Stretching correctly will increase your flexibility and reduce your risk of injuries when exercising or going about your daily life. Start with some very basic stretches if you're a beginner. Work on stretches when your muscles are warmed up, such as after you've been exercising or at least walking around a bit. You can do these stretches every day for increased flexibility or just 3-4 times a week. If you're more advanced, try stretches that target individual areas of your body.

Part 1 of 3:
Trying Basic Stretches for Increased Flexibility

  1. 1
    Bend backward slightly while standing to stretch your back. Put your hands on your lower back. Tilt your self back at the waist, lengthening the muscles. Make sure to keep your knees straight while doing this stretch. After a couple of seconds, return to the starting position.[1]
    • Repeat this stretch 2-10 times. This is a good stretch for back pain.
  2. 2
    Stretch your back while lying on your stomach. Good news! You get to lie down for this stretch. Get down on your stomach with your arms to your sides and turn your head to one side; that's it for the first part of this stretch. Just relax. Then, after a few minutes, move your arms so your elbows are still at your side but you're balanced on your forearms. Lift up the top half of your body like a seal, resting on your elbows and forearms. Stay in this position for 5-30 seconds, breathing slowly as you do.[2]
    • Try 2-10 reps for this exercise. Stay as relaxed as possible.
    • This exercise is also good for back pain.
  3. 3
    Do a standing side stretch to work on your whole body at once. Place your feet together on the floor. Bring your hands together and extend them upwards straight above your head, breathing in as you do. Tilt your body to the right side at your waist and hold this position as you breathe in and out 5 times. Do the same on the other side. It's okay if you can't tilt very far right now. You'll get there![3]
    • One repetition is often enough, but you can do it multiple times if you prefer.
    Monica Morris
    Monica Morris
    ACE Certified Personal Trainer

    Remember to stretch your neck, as well. When you're streching, make sure you work everything from your ankles all the way to your shoulders, especially your neck. First, stretch your ear to your shoulder on each side. Then, rotate your neck as if you're watching a shooting star, first one way, then the other.

  4. 4
    Touch your toes from a chair to stretch your upper body, back, and legs. Sit up straight in a chair. Tilt your upper body forward until your chest is on your legs (or as close as you can get to it) and reach your arms toward the floor. Don't worry about actually touching your toes; it's important just to stretch as far as you can right now! Stay in this position for 5-30 seconds, then put your arms on your legs to help push yourself back to your starting position.[4]
    • Aim for 2-10 reps of this exercise.
  5. 5
    Work on a simple bound-angle stretch for your whole body. Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you. Place the bottoms of your feet together and draw them toward your body so they're about 1 foot (0.30 m) away; your knees should be bent. Breathe out and tip your torso forward to place your hands flat on the ground in front of you. Stay in this position as you breathe in and out 5 times.[5]
    • Try doing this 2-3 times.
    • It's okay if you can't do this stretch yet. Just keep working on doing what you can.

Part 2 of 3:
Stretching Your Upper Body

  1. 1
    Work on your shoulders and triceps. While standing, reach your left arm across the front of your body so it extends out past your right shoulder. Use your left hand to press the arm toward your body, stretching your right shoulder. Then, lift the right arm toward the right shoulder. With your elbow pointing up, place that hand behind the shoulder. Pull back on your right elbow with your left hand, stretching your triceps.[6]
    • Repeat the process with the opposite arm, too.
  2. 2
    Sit on the floor and extend your arms behind you to stretch your biceps. Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent up in front of you. Put your arms behind you with your palms face down and your fingers pointing away from your body. Slowly move your butt forward toward your feet, keeping your hands in place. Hold this position for about 30 seconds.[7]
    • Try this 2-3 times. This will also stretch your shoulders and chest.
    • Overstretching may cause bicep tears, so stretch carefully to prevent this from happening.
  3. 3
    Bend your hands up and down to extend your wrist muscles. Extend your left arm out in front of you with your palm facing out. Use your right hand to bend your hand back toward your body as far as it will comfortably go, holding it for 30 seconds. Then, drop your left hand down and use your right hand to pull it back toward your body with the palm facing you, holding it for 30 seconds again. Repeat with the other arm.[8]
  4. 4
    Face a corner to stretch your chest and back. Stand about 2 feet (0.61 m) from the corner with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place one forearm on each wall with your elbows resting a little below your shoulders. Tilt your upper body forward toward the corner as far as you comfortably can. If you can't go very far, that's fine. Just do what you can! Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.[9]
    • You can do this stretch 3-5 times a day.
  5. 5
    Do a reclined spinal twist to stretch your back. Lie down on the floor with your back on the ground. Place your arms and legs out straight. Bring your left leg up toward your chest then let it fall over your right leg. Keep your shoulders on the floor and your right leg out straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then do the same on the other side.[10]
    • Try this 1-2 times.
  6. 6
    Use a levator scapulae stretch for your neck. Raise your right arm up so that your upper arm is straight out to the right of your shoulder to the side and the area from your elbow to your hand is pointing up. Set your elbow on a wall or doorjamb to help rotate your shoulder blades and stretch your neck. Then, pull your chin away from that arm and down toward your chest to stretch the muscle more. Do the same on the other side.[11]
    • Just do this once on each side.

