If you make the time to work out, make the time to stretch. Easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like you’d have a better chance at doing it if you penciled it into your calendar… or if someone else did it for you.
Whether you suffer from all-around tightness or soreness targeted to specific hotspots, like your hamstrings, everyone can benefit from stretching. We tapped Jeff Brannigan, Stretch*d Program Director for five stretches to add to your daily routine if you spend your days sitting.
1. Thumbs Up
Let’s face it, you’re overtaxing your thumbs. Or rather, your phone is. Embarrassing but true: There are moments when your thumbs probably tingle with pain from texting, swiping, and scrolling too much.
The Remedy: “With your arm straight out in front of you, open the hand with the thumb pointing toward the ceiling,” Brannigan says. Fold the thumb into your palm, then wrap the other fingers around into a fist. “With the other hand, gently assist the wrist down, trying to drop the pinky toward the floor.” After two to three seconds, return to the start position and repeat for a set of 10 reps. For your dominant hand, treat your thumb to an extra round of the stretch.
2. Just Say Yes
Between staring at a computer for hours on end or crouching over your phone texting on your morning commute, your neck bears a lot of the burden.
The Remedy: Sit with your back straight. “With one or both hands placed on the back of your head, tuck your chin and roll your head forward until your chin meets your chest,” says Brannigan. “Hold for three seconds and come back up.” You can gently assist the end of the movement with your hands at the back of your head. Be certain to keep your shoulders relaxed and back straight.” Repeat this 10 times every day.
3. Hip Sweep
Tight hips? Sore back? Achy hips and back? We feel your chronic pain. “Long hours sitting and all kinds of exercise will stress the abductors which can result in hip and back pain. These are the oft forgotten muscles of the outer hip that help with stabilization, walking, and standing,” shares Brannigan.
The Remedy: While lying down on your back, extend both of your legs as straight as you can and place the foot of one leg into the loop of a strap or towel. Wrap your prop around the outside of your ankle so you’re holding the strap on the inside of your legs, then rotate your foot outward. “With the assistance of the strap, bring your leg up and across the midline (knee toward the opposite shoulder),” he says. “Think of it like a sweep of the leg across the body. Pause when you feel the stretch (and you’ll feel this one soon), then hold for two to three seconds and release.” Do this 10 times on each leg.
4. Hands Behind Your Head
Low back pain is all too common for people who spend their entire day sitting—in an office, in a car, and in front of the TV. This stretch targets lumbar rotation and is a boon for low back pain.
The Remedy: “Place your hands behind your head. Interlace your fingers with your elbows out. Rotate your upper body in one direction until you have twisted as far as you can go,” explains Brannigan. “When you feel loosened up (after three or four repetitions in one direction), rotate, hold, then bring your elbow toward the outside of the same side knee. Return to an upright position. Work one side at a time, completing all repetitions before beginning on the opposite side.” We feel better just visualizing this. Imagine the relief when you actually do it.
5. Hamstring Stretch
No fancy name for this move that aids a perpetually pained part of men’s bodies. “Guys tend to have really tight hamstrings and neglect them more than women. Aside from better flexibility, this [stretch] will help relieve back pain,” notes Brannigan.
The Remedy: Lying on your back on the floor or on your bed, grab a yoga strap or towel and make a loop by holding it out in front of you with both hands. Place your foot inside. Lock that knee so your leg is extended straight out. From your hip, using the muscles in the front of your thigh, lift your leg as far as you can. “Grasp the ends of the strap with both hands and ‘climb’ up the strap, hand over hand, as your leg lifts,” says Brannigan. “Keep slight tension and use the strap for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch. Do not pull the leg into position or you will irritate the back of the knee—be gentle.” Shoot for 10 to 12 reps of three-second holds each.