Whether it’s due to too much sitting, too little movement (or a job that requires lots of it), or simply stress, our bodies are feeling stiff. That’s where stretching workouts come in big, since they can make tight or shortened muscles feel a whole lot better.
“Spending just 15 minutes to go through a stretch routine can provide oxygen-rich blood throughout the body to help alleviate tightness where you may be feeling it,” Mia Caine, a certified yoga instructor and founder of Health is Wellth in Miami, Florida, tells SELF.
Along with relieving tightness, stretching workouts can also help you move more smoothly by improving your range of motion and increasing your flexibility. But don’t worry: It doesn’t mean you’ll have to train with advanced stretching moves, like splits—unless that’s your goal, Caine says.
Whether we’re talking about those challenging flexibility moves that really push your body, or the gentle, easing routines that simply make your muscles feel more fluid and relaxed, the same rule holds true: “Whatever stretching you decide to do, it is important to work from where you are, breathe, and gently move your way through any tension you might feel,” says Caine. “But most importantly, never push yourself into feeling any kind of pain, as that can lead to injury.”
So, how do you get started? If the only stretching you’re familiar with is the old grade-school standby of “touch your toes,” we’ve got you covered. Here, 22 stretching videos and workouts, from 5 minute in-bed routines to muscle-specific sequences recommended by yoga and Pilates experts—all available on YouTube. Best part? They’re all free, too.
1. Runner’s Yoga by Yoga with Adriene
This yoga sequence is great for anyone who runs or needs extra recovery after a good cardio workout. You’ll focus on your lower body to stretch out tight hips, hamstrings, calves and more.
Length: 30 minutes
What to expect: A recovery session that’s great for many kinds of sports
“This workout is great for people who are tight through the legs and hips and are active, like runners, cyclists, triathletes, rock climbers, or weight lifters. So many of us get caught up in moving faster, lifting harder, and jumping higher, but [engaging in] movement that is gentle not only can reduce soreness, but can often also calm the mind. I love Adriene’s soothing presence and find that although she is a yogi and very bendy herself, this workout is very accessible for those who are naturally tight.” —Christie Wang, PMA certified Pilates instructor in Boston
Try the workout.
2. Full Body Stretch Routine with Charlee Atkins
This short stretching routine focuses on loosening up your shoulders and back using a lacrosse or tennis ball.
Length: 5 minutes
What to expect: A recovery routine using a lacrosse ball
“I love this workout because it uses a lacrosse ball or tennis ball, which helps to deepen the stretch. You’re using the prop as a way to break up the fascia [connective tissue] around your muscles, which can get super stiff from sitting or working out a ton. Using a lacrosse ball will give you a more targeted release than a foam roller, and is more space effective if you live in a small apartment. This workout is super quick, and I love Charlee’s form cues to help you find the right spot. It helps target release in some key areas that get tight from sitting all day—your back, hips, and shoulders.” —Wang
Try the workout.
3. Level-Up Hip Mobility + Core with Hiro Landazuri
Use this quick hip mobility routine to loosen tight hip flexors while also challenging your core.