Stretching muscles is a key part of exercise and health, because it helps maintain joint flexibility and range of motion. It’s easy to forget to stretch before a workout, maybe because you don’t know exactly why stretching is so important.
Stretching improves muscle growth, increases range of motion, decreases the likelihood of injury, and serves to warm up muscles. When muscles are more flexible, the body can perform activities and exercises with proper form; therefore, stretching also helps improve posture.
34 images show muscle stretching exercises to do at home or in the office.
So muscle stretches are important. But which stretches work for which muscle group? Vicky Timon, a yoga expert and author of the encyclopedia “Pilates Exercises,” created 34 beautiful illustrations that show you which muscles are affected by different stretches.
1. Camel Pose
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Reserved for those with good flexibility, the muscles featured in this stretch are the rectus abdominis and external obliques. Sit on your heels and place your hands on your feet as you push your hips up and forward. Avoid putting too much pressure on the neck or spine.
2. Open and flex
This is a great exercise to open up the hips while stretching adductors and hamstrings. Start this stretch with your knees bent. As your muscles begin to release, slowly straighten your legs, hunch your back and try to reach your feet.
3. Frog Pose
This is a deep groin stretch that works the adductor muscles. Start by resting on your hands and knees and gradually extend your knees until you feel the stretch in your groin muscles. Move your hips back and forth to feel slight variations.
4. Side Lunge Pose
This is another adductor pose. Start with both feet forward in a wide stance, and gradually bring your hands to your right foot as you bend your right knee and lift your left toes toward the ceiling.
5. Butterfly Muscle Stretching
This stretch emphasize the adductors. Start in a seated position and bring the soles of the feet together and sit up straight. Put pressure on your knees with your hands. Bring your feet away from your hips and slowly hunch your body to release your back muscles.
6. Forearm Extensor Muscle Stretches
To stretch the forearm extensors, start by pushing the shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder. Once in position, apply pressure on the opposite hand and begin stretching.
7. Lateral Neck Extension
This stretch emphasizes the sternocleidomastoid or SMC. Keep the neck straight as long as possible, while slowly bringing the ear towards the shoulder. You can progress this stretch by being in a chair and grabbing the bottom of the seat.
8. Neck Twisting Stretch
To stretch the sternocleidomastoid, slowly rotate the neck, keeping the chin elevated. For a deeper stretch, apply pressure with the hand opposite the direction you are turning.
9. Neck Extension Stretching
To work the sternocleidomastoid, place the hands on the hips, keeping the spine elongated and tilt the head back.
10. Lateral Neck Extension With The Assistance of Hands
Extend the sternocleidomastoid and upper trapezius, keeping your neck long and slowly drop your ear to your shoulder.
11. Knee Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch works the psoas and quads. Start in a mid-knee position. Gradually bring the right hip forward, take the foot back and squeeze the glute back.
12. Forearm Extensor Stretches
Stretch the forearm extensor, pushing your shoulder down and back, and externally rotating the shoulder. Apply pressure with the opposite hand as an end point.
13. Lateral Shoulder Stretch
To stretch the side of the deltoid, bring your arm across the front of your body and lightly apply pressure to increase the stretch in the shoulder.
14. Assisted Neck Flexor Stretch
This stretch will work the trapezius muscle. Start standing with your feet together. Keep your spine elongated, slowly draw your hips back and hunch your upper back, while tucking your chin in toward your chest.
15. Lat Muscle Stretch with Spinal Traction
To stretch the latissimus dorsi muscle, take a firm grip on a barbell while slowly lifting your feet off the ground. Avoid this stretch if you’ve recently injured your shoulder.
16. Lat Wall Stretch
Also for latissimus dorsi, place both hands on the corner of a wall or post. Keep the spine elongated as you slowly push the hips to the side. Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.
17. Child’s Pose
This is another way to stretch the latissimus dorsi. Start on your hands and knees, then slowly put your hips back until your forehead is on the floor. Arch your upper back and rotate your shoulders to stretch your lats and chest muscles.
18. Calf Stretch
To work the soleus and gastrocnemius, perform this stretch on the edge of a stair step. Slightly raise your toes to actively stretch your calf muscles.
19. Front Split
This is an advanced stretch to work the hamstrings and psoas. Start in a kneeling lunge position, and proceed with caution if you have any hip problems.
20. Sitting Touching Toe
To stretch the hamstrings and calves, sit down and bend your knees if necessary.
21. Leg Curl
To work the hamstrings, start this position with one foot in front of the other. Bring your hands to your hips, keeping your back straight, and start bending from the hips.
22. Deep Squat
To work the gluteal muscles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower into a deep squat. Once in position, bring your arms inside your legs and lightly apply pressure on the inside of your knees.
23. Half Sit-up Pigeon Pose
To work the glutes, start in a seated position and slowly pull your leg toward your chest, while rotating your hip while keeping your spine straight.
24. Wall Calf Stretch
This stretch works the soleus and gastrocnemius. Start in a lunge position with your foot slightly back. Drive the heel back into the floor to stretch the calf muscles.
25. Side Bend on The Wall
To stretch the external obliques, keep your spine straight and slowly push your hips to the side.
26. Supine Twist
This will stretch your glutes and external obliques. Lie on your back and drape one leg over your body. Slowly rotate your upper body in the opposite direction.
27. Lateral Bend with a Cane
To stretch the external obliques and latissimus dorsi, keep your spine straight and push your hips to the side while keeping your shoulder turned.
28. Triangle Pose
These muscle stretches will work the external obliques. Start with a wide stance, one foot forward and one foot back at 90 degrees. Place your hand on the front foot as you bring your hips forward while keeping your back straight.
29. Wall Chest Stretch
Work your pecs facing the wall. Slowly rotate away from the wall to stretch the chest muscle.
30. Assisted Chest Stretch
To stretch the chest and latissimus dorsi, stand on the floor with your palms facing up. Your partner will sit in a deep squat while assisting the stretch.
31. Sitting Half Pigeon Pose with Variation
To work the tibialis anterior. Sit with your feet forward and bring one hand behind you as you rotate your hips and put one foot on top of your knee.
32. Supine Shoulder Stretch and External Rotation
This will stretch the subscapularis muscle. Lie on your back and your arm straight out to the side with your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Slowly bring the back of your hand to the floor.
33. Back and Pectoral Muscle Stretches
To stretch the pectorals and latissimus dorsi position yourself far enough away to be parallel to the floor. Support your hips while keeping your spine straight. Push the chest forward creating a slight arch in the upper back; stretch the lats and chest muscles.
34. Assisted Chest Lift
To work the pecs lie face down on the floor with your palms facing down while your partner pulls back your hands.
So, muscle stretches not only help with injury and maintain flexibility, but they also release dopamine, which makes you feel happier and more positive. Right now feels like the perfect time to start perfecting these moves.
Keep reading: 7 Simple adductor stretches and flexibility exercises
Share these stretching exercises with all your friends – they’ll thank you later when keeping their muscles in tone!
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