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25 Most Effective Stretches to Do Before Exercising

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25 Most Effective Stretches to Do Before Exercising

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Every workout must begin with a warm-up, which includes stretching as a staple. However, it’s never the exciting part of the workout, and one always rushes through it to move towards strength training or cardio.

While stretching exercises might not give you the same feeling you get after picking up a barbell, the benefits it provides are way more than you can anticipate. 

Have you ever heard an older person vexing about climbing up the stairs due to the pain in their joints? Why do you think that happens? Because they did not focus on increasing their mobility over time.

Your joints muscles are likely to get imbalanced if you keep contracting your muscles without letting them stretch. This increases the risk of injuries and cause other joints to overcompensate for those not performing appropriately, resulting in discomfort and unnecessary strain. 

Allowing your muscles to perform in their full range of motion is critical to enhancing mobility in your everyday life. No one wishes their routine tasks to become a hassle. However, tight muscles and joints do exactly that. 

Stretching keeps your muscles loose, widening their range of motion and improving your mobility. It relieves tension from your joints, helps you get flexible, and allows you to move freely. 

Have a look at some more benefits that stretching exercises bring with them:

Enhances Blood Flow

Full body stretch helps regulate blood flow. It circulates more blood towards your muscles which improves the muscle recovery time, reduces soreness, and enhances your workout performance. 

Improves Posture

Constant muscle exertion can result in imbalances which leads to poor posture. A study reported that stretching and strengthening exercises can improve musculoskeletal pain and improves the overall body alignment. 

Alleviates Back Pain

Tightness in muscles confines your range of motion. When you perform stretches to increase flexibility, it also reduces the likelihood of muscle straining. It strengthens your back and mitigates the pain. 

Relieves Stress

Stress is directly proportional to tense muscles. Your muscles tighten up in response to your emotional or physical stress. Neck, shoulders, and upper back are the primary areas where knots are found. Stretching exercises can instantly relieve stress in these areas. 

It helps relax your body and calms your mind by giving you a mental break. Dr. Weston explains in his video how stretching can help calm your mind. 

Decreases Headaches

Tension headaches can disrupt your daily routine. A full-body stretch can help reduce the tension you feel from headaches. 

There are two common forms of stretching exercises:

Static stretches: It refers to holding a particular stretch in a comfortable position for a specific period, typically lasting between 10 to 30 seconds. It guarantees better result when performed after the exercise and helps minimize the risk of injuries. 

Dynamic stretches: These are active stretching movements for flexibility. These are not held till the end position and are usually done before the exercise to warm up your muscles. 

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Best Stretching Exercises

1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

Target: Hamstrings, glutes, neck, back, calves

How to do it

  • Stand keeping your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides.
  • Bend forward, lowering your head till your hips. Keep your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed. 
  • Hold the back of your legs for support. 
  • Hold the position for 45 seconds. 

2. Piriformis Stretch

Target: Hips, back, glutes

How to do it: 

  • Sit down and extend both your legs in front of you.
  • Keeping your right leg straight, cross your left leg over the right one. 
  • Place your right hand behind your body and the left elbow on the knee of the crossed leg.
  • Twist your torso towards your right hand. 
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds.

3. Lunge With Spinal Twist

Target: Quads, back, hip flexors

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Take a staggered stance by placing your left foot forward. 
  • Bend your left knee to get into the position of a lunge. Make sure your right leg is straight behind you.
  • Place your right hand on the mat and twist your torso to the left, extending your left arm towards the ceiling.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. 

4. Triceps Stretch

Target: Neck, shoulders, back, triceps 

How to do it: 

  • Take a stance hip-width apart and extend your arms overhead. You can do this while sitting or kneeling too.
  • Bend your right arm at the back of your head so your hand reaches the middle of your back.
  • Then, extend your left hand to hold your right elbow.
  • Now softly pull your right elbow towards your head.
  • Switch arms. 

5. Figure 4 Stretch

Target: Hips, glutes, lower back, hamstrings

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your left foot over the right quad.
  • Now gently lift your right leg from the floor and pull it slightly towards your chest.
  • Hold the pose in a comfortable position.
  • Stay there for 30 seconds.

6. 90/90 Stretch

Target: Hips 

How to do it:

  • Sit down and bend your right knee at 90 degrees. Your calf should be perpendicular to your body and the sole of your foot facing the left side. 
  • Keep your leg flat on the floor.
  • Keep your left knee to the left of the body and bend it so that the sole faces behind you. Flex it.
  • This would mean that your left hip would be placed on the floor, and the right one would be close to the floor. 
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds.

7. Frog Stretch

Target: Hips

How to do it: 

  • Sit on your fours and spread your knees wider than shoulder-width.
  • Place your toes out and rest the feet flat on the floor.
  • Push your hips back towards your heels.
  • You can also reposition your weight from your hands to your forearm for a deeper stretch.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds. 

8. Butterfly Stretch

Target: Glutes, hips, back, thighs

How to do it:

  • Sit on the floor upright. Join the soles of your feet with each other in front of you.
  • Hold your feet, brace your core, and gradually lower your body towards your feet.
  • If you can’t bend your body due to tight muscles, just press your knees into the floor.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

9. Seated Shoulder Squeeze

Target: Upper back

How to do it: 

  • Sit down on the floor with bent knees.
  • Place your feet flat on your ground. 
  • Extend your hands behind your back and clasp them.
  • Straighten your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades.
  • Keep doing this for 3 seconds, then release. Repeat ten more times. 

