Gone are the days when people used to only associate stretching with runners, athletes, and gymnasts. One can easily notice how millions of people have learnt the importance of regular stretching and how most have adopted this practice in their routine. Everywhere you look, you can likely see people stretching. This could be after they had their run, after they woke up, or just whenever they wanted to do fitness. In return this trend keeps rewarding them with improved flexibility, balance, stability, and joint motion. Ok, where do you start? For maximum gains from a stretching program, experts recommend you start with beginner stretches.
Beginner stretches are pretty straightforward to perform, primarily because we all instinctively stretch at times. We may do this after waking up or after sitting down for so long. Whether we know it or not, these stretches are the foundation of beginner yoga stretches. This means you are familiar with some beginner stretches. Knowing this, have you ever wondered what stretches you could do if you were to start a stretching training program? If so, then this read is for you.
This piece aims to provide insights on the best beginner stretches to improve flexibility, stretch the hips, or benefit runners and athletes. We will discuss how each beginner stretch is performed and eventually share some pro tips to help you reap the most from these stretches.
List Of The Best Beginner Stretches
We all have our favorite exercises to do, and so it would not be surprising if you had some favorite stretches as well. That said, the concept of the best stretches extends from what we love to what works best for your fitness goals.
For example, you may love doing the side stretch but before running may want to stretch your leg muscles instead. Although a side stretch is good, it won’t help with loosening up your leg muscles. This means that the best stretches must take into account your fitness goals.
If you would like to be more flexible, target your hip flexors or back, or improve your balance, then check out this list. It combines both static and dynamic beginner stretches to help you loosen up and attain your fitness goals. The stretches included in the list are as follows:
Benefits: Do not be fooled by how easy this stretch appears. Its benefits are tremendous. The stretch helps loosen up all your body muscles, primarily if performed after waking up (4). It also alleviates any pain or discomfort.
- Stand upright on an even floor and extend your arms above your head. Keep your hands straight, and do not bend your elbows. Stretch your arms up as high as you can.
- Hold this position for as long as you can. As you do this, remember to take slow deep breaths.
- Repeat for as long as you desire.
Benefits: The other perfect beginner stretch is the side stretch.
- Stand upright and stretch your left arm up towards the ceiling.
- Grip your left wrist using the right hand and gently pull the left arm towards the right. This will make your torso slightly lean. Make sure your left arm is not over your left ear. Similarly, make sure your knees are straight, and you are breathing deeply and slowly.
- Hold the stretch for a couple of breaths.
- Gently bring your hands down and repeat the same on your right side.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Benefits: The Hip Flexor Stretch ranks among the staple beginner hip stretches. It works perfectly well in stretching your hip flexors (5). Hip flexors allow you to lift your knees and flex at your waist.
- Start by kneeling on your right knee. Make sure you cushion your right kneecap using a folded towel.
- Place your left foot in front of you, bend your knee, and rest your left hand on your left leg for stability.
- Place your right hand on your right hip. This will help to prevent you from bending at your waist. Remember also to tighten your ab muscles and keep your back straight throughout the movement.
- Lean forward, as this will make your body weight shift onto your front leg. When happens you will feel your right thigh stretch.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat.
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Benefits: The Butterfly Stretch helps loosen up your hips, groin, knees, and inner thighs (6). Again, don’t let the simplicity of this technique fool you as it is perfect for stretching your lower body muscles.
- Start by sitting down on a mat or an even and comfortable floor surface.
- Bring your feet together, such that your soles touch each other. Your knees should now be flexed to the outside.
- Keep your back straight and reach out for your feet using your hands.
- Slowly and gently lean forward.
- Start to push your thighs down using your elbows gently. Push them as far as you can or until you feel your inner thighs stretch.
- Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Relax for 10 seconds and repeat.
Benefits: One of the best beginner yoga stretches to try at home is the Child’s Pose. The calming and restful yoga technique effectively stretches your lower back as it passively elongates your spine (1).
- Start in a kneeling stance, with your hips and butt resting on your lower legs and feet.
- Spread your knees apart until you find a comfortable stance. Fold your body forwards and bring your chest towards your knees. If possible, bend until your forehead is on the floor. Extend your arms to the front. Similarly, they must be gently resting on the floor with the palms facing down.
- Maintain the position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Use your hands to gently lift your chest off the floor to the initial upright position.
Variations: You can place your arms over your head instead of stretching them in front. Doing this enables you to stretch the latissimus dorsi, a flat muscle connecting your spine and the long arm bone (1).
- Stand upright with your feet wide apart.
- Point your left foot to the left while keeping your right one at a specific angle.
- Turn to your left. Slowly bend your left leg. Make sure that the knee aligns with your ankle. Similarly, make sure you keep your right leg straight.
- Bring your arms straight and above your head.
- Now try posing from the opposite side.
- Start by pointing your right foot and keeping your left foot at one angle. Slowly and gently turn to the right.
- Bend your right leg while keeping the left one straight. Do not lock or bend the left knee.
- Bring your arms straight above your head.
Downward Facing Dog
Benefits: The Downward Facing Dog works most of your upper body muscles. It stretches your chest, arms, back, and leg muscles (2).