Part 3 of 3:
Working on Your Lower Body

  1. 1
    Step forward to stretch your calf muscles. Place your hands on your hips and step forward with your right leg. Keep your left leg stretched out straight behind you. Lean forward and stretch your Achilles tendon all the way against the floor. Repeat with the other leg.[12]
    • Do this once on each side, holding for 30 seconds each.
  2. 2
    Lift your leg behind and grab your foot to stretch your quadriceps. While standing, pull one leg up behind you, like a flamingo. Hold onto your foot to help maintain this position, and brace your other hand on a wall if you need help balancing. Keep your back straight, and hold this position for 30 seconds. Do the same on other side. If you can't grab your foot, that's okay, too. Just stretch your leg up as far as you can.[13]
    • Use this stretch once on each side.
  3. 3
    Work on your hamstrings by grabbing the back of your legs. While standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and legs straight, bend over, breathing out as you do. Hold on to the back of your legs, and stay in this position for 30-45 seconds or even longer.[14]
    • To help yourself get back up, bend your knees slightly and use the momentum to push yourself upward.
  4. 4
    Use the butterfly stretch for your legs and groin. Sit on the floor and press the soles of your feet together to form the butterfly position. With your feet as close to your body as possible, put your hands on your ankles and line your elbows up with your knees. Push against your elbows with your legs, trying to bring them together as you push back with your elbows.[15]
    • Hold this for 30 seconds.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    Can we do stretching before breakfast?
    Tom De Backer
    Top Answerer
    Sure, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it will help start your metabolism because it gets the blood flowing, giving you a healthy appetite and making you ready for the day.
  • Question
    Can stretching help me with splits?
    Community Answer
    Stretching increases flexibility in your joints which can make it easier to do the splits.
  • Question
    How do I become flexible?
    Community Answer
    It is best if you stretch daily, and as you stretch, try to push yourself a little further every day. For example, if you are working on your sideways splits, try to spread you legs a little further every day. But do not stretch so far that it begins to hurt. Doing so can cause tissue scarring, higher resting muscle tone, etc.
  • Question
    Can I stretch without working out before?
    Community Answer
    Yes, but it is advisable to do a warm up before, even if it's just running on the spot for two minutes. This can help you avoid injury as your muscles are warm.
  • Question
    Can I do all the stretching after I wake up?
    Community Answer
    Yes, doing stretches in the morning is a great way to start the day.
  • Question
    How long should you hold each pose?
    Community Answer
    Each pose requires a certain amount of time, but the average is 15 seconds.
  • Question
    Should I stretch before bed?
    Community Answer
    Yes, you should always stretch before going to bed, it helps me relax my muscles so I can go to sleep much easier.
  • Question
    Why does it hurt when doing a butterfly stretch?
    Community Answer
    It hurts because your muscles are stretching. It probably means that those muscles are tight or not flexible for you.
  • Question
    Do I have to increase my heart rate before stretching?
    Community Answer
    No. As long as you are a normal healthy person is no reason to increase your heart rate before stretching.
  • Question
    Does it matter whether I do the single stretching exercises in another order?
    Tom De Backer
    Top Answerer
    No, it makes no difference in what order you do these exercises. Never overdo it, stop when any pain intensifies and consider alternating between muscle groups so as to not put too much stress on any one group.
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      • If you want to stretch before exercising, make sure to warm up first by doing some light walking or another type of gentle exercise to get your muscles warm.
      • Try stretching after your work out. Your muscles will be flexible and warmed up, which decreases your chances of injury.[16]



      • Don't try to push yourself beyond what your body is telling you. While being slightly uncomfortable is fine, if something is sharply painful, stop.

