Stretching diagrams
Click on the diagrams below to learn more.

After exercise and as a result of the aging process, there is a tendency for individual muscle fibers to get shorter. This muscle shortening puts increased stress on ligaments and joints, increasing the risk of arthritis. Stretching or performing flexibility training after each exercise session helps prevent this damage.

With age the muscles of the body have a natural tendency to shorten as well. Unless you stretch these muscles regularly, they will continue to shorten, which can lead to poor posture, decreased range of motion, muscle stiffness and other problems.

Many people find another profound benefit of stretching - a feeling of overall mental and physical relaxation as you breathe deeply and as the tension leaves the muscles during the stretch.

Flexibility Training Routines - Following aerobic exercise, perform lower body stretches and, if possible, a full series of stretches. When strength training, the full series of stretches should be done-- before beginning, stretch your neck, back and abdominals; after completing, stretch the muscles that were used in strength training.

  • Stretching can be a little uncomfortable, but shouldn't hurt
  • Stretch each muscle to the point of tension, but not to the point of pain
  • Never try to stretch cold muscles
  • Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds, but don't bounce
  • Perform neck, back, abdominal, upper body, and lower body stretches
  • Breathe slowly, and inhale and exhale deeply
  • If you only do flexibility training, do it at least three times a week

Neck, Back & Abdominals Stretches

neck stretch diagramNeck Stretch

  1. Sit or stand and relax your shoulders.
  2. Let your head drop down slowly towards your chest until you feel a gentle pull in the muscles at the back of your neck. Hold for 8 to 10 seconds.
  3. Very gently push your head backwards until you feel a slight pull at the front of your neck.
  4. Don't go back as far as you can go. Hold for 8 to 10 seconds.
  5. Do the same exercise towards each side, letting your head gently drop towards your shoulders.
  6. Hold each side for 8 to 10 seconds.

low back stretch diagram

Lower-Back Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees, then move your right foot to the outside of your left knee, so that your right leg crosses over your left.
  3. Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee and gently twist to the right.
  4. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.
Abdominal stretch diagram

Abdominal Stretch

  1. Kneel on the floor with your back straight.
  2. Place your hands on your lower back and gently bend your upper body back. You should feel the stretch in your abdomen. Keep your abs engaged so as not to put stress on your lower back.
  3. Hold for 8 to 10 seconds. Repeat.

Lower-Body Stretches

Calf stretch diagram

Calf Stretch

  1. Stand about 1 or 2 feet away from a wall with your toes pointing straight ahead.
  2. Hold your hands against the wall and lean your body toward the wall at a 45-degree angle as you press your heels down toward the floor as shown.
  3. You should feel the stretch in your calf muscles.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Ankle stretch diagram

Ankle Stretch

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair and lift your right leg as shown.
  2. Use your right hand to hold your ankle and your left hand to hold your heel.
  3. Use your left hand to pull your foot towards you. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Then, push your foot away and hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Finally, rotate your foot first clockwise a few times, then counterclockwise a few times.
  6. Switch sides and repeat on your other ankle.
Hamstring stretch diagram

Hamstring Stretc

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend at the hips (not the waist), letting your upper body hang.
  3. Reach your hands towards the floor until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. If needed, bend your knees slightly.
  5. If this stretch causes discomfort in your low back, keep your back straight and place your hands on your thighs.
  6. For a deeper stretch, place your palms flat on the ground.
  7. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Quad stretch diagram

Anterior-Thigh (Quads) Stretch

  1. Balancing yourself with your left hand on the wall, take hold of your right foot or ankle and bring it behind you.
  2. Keep your left knee pointing down and your rear end tucked and not sticking out.
  3. Bring your heel as close to your buttock as possible without pain.
  4. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Buttockx stretch diagram

Buttocks Stretch

  1. Lie on your back and gently pull your right knee towards your chest.
  2. Keep your left leg straight.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Groin stretch diagram

Groin Stretch

  1. Sitting comfortably on the floor, touch the soles of your feet together.
  2. Take hold of your feet or ankles with your hands.
  3. Gently pull your upper body forward, bending at the waist.
  4. Try to keep your back straight.
  5. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.


Upper-Body Stretches

Chest stretch diagram

Chest Stretch

  1. Stand in a doorway facing perpendicular to the wall.
  2. Bend your arm to 90 degrees and place your forearm against the door jam.
  3. Rotate your body away from the door until you feel a stretch in your chest.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Upper Back stretch diagram

Upper-Back Stretch

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your fingers interlaced and your palms facing forward.
  2. Push your hands forward while exhaling, allowing your back to arch slightly.
  3. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
Shoulder stretch diagram

Shoulder Stretch

  1. Place your left arm across the front of your body.
  2. Hook your right elbow in front of your left elbow.
  3. Pull slightly to the right while turning your head slightly to the left.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Deltoid stretch diagram

Deltoids Stretch

  1. With your hands behind your back, take hold of your right wrist with your left hand.
  2. Pull gently towards the left until you feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder.
  3. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Tricept stretch diagram

Triceps Stretch

  1. Lift your left arm straight overhead and then allow elbow to bend.
  2. Allow fingers to touch back between shoulder blades.
  3. Place your right hand across the top of your head and take hold of left elbow. Stand up straight and
  4. feel the stretch in left triceps.
  5. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Bicepts stretch diagram

Biceps Stretch

  1. Face away from wall and bend over.
  2. Place hands close together, palms on wall as high on wall as possible. Point fingers towards ceiling.
  3. Squat down slowly.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.


Tips and Resources

Yoga is a relaxing way to maintain flexibility and millions engage in this form of flexibility training.

If you sit at a desk all day, a lack of flexibility could lead to some serious back issues. There are plenty of simple stretches that you can do to increase your range of movement, including these at-your-desk stretches.

Golfers can benefit from these office exercises to improve their game.

Exercise like walking will strengthen your leg muscles, including the hamstrings and quadriceps. Keeping your hamstrings flexible is important to avoid straining your lower back. This stretch increases flexibility while protecting the spine.

We only use thirty percent of our muscles' true force on a daily basis. Exercise specialist Giles Wily shares the principles of flexibility in this interview excerpt.

For more information on flexibility and for sample routines, see Chapter 14 of Transcend.