10. Side Bend Stretch

Target: Hips, inner thighs, groins, oblique 

How to do it: 

  • Kneel on the floor, keep your legs together, core braced, and back straight.
  • Extend your left leg to your side, keeping it perpendicular to your body. 
  • Place your left arm on your left leg and extend your right arm over your head.
  • Bend your torso and left arm towards the left side.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. 

11. Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

Target: Quads, glutes, hips

How to do it:

  • Kneel on your left foot and keep your right foot flat with your knee bent.
  • Lean forward, stretching your left leg slightly backward. This would stretch your left hip towards the floor too.
  • Squeeze your hips. 
  • Hold it for 30 seconds. 
  • Switch sides.

12. Lying Pectoral Stretch

Target: Shoulders, chest

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your stomach and extend your arms on your sides, making a T shape. 
  • Roll on your right side by pushing your body off on your right hand. Bend your left knee to get support.
  • With time as your mobility increases, you will be able to roll further back.
  • This is an excellent stretch to perform pushing motions, e.g., push-ups. 
  • Repeat on the other side.

13. Knee to Chest Stretch

Target: Lower back, hips, hamstrings 

How to do it: 

  • Lie down on your back. 
  • Keep your legs extended.
  • Now gently pull your left leg towards your knee while keeping the other leg straight.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. 
  • Repeat with the other leg.

14. Downward Facing Dog

Target: Hamstrings, hips, calves

How to do it:

  • Get on your all fours. 
  • Hoist your hips in the air as you bring your head backward and stretch your arms. 
  • Straighten out your legs but don’t lock them fully. 
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

15. Lying Quad Stretch

Target: Quads

How to do it: 

  • Lie down on your side. It's better to perform this exercise on a yoga mat to avoid any discomfort. Yoga mat by DMoose would be an excellent choice in this matter.
  • Keep your bottom leg extended and bend the top leg so that your foot touches your butt.
  • Keeping your hips stable, hold your top foot and pull it towards your hips. 
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds. 
  • Switch sides. 

16. Sphinx Pose

Target: Chest, shoulders, lower back

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your stomach and lay out your legs behind you.
  • Keep your elbows under your shoulders and lift your chest by pushing off your weight on your forearms. 
  • Press your thighs and hips into the floor.
  • Pull your torso up to a level where you get a nice stretch in your lower back. 
  • Stop if you feel any discomfort or pain

17. Sitting Hamstrings Stretch

Target: hamstrings, lower back

How to do it: 

  • Sit down and straighten out your legs in front of you.
  • Keep your back straight, then lean forward to reach your toes without rounding your back.
  • You can bend your knees. 
  • Hold for 30 seconds. 

18. Pretzel Stretch

Target: Back, hips, quads, glutes, obliques

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your side and rest your head on your arm. 
  • Bend your right knee in front of you up towards your chest. 
  • Bend your left knee such that your foot touches your butt and grab your foot with your hand. It's better to perform this exercise with compression knee sleeves by DMoose for utmost support to the knee. 
  • Keep your torso straight, bend your top shoulder blade towards the floor.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds. 

19. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Target: Inner thighs, hips, groins

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Bend both your knees and pull the soles of your feet together.
  • Press your knees towards the floor.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds.

20. Clamshell With Resistance Band

Target: Glutes

How to do it:

  • Grasp a resistance band and lie down on your side. A resistance band by DMoose would be a great choice in this respect. 
  • Bend your knees. 
  • Squeeze your right glute and lift your right knee. 
  • Hold it for a second, then return.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

21. Knees to Chest

Target: Lower back, glutes

How to do it:

  • Lie down comfortably on your back and pull your knees towards your chest.
  • Hold your knees with both your hands.
  • Ensure your lower back is touching the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

22. Floor Pec Stretch

Target: Hips, pecs, front of shoulders

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your stomach and spread your arms on your sides in a T position.
  • Bend your left elbow so that it faces the ceiling. 
  • Lift your left leg and bend it towards the other side of the body, touching the floor.
  • Keep your right shoulder pressed to the ground. 
  • Repeat with the other side.

23. Standing Back Arch Stretch

Target: Spine, chest, front of shoulders

How to do it:

  • Stand straight. 
  • Clasp your hands behind your back.
  • Lift your chin and focus on the ceiling.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

24. Neck Stretches

Target: Neck and upper traps

How to do it:

  • Stand tall and keep your head straight.
  • Rest your left hand on your right ear. 
  • Very gently pull your head towards your left shoulder.
  • Repeat with the opposite side. 

25. Baby Cobra Pose

Target: Abdominals Spine

How to do it:

  • Lie on your stomach. 
  • Keep your hands in front of your shoulders. 
  • Press through your forearms to raise your chest. 
  • Hold for 30 seconds. 

Final Thoughts

Stretching exercises play a crucial role in improving your physical and mental health. You can perform daily tasks with ease only when your muscles are loose. Moreover, stretching improves your posture, blood flow, alleviates back pain, and relieves tension, resulting in better athletic performance. Several stretching exercises such as downward dog, frog stretch, butterfly stretch, etc., focus on different muscles in the body to release tension.

Reading List

Article Sources

  • Opplert, Jules, and Nicolas Babault. “Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), vol. 48, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 299–325. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9
  • Hotta, Kazuki, et al. “Stretching Exercises Enhance Vascular Endothelial Function and Improve Peripheral Circulation in Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction.” International Heart Journal, vol. 54, no. 2, 2013, pp. 59–63. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1536/ihj.54.59
  • Kim, DeokJu, et al. “Effect of an Exercise Program for Posture Correction on Musculoskeletal.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, vol. 27, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 1791–94. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.1791
  • Afonso, José, et al. “Strength Training versus Stretching for Improving Range of Motion: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Healthcare, vol. 9, no. 4, Apr. 2021, p. 427. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9040427.

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