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      About This Article

      Monica Morris
      Co-authored by
      ACE Certified Personal Trainer
      This article was co-authored by Monica Morris. Monica Morris is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) Certified Personal Trainer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. With over 15 years of fitness training experience, Monica started her own physical training practice and gained her ACE Certification in 2017. Her workouts emphasize proper warm-ups, cool-downs, and stretching techniques. This article has been viewed 1,882,306 times.
      13 votes - 93%
      Co-authors: 126
      Updated: May 21, 2020
      Views: 1,882,306
      Article SummaryX

      Stretching can help improve your athletic performance, reduce your chance of injury, and make you more flexible. Stretch lightly after warming up for a workout to help prevent injuries, and stretch after you’re done exercising to keep your muscles from getting sore. You can also stretch first thing in the morning to get your muscles moving. For an easy beginner's stretch, try an overhead stretch. Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, interlace your fingers and stretch your hands above your head with your palms facing up. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds. To stretch your hips and back, try some knee-to-chest stretches. Lie down on your back and pull one knee up to your chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then repeat with your other leg. To stretch your legs, stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend down to touch your toes. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Even if you can't stretch every day, try to stretch at least 2-3 times a week to stay flexible. Remember that stretching should never be painful, so don't push yourself to stretch further than you're comfortable with. For more tips from our Personal Trainer co-author, including how to do stretches that target your upper and lower body, scroll down!

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      Reader Success Stories

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        Ashley Greene

        Nov 25, 2017

        "To begin with, I read an article about how to fall asleep, and it said stretch! So I pulled this up. Feedback: more pictures, please!"..." more
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        Oct 3, 2019

        "I have arthritis in my foot. Since I have been stretching my feet muscles, I'm feeling a lot better and less tired, too. Thank you."..." more
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        Allyson Coulthard

        Jun 16, 2016

        "Much better to watch a video and the graphics were a lot easier to understand rather than flat diagrams. "
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        Jul 9, 2017

        "I was looking for a simple guide with pictures. This one is great and has stretching for the whole body."
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        Sep 25, 2016

        "This article really helped me complete my PE assignment the day before it was due. Thank you so much!"
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        Katie Kanemaru

        Aug 20, 2016

        "The videos really helped, because that way I could see how the stretches were supposed to be done. "
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        Bob Granata

        Jul 22, 2017

        "Stretching flexibility loosens you up makes me feel awesome!!! Thank you for the motivation!!"
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        Sri Sridhar

        Aug 23, 2016

        "Great article. All basic stretching in one place. Exactly what beginner will require."
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        Vera Gaston

        Jul 31, 2017

        "I'm 63 and wanted to do some low impact stretches that will help me to stay flexible."
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        Sherine Prasanna

        Dec 10, 2016

        "Great job! The pictures make it easier to understand and learn the stretches."
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        Bipin Bhand

        Jul 9, 2017

        "Why not to do stretching and what to do before a workout helped me a lot."
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        Yvette Fuller

        Nov 10, 2017

        "I feel this article was quick, informative and straight to the point."
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        Eva Nap

        Sep 24, 2017

        "Very informative, helped me relaxing my muscles after jogging."
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        May 11, 2016

        "Awesome article for relieving pain right after the workout."
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        Hajira Zia

        Nov 29, 2017

        "Just what I was looking for at the moment. Lucid and easy."
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        Akash S.

        Mar 19, 2018

        "It helps a lot. Easy to understand, thanks to wikiHow."
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        Alex Anderson

        Nov 14, 2017

        "This really helped my back and everything, thank you!"
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        Emi Worth

        Jul 11, 2017

        "This has helped me stretch for ballet, and splits!"
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        Jack Eastman

        May 18, 2016

        "It's exactly what I was looking for, to be honest."
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        "Looks very impressive and highly educative."
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        Jul 15, 2016

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        Lana Vidovic

        Sep 17, 2017

        "I do ballet, so this helps me to stretch."
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        May 31, 2016

        "Nice article with short, fast details."
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        Apr 5, 2017

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        May 18, 2016

        "Very nice video. Thank you."
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        May 11, 2016

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