Fitness Articles

Basic Stretching Routine

7 Stretches for a Full-Body Flexibility Workout

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Stretching is good for you, and it feels great, too! That's why we created this short and effective full-body stretching routine that you can follow whether you're a beginner or an advanced exerciser. Remember to warm up first and never stretch to the point of pain. For more stretching tips and guidelines, refer to our Reference Guide to Stretching.

Hold each stretch listed for 15-30 seconds, repeating two or three times, depending on how you feel. For detailed instructions and larger photos, click on the name of each stretch.

Neck Stretch
Sit or stand with shoulders relaxed, back straight. Bring your left ear down toward your left shoulder and hold. Roll your head down toward the ground and bring your chin to your chest. Hold and finally, roll your head to the right and bring that ear to your right shoulder. Inhale and exhale in a slow and controlled manner.

Hamstring Stretch
Stand tall with back straight, abs engaged, shoulders down, and feet hip-width apart. Bring your left leg forward, heel down, toes up and leg straight. Keeping back straight and abs engaged, bend the right knee as if sitting back, while supporting yourself with both hands on your thighs. Repeat on opposite side.

Quad Stretch
Stand tall, holding on to a chair or wall for balance if necessary (not pictured). Keep your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your feet parallel. Reach back and grab your left foot in your left hand, keeping your thighs lined up next to each other and left leg in line with the hip (not pulled back behind you). Repeat on opposite side.

Chest and Biceps Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten you arms. With arms straight, lift arms up behind you while keeping your back straight and your shoulders down. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears.

Standing Triceps Stretch
Stand tall or sit upright (not pictured). Place your left elbow in your right hand. Reach your left arm overhead, placing palm on the center of your back and supporting the elbow in your right hand. Reach your fingertips down your spine. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Repeat with opposite arm.

Back Stretch
Come to hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart, knees hip-width apart, abs engaged, and back flat (spine neutral). Engage your abdominals as if pulling your naval toward your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Allow the head and neck to fall naturally between the arms.

Hip and Gluteal Stretch
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your back straight. Keep your hips level and your lower back down on the floor. Bend your left knee, placing left foot flat on the floor (not pictured). Cross your right ankle at your left knee. Grab the back of your left thigh and hug your legs toward your chest. Place your right elbow on the inner portion of your right knee and push it slightly to the side. Repeat on opposite side.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • I am suggesting a couple of mods: I'm too large to do the last exercise as noted, so my mod is to lay on the floor in my office and prop my foot against my desk (instead of grasping behind the knee). I get the same stretch but don't struggle into position.
    I also modded the quad stretch because I get excruciating "charlie horse" cramps in my hamstrings when I do it correctly. Instead I hook my ankle over the arm of my desk chair and lean back into the stretch.
    This is just what I was looking for, a basic all-over stretching routine that doesn't require me to be a yogi or dislocate a joint to get into position. So glad I found it! - 6/10/2013 3:44:03 PM
  • Love these stretches. Only one the one putting your hand behind your back or should I say tou hing your elbow with the other hand don't work for me. Shoulder problem. - 5/30/2013 7:55:42 AM
  • JEREMIAHCOMMONS
    Thank you for putting this here I was worried about if I'd find a good basic stretching routine for my workouts. I think it'd be nice to have a warm up routine also added for us to choose from for the basic workouts you provide or even just for sections as I like to work out chest and arms one day, then legs the next, then core another day. - 1/15/2013 10:45:51 AM
  • THEACESTER1
    You can print each stretch individually by clicking its link. - 6/19/2012 12:33:47 PM
  • JANICECALL
    I would like to print the stretch page of instructions, but can't find a "print" button anywhere on the page. - 6/11/2012 11:06:20 AM
  • These streaching exercises are all on the floor. I cannot do much of anything on the floor because of my artificial hips. Any other suggestions? - 5/12/2012 12:58:32 PM
  • POETICBLONDE
    I feel so energized doing these stretches. So glad this guide is on here. - 5/1/2012 2:52:02 PM
  • My body absolutely loves me when I do these stretches. Especially the back stretch and the hip & gluteal. I found too, that by having a regular, daily stretching routine my performance in cardio activities improves and is therfore more enjoyable. - 1/23/2012 7:26:23 PM
  • LUNA_GREYWOLF
    Great before and after stretching. Have added this to my favs. - 7/28/2011 7:23:44 PM
  • SWIMMERM0M3
    Love the order of these stretches. They are easy to remember and finish with my all-time favorite. - 6/8/2011 7:31:37 PM
  • BEURON
    I loved the stretching after the Cardio workout. It limbered up every part of my body - 5/2/2011 11:32:26 AM
  • JILL055
    Very useful, thanks. I've been doing some of these exercises instinctively, but it's good to have a logical order to them and find some new ones. - 4/8/2011 1:36:30 AM
  • This is a great way to stretch worked hard muscles. I like the order in which the stretches are performed. Now I have a routine to stretch before and after. - 10/6/2010 3:19:03 PM
  • I like to stretch, but was unaware that I should stretch *after* a workout. The advice here makes sense. We'll see if it helps me to feel less sore the day after a workout. - 8/24/2010 1:31:55 PM
  • I recently spent time with a personal trainer at my gym and couldn't walk without pain for 3 days afterward. Stairs were impossible. I wish he would have shared this type of info also. Thanks! I'll keep stretching and hope this never happens again! - 8/13/2010 4:00:28 PM
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