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Do you have a sedentary  job that causes muscle tension in your back or neck?

Or do you exercise regularly without stretching afterward?

A healthy range of motion is essential to stay fully functional and perform at your best.

The 7 simple stretches below are some of our favorites.  Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds to a feeling of mild tension but never pain.  Never force or strain.  Try to stretch at least three days per week when your muscles are warm (such as after exercise).

(Remember that not all exercises are appropriate for everyone.  Consult with your health care provider or a qualified exercise specialist to see what exercises may be best for you.)

(click images to enlarge)

1. Chest and Shoulder  Stretch

If your posture slumps forward during the day, open it up with this chest and shoulder stretch.

 

2.  Neck and Shoulder Stretch

Most people carry muscle tension in the upper back and neck, particularly those with desk jobs.  The neck stretch below is a favorite in our yoga classes.  Stand tall and press your shoulders down toward the floor to lengthen the sides of your neck.  It is important to roll your chin toward your chest as pictured.  Never tilt your head backward to look at the ceiling since this puts strain on your neck.

3.  Upper Back Stretch

This is another excellent back stretch that can really be done seated or standing.  The key is to round your back up toward the ceiling as you resist with your hands.

 

 4.  Hamstring Stretch

 My two favorite ways to stretch the back are forward folds and spinal rotations.  The hamstring stretch below is a forward fold.  Don’t worry about reaching your foot.  It is more important to sit up tall, lengthen your spine, and fold forward from your hips.  You are trying to bring your stomach to your thigh– not touch your toes.

5.  Seated Gluteal Stretch

Participants in our group weight training classes always appreciate this exercise after a tough workout of squats, lunges, or leg abductions.  Sit in a cross legged pose and slide your feet away from you a few inches.  Sit up nice and tall and then fold forward from your hips, bringing your stomach toward your thighs.  You will feel the stretch in the hip of the leg that is placed in front.  Uncross your legs and cross them with the other leg in front. Repeat on the other side.

6.  Lower Back Rotation

I absolutely love back rotations and try to include at least one in every yoga class.  The version below is modified for beginners.  Try to go at your own pace, never forcing or straining.  If you can, twist a little bit to stack your hips on top of each other.  Your knees should be stacked on top of each other and your feet should be stacked on top of each other.  Look in the opposite direction that your knees are pointing to try to open your back.  Repeat on the other side.

7.  Quadriceps Stretch

Most people have seen this stretch before but few perform it correctly.  Hold your right foot in your right hand.  Do not squeeze your heel to your rear end.  Instead, open up the space between your calf and hamstring.  Think about pressing your right shoelaces into your hand.  Your right knee should be pointing to the floor.  The final (and most important) part is to tuck your tailbone under and press your hips forward.  This helps you to feel the stretch from your knee to the hip with less strain on the knee.  Repeat on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find more stretches on our Live Well Furman website.