Stretches for Full Body Workouts

A good way to use your down time between sets while working out is to stretch.  This will save time that would have been spent stretching later.  Also, your tissue is warm while you are working out.  You never want to stretch cold muscles as they are not elastic and ready to stretch.  Prior to your full body workout do a short 5-10 minute cardio warm up (walking, jogging, bike, elliptical etc), then start your workout and stretch in between sets.  When possible, stretch opposite muscle from what you are working.  This actually frees up the primary moving muscle because it doesn’t have resistance from it’s opposing muscle.  For instance, when working chest, stretch your back and the chest muscle can move more freely.  The reason why you don’t want to stretch a muscle while you are working it is because that muscle will not be able to recover in between sets if it has the tension of a stretch on it.  Hold stretches for around 30 seconds.  Stretch to tension, never to pain, and never bounce during stretches.  Here are stretches to perform in between each exercise for a full body workout.

Squats, lunges, leg press – stretch calves here.  During these exercises, all the muscle of the upper leg are active.  Even though the quads are primary, hamstrings are secondary and should not be stretched.  While standing, wedge your foot up against the corner of a wall and lean into it.

Hamstring curls – Stretch quads here since they are the opposite (restrictive) muscle.  Stand on one foot, grab the ankle of the opposite foot, stand with good posture pulling your ankle toward your buttocks.

Abduction/adduction exercises – stretch opposite.  If working abductors, stretch the inner thigh and vice-versa.  Inner-thigh stretch – Sit with good posture on the floor with the soles of your feet touching each other.  Push your knees towards the floor.  Outer-thigh stretch – lay on your back.  Bring one knee toward your chest, then pull it to the opposite side of your body.

Calves – Stretch hamstrings here.  If you were doing a quad isolated exercise, such as leg extensions, I would have you stretch hamstrings there since they are opposite.  If you’re not doing a quad isolated exercise, stretch hamstrings during calves.  Bring your heel up onto something that is bench or chair height while standing.  With good posture, lean forward until there is tension on the back of your upper leg.

Chest Exercises – Stretch Back.  Reach across your body with your arm at shoulder height and pull your elbow toward your chest with the opposite hand.  Turn your head and look over your shoulder opposite of the direction of your arm.

Back Exercises – Stretch chest.  In a door way, wedge your elbow against the jam, holding your arm up at a 90 degree angle.  Turn your body away from the door jam to stretch you chest.

Shoulder Exercises – Stretch neck.  Reach behind your back and grab the wrist of your opposite arm.  Pull down on your arm, letting your shoulder drop.  Tilt your neck the opposite direction of your dropped shoulder.

Bicep Exercises – Stretch triceps.  Reach down your back with one arm.  Grab it’s elbow with the opposite hand and push it down your back to help with the stretch.

Triceps Exercises – Stretch Biceps.  Do the chest stretch with a straight arm, opening the pit, opposite of your elbow, forward.

Ab Exercises – stretch low back (opposite muscles of the abdominal muscles).  While sitting on the floor, put one foot over the opposite leg next to the knee.  Take your opposite elbow and wedge it against your knee, turning and looking behind you.

Here are pictures of all the stretches

The benefits of stretching include lengthening shortened tight muscles.  Short and tight muscles can create postural problems and problems with movement that delivers negative energy to joints to areas such as the shoulders, low back, upper back, hips, and knees.  Flexibility is part of the equation for functionality and good health. Working in some stretches between sets is a great way to add stretching to your exercise program without adding time to your regimen.  Use your time wisely and squeeze stretching in between sets.