- Get on your fours and position your toes under and knees below your hips. Make sure you also place your hands a little bit in front of your shoulders.
- Breathe out and start to slowly straighten your legs, allowing your heels to leave the ground.
- Lift your butt as much as you can towards the ceiling as you push your heels to the floor.
- Slowly and lightly press your palms on the floor or mat.
- Slowly straighten your arms as you now start drawing your shoulder blades down.
- Relax your head and try to position it between your upper arms.
- Hold this position for at least 10 to 30 seconds.
Standing Quad Stretch
Benefits: One of the best stretches for beginner runners is the Standing Quad Stretch. It targets all your leg muscles, particularly your quads. Doing this stretch before and after running can help beginner runners reduce their risk of injuries to their leg muscles (6).
- Stand upright with your legs hip-width apart. If you struggle to balance on one leg, grab a chair and place it in front of you. Place your right hand on the chair to help improve your balance.
- Lift your left foot off the floor and behind you. Grab it using your left hand. The bent left knee should be pointing directly towards the floor. Do not bend forward or lock your right knee.
- Pull in your left leg as much as you can or until you feel your left thigh stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Release your left leg and switch legs.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Benefits: The Standing Hamstring Stretch is one of the best stretching exercises to add to your everyday running workout routine. It works out your leg muscles, particularly your hamstrings, helping avoid muscle stiffness and tightness in this area (3).
- Start upright. Keep your right foot pressed on the floor and bend your right knee slightly. Stretch the left leg in front.
- Flex your left foot with its heel pressed on the floor and toes facing up.
- Rest your hands on your right thigh and lean slightly forward. Your left toes must remain raised.
- Hold for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds.
- Repeat everything with the other leg.
Side Lunge Stretch
Benefits: The Side Lunge Stretch is recommended among beginner stretches to improve flexibility. It targets your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and inner thighs.
- Stand upright with your back straight and feet hip-width apart.
- Take a massive step to your left. Remember to keep both feet facing forward.
- Slowly bend your left knee and then start to lower your hips to the left. Your feet should still be firmly pressed on the ground and facing forward.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, and then push yourself up to the standing stance. Lower your hips again to perform another side lunge on your left side. Alternatively, you can take a massive step with your right and lower your hips to the right side. Choose whatever technique works best for you.
- Repeat at least ten times on each side.
Stretching Essentials For Beginners
As mentioned earlier, we promised to share with you some tips to make these beginner-friendly stretches easier to perform. The tips are as follows:
Hold Your Stretch!
In some cases, beginners forget to hold their stretches as their focus is more about getting done with the stretching routine. If you do not hold your stretch, you will not get to stretch your targeted muscles. So, breathe normally and try to hold all your stretches for about 30 seconds (8).
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Keep It Smooth
You may be tempted to bounce a bit when performing various stretches, for instance, the standing quad stretch. Remember that this stretch emphasizes that you do not lock or bend the standing leg. So when you bounce back and forth, you increase your risk of sustaining injuries. Keep your stretches smooth and controlled unless they require you to bounce or make various sudden movements.
Keep Up With Your Stretches
Do not expect to improve flexibility by doing beginner stretches only once. You will only get to reap such and more benefits if you stretch regularly. Mayo Clinic recommends beginners strive to perform their stretches 2 to 3 times a week (8).
Strive To Master The Correct Technique
Instead of striving to stretch for longer, focus on nailing each beginner stretch. You may hold a stretch for a long time but end up with various injuries because you are incorrectly doing it. Do not mind that person in the gym who’s holding their stretch for a minute or two. First, work on mastering the correct technique and then gradually increase how long you hold your stretches.
Do Not Overstretch
It is imperative that you stretch your muscles beyond their usual length if you want to improve flexibility. Please note, this does not entail overstretching to the point where you experience any pain. Overstretching can cause muscle tears, dislocate a joint, or sprain a ligament (7). Try to stretch up to a comfortable point, and for the duration, you have been instructed to do so.
The Bottom Line
If you are starting a stretching training program, your focus should be on beginner stretches. Some of the best beginner stretches include the vertical stand, side stretch, Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog, and Warrior 1.
If you are looking for stretches targeting your hip flexors, opt for the Butterfly and Hip Flexor stretch. Similarly, if you are a beginning runner and want some great stretches, consider the Standing Hamstring, Standing Quad, and Side Lunge stretches.
These expert-approved stretches can help you get in shape and attain your fitness goals in no time. However, you must remember to do them correctly, perform controlled stretches, and stretch for the instructed period. This will save you from experiencing any pain, discomfort, or injuries.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 8 stretches for the middle back (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- 12 Basic Yoga Poses (2019, webmd.com)
- Daily stretching routines: For beginners, runners, and more (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Morning stretches: Beginners, in bed, kids, seniors, and more (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Slide show: A guide to basic stretches (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Stretches to Help You Get Loose (2019, webmd.com)
- Stretching and Flexibility: 7 Tips (2012, webmd.com)
- Stretching: Focus on flexibility (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Warrior 1 (2019, mayoclinic.org)