We have already discussed the importance of stretching in a workout in another article. Whether stretching is done before the workout - with some dynamic stretching exercises - or afterwards - using static stretching methods - it should be an essential part of one’s daily exercise routine.

Fitness enthusiasts, sportspersons or even those who do not exercise regularly or lead a sedentary lifestyle, are encouraged to perform stretching exercises to avoid workout injuries. Stretching exercise also help to avoid chronic conditions that can emerge out of poor posture or repetitive motions. (Read more: Exercises to improve your posture and Repetitive Strain Injury)

One simply cannot wake up in the morning and set off on a long run, or perform a set of heavy exercises first thing. The muscles in the body must be warm and loose enough to be able to reach their optimum lengths when they are put under the stress of running or training in a gym. That is why one can see people performing flexibility exercises for a short duration before getting into more serious, intense movements.

While stretching may appear to be boring and monotonous, it is an important part of any exercise routine. Every major muscle group in the body has different exercises to increase its range of motion and loosen it up. Here's a look at some exercises that must be performed as frequently and regularly as possible:

  1. Hamstring stretch
  2. Hip flexor stretch
  3. Quad stretch
  4. Side stretch
  5. Chest and shoulder stretch
  6. Tricep stretch
  7. Upper back stretch
  8. Piriformis stretch
  9. Butterfly stretch for inner thighs
  10. Downward facing dog
  11. Benefits of stretching exercises
  12. Takeaways

One of the most common stretching movements involves bending forward with both legs straight - this helps to stretch the hamstrings in the back of the thighs, calves, glutes, back as well as the neck.


  • Stand straight with your feet together and extend your arms above your head.
  • Slowly take your arms and upper body down towards your toes without bending your knees.
  • Breathe normally as you hold this posture - try to bring your chest closer to your thighs if possible.
  • To return to the starting position, slowly roll up so that your back comes up first and your head comes up last.
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Tight hip muscles can restrict the range of movement in the lower half of your body, especially in the legs. Hip flexor stretches are a must for anyone irrespective of their profession or level of fitness.


  • Move into a lunge position by taking your right foot forward and bending both knees at right angles. The left knee at the back should be slightly above the ground while the right knee must be in line with the right ankle. (Tip: make sure you take the big step with the right foot in Step 1 of this exercise.)
  • After balancing yourself, lift both your arms straight above your head and beside your ears.
  • Lift your chest up and arch your back slightly so the tension is felt in the left side of the back and buttocks.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, return to a starting position and repeat the movement with the left leg forward.

If you have noticed distance runners, sprinters or even sportspersons going about their fitness drills before a competition, they perform several exercises standing up while lifting and clutching one leg behind them. This is called the quad stretch.


  • Stand upright, bend your right knee to hold the top of your foot with your right hand behind you. You can use the left hand to hold onto something for balance.
  • Pull your foot as close to the buttocks as possible and extend your hip out towards the front for an extra stretch at the front of the thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Stretching movements that can be performed while standing up can look after the entire body. The side stretch helps keep the obliques flexible, allowing you to move your upper body freely in all directions.


  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms raised in the air beside your ears.
  • Join the hands above your hand and bend your upper body to the right side without bending the legs. Hold for a few seconds and repeat the movement on the other side.
  • You can also perform this movement with one arm raised above the head while the other is beside you. Bend in the direction opposite to the raised arm and hold for 8-10 seconds before repeating on the other side.
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Performed either standing up or sitting down on a mat, the chest and shoulder stretch is a great way to relax two major upper body muscle groups.


  • Stand or sit upright and clasp your hands behind your back while extending your arms downwards.
  • Lift your arms upwards (behind you) as you feel the stretch through your pectoral muscles in the chest and the rotator cuff in the shoulders. Hold for 5-10 seconds at maximum stretch.

One of the easier stretching movements, the tricep stretch helps loosen up the muscles in the arms.


  • Stand or sit up straight on a chair and raise one arm above your head.
  • Bend the raised arm from the elbow to touch the middle of your upper back.
  • With the other hand, press down the raised elbow to stretch the tricep muscles. Hold the position for a few seconds.
  • Repeat with the other arm as well.

The Bhujangasana or cobra pose is a great way to stretch all the muscles in the back right from the traps behind the neck to the lower back.


  • Lie down straight on your stomach with your palms planted underneath your shoulders.
  • Push down with your hands and raise your head off the mat.
  • Slowly straighten your arms so your entire upper body is off the mat. Look straight or slightly arch your back to look up, depending on your comfort level.
  • Hold the pose for 10-20 seconds while breathing normally and return to the resting position.
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The piriformis muscle is located in the buttock, and can be irritated and cause pain due to spasms. It can also irritate the sciatic nerve in the case of lower back problems or a herniated disc. Piriformis syndrome is a common running injury which can be kept in check by doing the following stretch.


  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Hold your left thigh with both hands, pull it towards your chest and hold for a few seconds.
  • Now put your left ankle over the right knee and pull your right thigh towards the chest.

Read more: Exercises for sciatica pain

The butterfly stretch is a great stretching movement for the hips, inner thighs and groin. It can be used as a cooling down exercise as well.


  • Sit up tall on the floor with the bottom of both feet joined together in front and knees bent outwards on both sides.
  • Hold your toes with both hands while pressing the knees down on either side.
  • Lower your upper body down towards your feet as far as possible while pressing down on the knees. Hold at maximum stretch for a few seconds, relax and repeat.

Downward facing dog, also called Adho Mukha Svanasana in Yoga, is a full-body stretch that can be performed at the end of a stretching routine to give the entire body a final stretch before or after your fitness routine. It stretches the muscles in the back, shoulders and arms, as well as the hips, hamstrings and calves.


  • Get on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Your back should be straight.
  • Exhale as you lift your knees off the ground and straighten your legs.
  • Lift your pelvis and hips as high as you can to form an inverted V with your arms and legs straight.
  • Hold the pose and breathe normally for as long as you can. Relax all the muscles and return to the original position.

Stretching exercises are beneficial for the body in a number of ways:

  • Reduces the chances of injuries
  • Increases the range of motion of the muscles and joints
  • Prevents chronic pain in the joints
  • Helps improve posture
  • Improves flexibility in the body
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Reduces post-exercise pain and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Stretching is a vital part of any exercise routine and must be practised before and after every workout session, regardless of the type of fitness programme you are following.

Stretching exercises are numerous as well as varied, and tailored towards working on specific muscles of the body. This is a collection of 10 easy-to-do-stretches that are focused on loosening up muscles in the entire body, right from the neck all the way down to the toes.

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  3. Galinsky T et al. Supplementary breaks and stretching exercises for data entry operators: A follow‐up field study. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2007 Jul; 50(7): 519-527.
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  5. Andersen JC. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005 Jul-Sep; 40(3): 218–220. PMID: 16284645.
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