

  • Yoga and clinical Pilates for back rehabilitation.

 

Related: Know how to apply the FITT Principle to training.

 

Related: Discover more Benefits of Stretching.

 

In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

5 views0 comments