STANDING QUAD STRETCH - Side View
This is a common stretch, but is often performed incorrectly. As this picture illustrates, the knee of the back leg (stretching leg) should always be further back than the knee of the standing leg. This maximizes the stretch in the quad muscles. You should also try to grab the ankle of the leg you are stretching with your opposite hand, because this keeps your leg in alignment and keeps unwanted stress off of your knee. If you cannot do this, you may grab your foot instead, but do not pull hard on your foot or you could put too much stress on the tendons and ligaments in your foot.
STANDING QUAD STRETCH - Back View
This picture gives you a different view so you can see the correct body alignment. You should maintain fairly upright posture and you should not be tilting to one side. You can also see a clear view of how to grab your ankle with your opposite hand. You may not be able to maintain this body position at first, but it should be your eventual goal. Also, if the standing position is too difficult you can perform the same stretch lying face down on the floor.
2-Leg Calf Stretch
These calf stretches work best with a step, but anything stable and elevated works fine. Have between 1/2 and 2/3 of your feet off the step and relax your lower legs. Your bodyweight provides the resistance to create the stretch in the calves. It is important to keep a small bend in your knees to keep pressure off of the knee joint.
1-Leg Calf Stretch
This is essentially the same as the 2-leg version, except it provides a more intense stretch. Let 1 foot hang completely off the step as you stretch the other calf. You only need to use this stretch if the 2-leg version does not provide a strong
Lower Calf/Achilles Stretch
This stretch is very similar to the 2-leg calf stretch except that you will have a larger bend in your knees. This position focuses the stretch in the lower part of the calf and stretches the Achilles tendon. You generally do not want to stretch tendons much, but the Achilles is the largest tendon and should be stretched if it feels tight.
Lat/Side Stretch - Start Position
For this stretch you need something stable to hold on to. A doorway, desk, or similar object will work fine, as long as you can grab on with your hand. For this stretch to work your should start by reaching across your body. In this picture my feet are about shoulder width apart and I am holding onto a wall at a point in front of my opposite leg. When reaching for something to hold on to, turn your hand counterclockwise until your thumb is pointing towards the ground then grab on. I grabbed the wall at about the level of my knees and this is a good place to start, but you should experiment by moving your hand up and down to find out which position works best for you.
Lat/Side Stretch - End Position
Perform the stretch by moving your body away from the side you are holding on to and you can increase the stretch by rotating your hips as well. For example, in this picture I am stretching my right side and holding on to a spot to my left. My feet do not need to move, but I am shifting my weight towards the right. As for my hips, I am rotating them right as well so my left hip moves forward and my right hip moves back. This stretch can be complicated at first and it may take some moving around to find a position that works well for you, but when you perform it correctly you will feel it, because you can feel a stretch almost the whole way from your upper arm to your hip and low back.
Shoulder Stretch - Start Position
Probably the most difficult part of this stretch is maintaining correct body position. Stand with good upright posture and keep both
shoulders facing straight ahead. Lift the arm that you want to stretch and bend your elbow. Then take your other hand and grab the arm you are going to stretch just above your elbow. The arm that will stretch should be on top. In this case I am going to stretch my right arm with my left arm. You can also see that my right shoulder is slightly raised. This is not necessary, but feel more comfortable to me to stretch in this position. The important thing is that my neck and shoulder are still relaxed. You should not shrug or tighten your shoulder during the stretch.
Shoulder Stretch - End Position
Perform the stretch by pulling your arm across your body. This seems simple, but there are a number of things that typically go wrong. First as you can see in the 2 pictures my shoulders do not rotate and my arms are doing almost all of the movement. If you twist and your shoulder moves in front of your body, the stretch will not be nearly as effective. Another key is to pull your arm at a slightly downward angle while keeping your shoulders as low and relaxed as possible (don't shrug). You should never pull your arm upwards during this stretch, because it can put unwanted stress on your arm and shoulder. When performed correctly you should feel a stretch in the front of your upper arm and shoulder.
Side Neck Stretch - Start Position
This stretch and the following one work best with a chair that has legs for you to grab on to. Sit on the edge of a chair with good upright posture. Grab the front leg of the chair at a point where you feel a mild stretch in your neck/upper traps when you sit straight up. If you want to stretch the right side of your neck (as pictured) grab the chair with your right hand. If you do not have a chair with legs, you can push your hand/arm towards the floor.
Side Neck Stretch - End Position
Keep the hold on the chair and use your opposite hand to grab the top of your head and gently pull directly to the side. Be careful with this stretch, because if you pull too hard this stretch becomes harmful instead of beneficial. Also be sure to look straight ahead at all times and don't rotate your neck while pulling it to the side. As with the back, many people have tight neck muscles and any of these neck stretches can be almost uncomfortable even with minimal pressure. If this is the case for you, start with brief light stretched and increase duration and resistance as your muscles relax over time.
Upper Back/Neck Stretch - Start Position
This is similar to the above stretch,
except you will be stretching different neck muscles. Start in the same position seated on the end of a chair and grab the front leg of the side you want to stretch. You can't really see it here, but I am holding the chair leg with my left hand. Then instead of looking straight ahead you will turn your head until it is halfway between straight ahead and looking over your shoulder (1/8th turn or 45 degrees). You can try grabbing towards the back of the chair or even the back chair leg if you can reach it. Use the grip that results in the best stretch.
Upper Back/Neck Stretch - End Position
Take your free hand and grab the top/back of your head. As with the first stretch, don't rotate your head side to side, but instead pull very gently straight down. When performed correctly you should
feel a stretch from the lower half of the back of your neck down to the upper part of your back. This stretch can be even more intense than the side neck stretch, so make sure that you do not pull too hard. If your muscles are really tight, you may experience an intense stretch just by letting your head hang down.
