9 of the best static stretches to improve flexibility, posture, and mobility

Stretching static stretch yoga cobra pose
The yoga pose cobra is a great static stretch for the core and abdominal muscles. Oscar Wong/Getty Images
  • Static stretching is when you hold a stretching position for 30 to 60 seconds without moving.
  • Static stretches are best for post-exercise while dynamic stretches should be done as a warm-up.
  • Benefits of static stretching include improved flexibility, athletic performance, and reduced pain.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

If you feel the need to sprawl out and stretch after a long car ride or a good night’s sleep, you should listen to your muscles. Static stretches, like bending over and touching your toes, can benefit your overall health by preventing injury and improving posture.

We spoke to a physical therapist and a certified trainer to determine the benefits of static stretching and the best stretches for each muscle group.

What is static stretching?

Related Article Module: 5 health benefits of stretching: Why it’s so important and how to stretch properly, according to physical therapistsStatic stretching is when you hold a stretching position for 30 to 60 seconds without moving. This type of stretching elongates specific muscle groups and improves flexibility and mobility.

Static stretching isn’t just important for athletes or gym-goers. It’s especially beneficial for people who stay in prolonged and sedentary positions throughout the day, like sitting behind a desk for hours at a time. This causes muscles to become tight which may lead to muscle pain, injury, and poor posture.

If you sit all day and then perform an intense workout, or even just a task that requires more movement than your body is used to, you may be putting yourself at risk of being injured, says Katherine Millis, a certified physical therapist and owner of Excelerate Physical Therapy. This happens because your body’s muscle length and muscle tension will be unprepared from inactivity, she explains.

Static stretching also helps boost flexibility and athletic performance in younger people. A small 2016 study found soccer players who completed four hamstring stretches six days a week for a total of seven weeks significantly improved their 30-meter sprint speeds.

The optimal amount of static stretching varies depending on a person’s lifestyle and activity level and can be determined with the help of a physical therapist. In general, you should aim to stretch at least two or three times per week for each major muscle group.

Static vs. dynamic stretching

Static stretching involves holding a position for 30 seconds or longer, whereas dynamic stretching involves movement.

“For example bending over and touching my toes is a static stretch. To make this stretch dynamic, I can start bending and straightening my knees while staying bent over,” says Millis.

Ideally, static stretches should be performed after training, and dynamic stretches should be performed before a workout, says Andy Speer, CSCS, NASM-CPT, a Peloton tread and strength instructor.

That’s because dynamic stretches warm up muscles as they move your joints through their range of motion whereas static stretches lengthen muscles, making them ideal for a post-workout cool-down.

9 static stretching examples

Here are some examples provided by Speer of the best static stretches for each of the major muscle groups in your body. Hold each of these stretches for 30 to 60 seconds.

1. Hamstring stretch

Hamstring stretch
If you have a hard time pulling your leg up, use your hand or a towel for support. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. Lye on your back
  2. Lift one leg by gently pulling your thigh towards your chest with your hands, a towel, or a strap.

2. Hip flexor stretch

Hip flexor stretch exercise fitness workout stretching
If you have trouble balancing, perform this stretch near a wall or rail. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. Place one knee down and the opposite foot flat on the ground in front of you
  2. Tuck your hips and gently squeeze the glutes of your front leg.
  3. At the same time, gently push your hips forward without arching your back

3. Back stretch

Back stretch exercise fitness yoga stretching
For a more intense stretch, extend both arms. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on all fours
  2. Place one arm in front of your body
  3. Place the other arm as far away from your centerline.
  4. Then, gently press your extended armpit towards the floor.
  5. Perform this stretch on each arm.

4. Shoulder stretch

Shoulder stretch exercise fitness yoga stretching

How to do it:

  1. While kneeling, place one hand on the floor in front of your body.
  2. Reach your other hand underneath your body, away from your centerline.
  3. Gently press that shoulder to the floor.
  4. Perform this stretch on each arm.

5. Glute stretch

Glute stretch stretching exercise workout fitness yoga
For a more difficult stretch, place the same side arm on the inside of your knee. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. In a seated position, extend one leg and cross the opposite leg over
  2. Placing that foot on the outside of your extended leg.
  3. Gently pull your bent knee and thigh towards your chest.
  4. Perform this stretch on each leg.

6. Core stretch

Yoga stretch flexibility exercise workout fitness
You may do this stretch, called cobra, frequently during yoga. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. Lie down with your chest down on the floor.
  2. Slowly push your shoulders and chest away from the floor until you feel a stretch in your abs.

7. Quad stretch

Quad stretch stretching exercise fitness flexibility balance

How to do it:

  1. Stand on one leg
  2. Pull the heel on your other leg up to your glutes.
  3. Keep a tall posture and an open hip angle.
  4. Perform this stretch on each leg.

8. Chest stretch

Chest stretch stretching exercise fitness
Chest stretch. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. Lie down with your chest on the floor
  2. Place one arm out to the side, with your elbow just above your shoulder line.
  3. With your other arm, gently push your chest off the floor, feeling a stretch in the chest of your extended arm.
  4. Perform this stretch on each arm.

9. TFL stretch

Stretch tfl stretch
This stretch is also good for your IT band. Crystal Cox/ Insider

How to do it:

  1. In a half-kneeling position, tuck your hips.
  2. Gently squeeze the glute on the knee-down side
  3. Carefully push your hips forward without arching your back.
  4. Place the opposite hand in front of your foot on your front leg then twist your torso towards this front leg.

Insider’s takeaway

Static stretching can improve your flexibility, balance, and help prevent injuries. For best results, aim to stretch each muscle group at least two to three times a week. If you have questions about muscle tension or stretching, consider talking about your concerns with a physical therapist.

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