Feeling Stiff? Use These Stretch Breaks to Release Your Muscles by the End of the Day

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Taking time to stretch can improve your aches and pains.
Image Credit: Marko Geber/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Whether you're working from your home office or find yourself zoning out while you binge Netflix, your eight-hour day probably involves a lot of sitting. For most of us, that means tight upper back, achy hips, sore glutes, stiff shoulders — or all of the above.

Breaking up your day with movement, like stretching, not only helps increase your focus and productivity but improves your posture and reduces the nagging aches and pains you've been feeling, says April Whitney, certified personal trainer.

And let's be honest, if you have 10 minutes to scroll through social media every hour or so, you can definitely squeeze in a quick stretch break (or sure, you could combine the two). Instead of gluing your eyes to your phone, break up your work day with these eight stretches from Whitney.

Get tips on how to stay healthy, safe and sane during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Move 1: Hamstring Scoops

  1. Stand with your feet staggered — left leg slightly in front of the right — and arms at your sides.
  2. Hinge at the hips with the right knee soft, and the front leg straight. You should feel a stretch in the back of your leg (your hamstring).
  3. Reach down toward your left leg only as far as you can keeping a flat back, belly button drawn into your spine.
  4. Hold, then reach your hands up above your head to complete the stretch.

Reps: 3 sets of 10 on each side, taking a 30-second break between sets

Move 2: Quad Rockers

  1. Start in Child's pose, kneeling on the ground with your arms stretched out in front of you, forehead on the floor.
  2. Rock your body forward, through tabletop position, until the tops of your thighs touch the floor. Keep your arms straight as you bring your body forward.
  3. Pull your shoulders down and back as you look up and stretch the front of your body.
  4. Then, reverse the motion to return to Child's pose.

Reps: 3 sets of 10, taking a 30-second break between sets

Move 3: T-Spine Rotations

  1. Start in tabletop position with your knees directly beneath your hips and shoulders stacked over your hands.
  2. Place your right hand behind your ear.
  3. Slowly rotate your torso, opening your chest up to the ceiling with elbow back to feel a gentle stretch in your spine.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  5. Once you finish all the reps on your right, switch sides.

Reps: 3 sets of 10 on each side, taking a 30-second break between sets

Tip

"You don’t need a lot of rotation to get a great stretch here," Whitney says. Only rotate as far as is comfortable.

Move 4: Low Lunge Rotations

  1. Start in a low lunge position, with your right leg bent at 90 degrees and left leg extended straight behind you.
  2. Frame your right foot with your hands. Your back toes should be on the ground with the heel facing the ceiling.
  3. Lift your hands into prayer position at your chest, elbows flaring out to the sides, rotate in toward the right hip, opening up the chest and torso to the sky.
  4. Hook your left elbow over your right thigh.
  5. Hold here and sit into the stretch along your right glute.

Reps: 30 seconds on each side, 3 sets total

Tip

If this stretch feels too strenuous, you can modify by resting your back knee on the ground, Whitney says.

Move 5: Floor Hamstring Stretch

  1. Lie on the ground, facing the ceiling and press your lower back into the floor, drawing the belly button into the spine. Bring one leg up, keeping the foot flexed.
  2. Use your hands to gently pull your leg closer toward your torso for a deeper stretch.
  3. Hold this stretch, then repeat on the opposite leg.

Reps: 30 seconds on each side, 3 sets total

Tip

As you pull your leg in, grasp either above or below the knee, not directly behind the joint.

Move 6: Couch Stretch

  1. Start in a half-kneeling position in front of a couch or chair with your right leg bent at 90 degrees and your left knee resting on the ground. Place a cushion or pillow under your left knee if you'd like.
  2. Keeping the left knee rooted, raise the left foot and grasp it with your hand. Or, place the top of the left foot onto the couch behind you.
  3. Tuck your pelvis gradually to feel a stretch in the front of the left leg and hip.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: 30 seconds on each side, 3 sets total

Move 7: Squat Stretch

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes out 45 degrees.
  2. Reach down and fold over with your torso to stretch the back of your legs.
  3. Then, bend the knees and come into a deep squat, driving the knees outward and keeping the chest lifted.
  4. Hold the squat for a moment.
  5. Raise your hips back up and straighten the legs again to stretch the hamstrings.

Reps: 3 sets of 10, resting for 30 seconds between sets

Move 8: Doorway Chest Stretch

  1. Place your left hand on a doorframe, with your body perpendicular to the frame.
  2. Stagger your legs and lean forward gently, extending the hips forward, too.
  3. Keep leaning until you feel a stretch on the left side of your chest and hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: 30 seconds on each side, 3 sets total

Tip

Lean into this stretch slowly to avoid pulling or jerking your pectoral (chest) muscle.

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