Back of Neck Stretch - Start Position
This stretch can be done either in a seated or standing position. There is no difference for the stretch, but either way you should keep good upper body posture with a flat back, stomach in, and neck and shoulders back and relaxed. Look straight ahead, keep your chin tucked, and raise one of your hands up to your chin. You can keep your try different hand positions, but the stretch works best for me when I keep my hand in a loose fist position where my thumb is on one side of my chin and my index finger is on the other side.
Back of Neck Stretch - End Position
This is another stretch where little
movement occurs, but you still get a great stretch. To initiate the stretch,
relax your neck and push your hand against your chin. The important thing with this stretch is to push straight back, not up, down, or to the side. Your head may tilt down a little, but you should still feel as though you are pushing straight back not down and back. When done correctly you should feel a stretch along the back/side of your mid and upper neck muscles. If you have tight neck muscles, tenderness, or pain in the area between your neck and shoulders, start doing these neck stretches regularly. It's incredible how much better they can make you feel.
HAMSTRING STRETCH - Start Position
Begin with you back leg flat on the ground with a tiny bend in your knee. The front leg should have a slight to moderate knee bend and be elevated with your heel on the ground. You can use steps, a chair, or whatever you have available. Otherwise you can keep both feet on the ground, but it becomes more difficult to perform the stretch correctly.
Hamstring Stretch - End Position
Bend forward from the waist to stretch the hamstring in the front leg. The straighter you keep your front leg, the more intense the stretch will be. Also, a small to moderate bend in the low back is OK, but you do not need to bend excessively to create an intense stretch.
Hamstring & Lower Leg Stretch
This is essentially the same stretch as above, except you will actively pull your toes towards you body. You can do this simply by activating your lower leg muscles or you can use your hand to pull your toes to increase the stretch even further. This will increase the stretch in your lower leg and behind your knee.
Hamstring & Low Back Stretch
This is a basic stretch where you bend at the waist and relax your body. Depending on your flexibility you will either feel this stretch in you low back, hamstrings, or both. As with the stretches above, keep a small bend in your knees, but too
much bend will decrease the intensity of the stretch. Also keeping your feet closer together will increase the stretch in your hamstrings.
Hip Flexor Stretch - Start Position
Begin with your feet about hip with apart your toes should be pointed straight forward as much as possible. Take a step forward with one foot and a step back with the other foot. You should be able to keep your balance (hold on if needed) and maintain good upright posture. Your hips should start midway between your front and back feet.
Hip Flexor Stretch - Mid Position
Initiate the stretch by moving your hips forward. Your front knee bends more, but your goal is not to see how much you can bend your knee. If done correctly, your hips will still be even and you should feel a stretch in the top of your back leg. If you just move your knee instead of your hips, the hip of the front leg will move in front of your other hip and you will not feel the stretch in the correct muscles.
Hip Flexor Stretch - End Position
The last part of the stretch involves taking the arm on the side that is stretching and reaching above your head and over towards the opposite side. The mid position (above) creates the most significant stretch in the hip flexors, but adding the arm and body lean will stretch additional hip muscles and muscles along your side. This can be challenging from a balance standpoint, so it can take some practice to get the maximal benefit from this stretch.
Chest/Pec Stretch - Start Position
This stretch is typically performed in a doorway, but it can be done with any stationary vertical object (e.g. pillar). Place the arm of the side you want to stretch on your stationary object. The placement of your arm is important and will affect the stretch. In this picture my elbow is about the same height as my shoulder. This is the lowest that your elbow should be and you can place it higher. You will have to experiment with different arm position to find the position that provides the best stretch.
Chest/Pec Stretch - End Position
This stretch is all about rotating your body. Here I am stretching my left arm by rotating my body to the right. Depending on the starting position of your feet, it
may improve the stretch if you take a step forward with the leg on the same side of the arm you are stretching. This is one of the easier stretches to feel right away when done correctly. You should feel a stretch from your chest (pecs) up to your shoulder and armpit area.
Low Back Stretch - Start Position
Begin by sitting on the edge of a chair. Relax and round your back while grabbing on the bottom of your legs. If just being in this position is uncomfortable, do not attempt to perform this stretch.
Low Back Stretch - End Position
There is not much movement in this stretch and you will be stretching your low back muscles by activating the muscles in your upper back and arms. Arch your back as much as possible by pushing up and back instead of leaning more forward. At the same time you should tighten the grip on your legs and use your arms to pull your chest towards your legs. Be aware that you are not actually trying to pull yourself close to your legs, but by resisting the pull from your arms you will be stretching out your back. The intensity of this stretch is determined by how hard your pull with your arms and push away with your back. Start off light and gradually increase the intensity of the stretch. Of course, stop if it feels uncomfortable.
Mid/Upper Back Stretch - Start Position
This stretch is similar to the low back stretch and you can start in the same position in the stretch above if you want, but I prefer this method. You will still start by sitting on the edge of a chair, except your can put both hands around one leg instead of one hand on each leg. I keep the free leg under the chair, but you can keep it out front if it's more comfortable. This position allows you to keep your low back straighter, which is beneficial because the low back should stay flat during this stretch.
Mid/Upper Back Stretch - End Position
Similarly to the low back stretch, you will simultaneously arch your back and pull against your leg with your hands. The difference is that you are arching in the upper part of your back and you should focus on pushing your upper back towards the ceiling. Your low back and neck muscles should be relaxed and uninvolved during
this stretch. Try this stretch with both hand on the other leg and see if you feel any difference. As above, start pulling lightly with your hands, because many people have very tight back muscles and these stretches can become too intense in a hurry.