We all know that we should stretch more but it's hard to find the motivation and good stretching exercises to perform. If this sounds familiar, we have some good news and here are the best stretching exercises you can and should do to improve full body flexibility and help recovery. These moves will open up areas in your body you didn't know existed and make you feel more comfortable and relaxed overall throughout the day.
We asked the super talented Rhea Sheedy, trained in the Royal Academy of Dance style and founder of Ballet Fusion, a fitness fusion company built upon traditional ballet techniques with elements of pilates, yoga and fitness, to guide you through the stretching process; after all, who would know more about stretching than ballet dancers?
Her 10-minute full-body stretching routine targets hard-to-reach muscles, helping to prevent injury and improve flexibility – because there really is a right and wrong way to stretch. For the record, you'll need to perform these stretching exercises the right way and thankfully, Rhea will demonstrate each stretching exercise in the videos below.
As she explains, "Stretching helps to maintain and improve our range of motion, as well as lengthening muscles and preventing them from becoming tight.", and we couldn't agree more. But remember: don't stretch if you are not properly warmed up. You can't expect your muscles to go from stiff to flexible in a split second, especially if you've been sitting around all day. "Each stretch you take when warm will help to reduce muscle pain or DOMS (delayed onset of muscle pain) and help recovery," Rhea says.
In terms of what gear, you won't need more than a decent yoga mat, and if you need further inspiration, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Lululemon The Reversible Mat, the Gaiam Yoga Mat or the Yogamatters Eco Rise Yoga Mat.
Once you've done stretching, check out this ballet-inspired full body workout from Rhea than can burn up to 800 calories!
Reverse Shoulder Stretch (1 minute)
Stand looking straight ahead, feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides. Clasp your hands behind your back with thumbs pointing towards the floor.
Stand tall, open your chest and move your hands back and towards the ceiling - feeling a stretch in the shoulders and biceps muscles.
Supine Crocodile Spine Release (1 minute)
Lie on your back with arms out to the sides, palms up. Bend one knee and drop it across the body at 90 degrees
Gently lift the opposite hand and bring it to join the hand closest to your bent knee (like a clap or crocodile snap), inhaling through the nose.
Slowly open the arm out again, gently exhaling and feeling a release in the spine. Repeat 5 or 6 on each side.
Lower Back Stretch (1 minute)
Start by lying on your stomach, legs straight out, arms bent with hands placed next to either armpit, elbows by your side.
Push your upper body up off the ground and towards the ceiling, keeping the hips firmly on the floor and pushing back away from your hands. Return to the neutral lying position, and repeat.
Rotating Hip and Stomach Stretch (1 minute)
Staying on the ground, lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms.
Then slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
Seated Frog Stretch (1 minute)
Start on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed together, legs drawn in and hands resting on your ankles.
Gradually press your knees down towards the ground until a stretch is felt, keeping the spine long and gradually bending forwards with the aim of touching your forehead to your toes.
Face-down Frog Stretch (1 minute)
Position the body so that you're resting on your elbows and knees, back straight, and gradually spread the knees apart, pressing the hips down towards the floor and making sure you keep the knees in line with the hips (this bit is important!).
Once you have gone as far as you can, take several deep breaths and relax into the position, holding for 20 - 30 seconds before repeating.
Down Facing Dog Arabesque (1 minute)
From a downward-facing dog position, lift the pelvic floor and pull the shoulders back away from the ears.
Lift one leg high into an arabesque, allowing the hip to turn out. Hold for 5 to 10 secs and repeat with the other leg.
Grand Plie Hip Opener (1 minute)
Stand with feet wide apart, legs turning out from the hips. Drop your tailbone and bottom down towards the floor.
Rest your elbows or forearms on the inside of the thighs and sit in this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat.
Barre Hamstring Stretch (1 minute)
Stand at arm’s length from the barre (or table) and lift your right leg up to meet the barre.
Rest your foot over the barre and hinge your upper body forward to lean into your leg. Then, switch and stretch your left leg.
Standing Quad Stretch (1 minute)
Stand with one leg planted firmly on the ground. Lift your other leg up behind you, bending at the knee, and grab the ankle with your corresponding hand, guiding your foot in toward your body. You should feel this stretch in your quadriceps and hip flexors.