Your favorite daily stretches
January 11, 2018 7:37 AM   Subscribe

I've always had very stiff hamstrings, but I've discovered that doing a couple of sets of ten toe touches every day goes a long way towards improving their flexibility. What quick stretches help YOU stay limber?

I spend most of my day sitting at a computer and am trying to mitigate the effects somewhat. I'm not looking for a full 30 minute stretch routine, more things like "I do this particular shoulder stretch every day and it makes a big difference in my arm range of motion". Standing/seated stretches are best, but I can do laying-on-the-floor stuff at home. I have enough privacy at work that I can do some quick stretching without creeping people out.

All suggestions are welcome - I want to hear what makes you feel extra good, wherever it is on your body; but like most sitters I'm extra interested in hands/wrists, ankles, glutes, shoulders, back, neck. Then again, if you have favorites for parts of the body that tend to get neglected - shins, forearms, etc, please share those too!
posted by telepanda to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
Don't overlook the McKenzie stretches, which are just excellent for the lower back. They seem so simple, but they make a world of difference.

Another favorite stretch (I don't have a name for it; call it the "nameless stretch") is done against a wall. With your feet about shoulder-width and your heels against the base of the wall, raise your arms up as high as you can without your butt, shoulder blades, and elbows losing contact with the wall. Warning: you may be a bit sore after doing it the first few times. But nothing makes me feel looser than that one.
posted by DrGail at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

Get up and do some nice low squats every now and then to keep your posterior chain awake.
posted by adiabatic at 8:01 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've started stretching more recently and it's going really well in terms of pain management and general limberness. I should warn that I have no vocabulary for this stuff.

My calves and hamstrings are tight as hell so I tend to do a lot of the ones where you stretch your calves out by leaning your front/arms into a wall and stretching your heels backwards one at a time. I also do the one where you stretch out your whole leg on a couch/the floor and lean forwards until you can feel it in the hamstring. At my desk I tend to pull my toes up as far as I can and then either push my heel down & forwards to stretch my calves, or lean into the top of the stretch to stretch my hamstrings.

Non-leg stretches I enjoy include the one where you bring your arm behind your head with your elbow pointing straight up and stretch the forearm down your spine, so that the triceps (???) get a good stretch, the one where you sit on the floor, touch your feet together so your knees are both bent but flat-ish to the ground and lean forward to stretch the inside groin/hip area, and generally unkinking my spine by twisting to each side more often.

I do calf/hamstring stretching at work a couple of times a day (in the bathroom/while I'm waiting outside a meeting room/at my desk when I remember) and then try to do the ones that need floor or couch space a couple of times in the evening when I'm at home; this feels like a good level of stretching without feeling like I'm stretching all the time.
posted by terretu at 8:10 AM on January 11, 2018

Squatting. Like, just holding a squat. Got the idea from a Kelly Starrett MobilityWOD video. I try to get 10 minutes per day total in squat (so, sometimes in longer increments, sometimes 5 two minute holds). I think it's done wonders for my hip and ankle mobility. I'm also usually desk-bound, so I have some of the same issues you do. Starrett's a good source for a lot of mobility stuff, if you do decide you want more of a routine.
posted by protocoach at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sun salutations.

I use the Yoga Studio app on my phone and do 12 minutes of sun salutations first thing in the morning which makes a massive difference to my 40-something cyclist hamstrings.
posted by fatfrank at 8:23 AM on January 11, 2018

Seated toe touches.

Standing quad stretch. I do these without holding on to a support, good balance exercise too.


Sun salutation sequences. These are easiest to do on a mat at home but definitely possible elsewhere if you can find a little space in a quiet corner. My favorite for a more comprehensive stretch and light warm-up.

Wrist stretch: extend the arm, then gently pull fingers back towards your body.

Long-arm hang. Requires a pull-up bar (I have one that hooks under a door frame) but really feels good to let the back and shoulders open up, especially if you tend to hunch forward at your desk.
posted by 4rtemis at 8:24 AM on January 11, 2018

Yoga is so good for this, and I recommend going to a class or two - you're bound to do some stretches you like. My favorite is double pigeon/firelog pose; it's easy and gets into your hips really nicely. (Half pigeon is a deeper stretch but harder to get into and hold.)

For ankles, I really like writing the alphabet in the air with my big toes (I was in the habit of doing this daily but forgot until this question, so thank you for that). Arch-strengthening exercises feel nice too: put a towel under your bare feet and try to scrunch it up with your toes, or try to pick up small objects with your toes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:08 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Somewhat hyperbolically, this is called the world's greatest stretch, but it is really good. It's really invigorating and involves your whole body. I do it before and after running, along with the more traditional runner's stretches.

For pain and discomfort in my lower back, the child's pose (from 4:30 in the video) works very well.
posted by Desertshore at 9:08 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do lunge stretches while brushing my teeth and it's done wonders for my hamstrings.
posted by advicepig at 9:11 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I'm at work and sitting for like 14 hours straight my shoulders and back get wrecked so I (try to) do the following: Standing Forward Bend -- just the moderate cross-arms-at-elbows stance feels great and gives a deeper stretch than toe-touches. It's also nice for your shoulders. Wall Angels for shoulder and back pain and tight chest muscles. Shoulder rolls, either seated or standing. Doorway stretches, with either folded or extended arms, also help me a lot.

Requires lying down, but Reclining Pigeon Pose is such a great lower-body stretch. I try to do one set in the morning before work and one set when I come home and it makes a huge difference. For me, at least, hip pain and tight hamstrings are linked with shoulder stiffness and neck pain, so it's important to stretch all the things.
posted by halation at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

For my shoulders/neck, I tilt my head to the side while looking forward (drop your ear toward your shoulder), then turn your head so that you're looking at your armpit (if you could see it). This stretch only feels tight on one side of my body but it gets at some muscle that regular neck rolls don't.

I also love this set of stretches for at the desk: I do them whenever I'm feeling achy or like tension headache is coming on.
posted by purple_bird at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2018

When I don't exercise enough and use a computer a lot I get a nagging pain at the lower inside margin of my right shoulder blade. A few daily push-ups (knee ones are fine) go a long way toward fixing this particular problem--not in the immediate moment, but over time.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2018

For anything that's upper body/neck/upper back/arms/etc? Try to get a more ergonomic working space. But for the front of your hips, unless you move to a standing desk all the time, it's time for the couch stretch.

Kelly Starrett has one that's called "the couch stretch", because he does it on his couch.

Sitting all day shortens the muscles on the front of the hip; they're always folded. When desk workers stand up, and still have their kinda duck-butt sticking out, that's the problem this works on.

Couch Stretch:
- kneel on the floor, near a wall, facing away from the wall.
- put your left foot against your left butt cheek; bend your knee all the way.
- put your left knee as close to the wall as you can.
- put your right foot on the ground in a way that gets you balanced.
- keeping your body straight from left knee to your head, lean back towards the wall.
- don't bend at the hip.

30-60s each side, once a day.

Looks like this:

When I do it, I put a weight bench or chair in front of me, and use my hands to hold a lotta weight; doing it without support isn't fun, and isn't productive for me yet.
posted by talldean at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yin yoga is a good complement to more active stretching. It uses long, passive holds that work on the connective tissue.
posted by daikon at 7:50 PM on January 11, 2018

If talldean's hip stretch above is too intense, I recommend this kneeling hip stretch. (I'm not a very flexible person!)
posted by purple_bird at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2018

The daily dozen
posted by tman99 at 7:43 AM on February 6, 2018

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