12 muscle-melting stretches that will have your whole body saying “ahhh”


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Photo: Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

In 2019, recovery was the fitness trend that reigned supreme, and because of this, we’ve spent the last 365 on the hunt to find the best ways to have our muscles saying ahhh! While the Theragun and the foam roller certainly found a place in our routines, in the past year, we also couldn’t get enough good old fashioned stretching to warm up and cool down the body.

As the clock ticks into a new decade, we’re taking a moment to revisit the top stretches we’ve learned this past year. Whether they’ve been recommended by physical therapists, fitness trainers, or yogis, these are our fave mobility and flexibility-boosting stretches for every inch of the body. We’re talking hip flexor stretches, yoga poses that open your back right up, jaw stretches (because these are important too!), and everything else you can dream of. Keep scrolling for 2019’s best stretches to memorize—and consider bookmarking ’em for easy reference in all future workouts. Your body will thank you.

1. For your hip flexors: fire log pose

It’s tough to get into, but once your legs are set up into the fire log pose (also known as the “double pigeon”), your hip tightness will dissolve into thin air. Be sure to keep your feet flexed in the position with your shins stacked on top of each other.

2. For your hips and hammies: figure-four stretch

When we asked a trainer who stretches people for a living what her absolute go-to stretch is, she said the figure-four. This classic stretch opens up your entire hip area and your hamstrings, and even relieves pressure on your glutes and lower back—so add it to your stretching routine ASAP.

3. For your wrists: wrist cars

Star trainer Charlee Atkins taught us that having mobile, stretched-out wrists can help create more stable planks and mountain climbers. This is an easy stretch you can do from your own desk, and the video will give you a whole wrist-boosting regimen.

4. For your spine: the hang

Stretching out your spine—which get compressed when you’re sitting at your desk on the reg—doesn’t have to be complicated. According to Will Torres, founder of Willspace, the best thing you can do is hang. Seriously. Try it for a healthy, happy back.

5. For your upper body: shoulder flossing

Sky Ting’s yoga pro Tommy Lucas introduced us to shoulder flossing, which increases the mobility of your shoulders, opening up all of the muscles in your upper back, and decompressing your neck. So yeah, it’s pretty wonderful.

6. For your jaw muscles: masseter massage

A little known fact: Your masseter muscle, aka your jaw muscle, is the strongest in your body. To stretch them out, the masseter massage works to knead out the tension that can lead to tightness and even headaches.

7. For your quads: knees to chest

You don’t have to stretch at the gym—fitness pro Alicia Archer taught us a five-minute stretching routine you can do in bed for a better night’s sleep. One of the relaxing moves is the knees to chest stretch, which hits your quads and your hip flexors for a lower body release.

8. For your neck: the “melt method” 

Kiss tech neck goodbye with this easy neck decompression stretch, which only requires a foam roller or a towel. It sounds simple, but it works to unwind all of the tension that builds up as you look at screens all day.

9. For your calves: the “short dog”

It’s like a downward dog, but modified to really dig into your calf muscles, which tend to get really tight. Yogi Sarah Frick explains how to nail this variation to open them up like a pro.

10. For your groin: the side sweep

People tend to overlook the groin, which is the upper and inner thigh area that includes your adductor muscles. But a stretch pro taught us the side sweep, which is key for relieving tightness that could lead to back pain if it’s left alone.

11. For your neck and your back: the Mckenzie Method

An OG stretching method created in the ’60s by a physical therapist, the Mckenzie Method is known to help alleviate neck and back pain. All it takes is a few relaxing exercises to extend your spine, training it back into proper alignment.

12. For your hamstrings: the waterfall

The “waterfall stretch” is a dynamic move that opens up your hamstrings, and actually makes your legs feel like butter afterwards so that you’re ready to run like the wind.

There are plenty more where that came from—here’s a clock rug stretch, which we got from a children’s TV show, and core stretches to do after all of those planks. 

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