What is a good full-body stretching routine?

The following is a list of the highest recommended stretches based on the targeted muscle group.

A good full-body stretch routine should incorporate at least one stretch for each major muscle group.

It’s a good idea to do additional stretches, or repeat a given stretch, for exceptionally tight areas. There are no specific names for many of these stretches.


Neck rolls

  1. Either seated or standing start in an upright position, back straight
  2. Bring your chin to your chest and gently roll your head to one side until you feel a stretch in the opposite side of the neck
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and slowly roll your head to the other side
  4. Repeat again if needed

Side neck stretch

  1. Relax your arms, shoulders, and neck
  2. Reach one arm up and over your head placing your hand against the opposite ear
  3. Slowly begin to pull your head to the side so the other ear moves towards your shoulder
  4. Be very gentle and only feel a slight stretch
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on another side

Forward neck stretch

  1. Interlace your fingers behind your head
  2. Press your head forward and bring your chin to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck
  3. Hold for 30 seconds


Shoulder roll

  1. Stand upright and relax the arms and shoulders
  2. Raise your shoulders and roll them backward in a circular shrugging motion
  3. Drop the shoulders and roll them forward back to starting position
  4. Roll backward 10 times the forward 10 times

Arm swings

  1. Stand upright with arms relaxed and back straight
  2. Extend your arms in front of you and begin to slowly bring them upwards and back in a windmill motion completing a full circle
  3. Be sure the angle of rotation is comfortable and there is no pain
  4. Do 5 full rotations and then switch directions and complete 5 more


Twisting upper back stretch

  1. Sit in a chair with back straight and a tight core
  2. Begin gently twisting your torso to one side using the chair and your leg as leverage until you feel a stretch
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

Cross arm stretch

  1. Similar to the triceps stretch however instead of pulling the arm into your chest pull out and across the body further
  2. It may be better to grasp the arm at the wrist rather than the elbow to pull it across

Child’s pose

  1. Start kneeling with your toes pointed back behind you
  2. Place your hands on the ground and begin slowly sitting back onto your heels
  3. Push your butt back and lower your chest to the ground
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times

Cobra stretch

  1. Lie face down, toes pointed behind you, hands placed on the floor just below shoulders
  2. Begin to straighten your arms in a pushup motion but keep your hips and legs on the floor
  3. Lift the head as you stretch and look forward
  4. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat 3 times


Wall chest stretch

  1. Stand next to a wall and raise your arm so the upper arm is parallel to the floor, elbow bent 90 degrees, forearm point up, and place your hand against the wall
  2. Begin to rotate your body to the opposite side until you feel a stretch in your pectoral
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

Pec stretch with a foam roller

  1. Lie on a foam roller with your arms outstretched and palms facing up
  2. Allow the back of your hands to fall to the ground, stretching your chest
  3. Hold for 30 seconds
  4. Repeat with arms in a ‘W’ shape


Behind head triceps stretch

  1. Standing or seated reach up and behind your head with one arm and try to place your hand on your back, in between the shoulder blades
  2. With the other arm reach over your head and grasp the elbow of the arm on your back.
  3. Begin to pull the elbow and press down until you feel a stretch in the triceps
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat on the other side

Triceps stretch

  1. Extend one arm straight in front of you
  2. With the other hand grab the elbow of the extended arm
  3. Bring the extended arm across your body and past the opposite shoulder
  4. Pull the arm into your chest until you feel a stretch
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side


Calf stretch

  1. Stand with hands against a wall, chair, or stable surface above hip height
  2. Step one foot back so your stance is staggered
  3. Keep the back leg straight and begin bending at the front leg and leaning forward. Keep both feet on the ground
  4. Continue until you feel a slight stretch in your back leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg

Hamstring stretch

  1. Can be done seated or standing
  2. Keeping your legs straight hinge at your hips and lean forward reaching for your toes
  3. You can do one leg at a time if seated or both legs if preferred
  4. If you cannot reach your toes just place your hands on your leg
  5. When you feel a stretch hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg if necessary

Standing quadriceps stretch

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart
  2. While maintaining your balance bend at the knee on one leg and bring your heel towards your buttocks
  3. Grab the top of your foot with your hand and press the foot against your butt
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on other leg

Side lunge

  1. Stand with a wide stance, much wider than shoulder-width
  2. Begin to lower your body to one side, as if you are doing a side lunge until you feel a gentle stretch in the inner thigh
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

Ankle roll

  1. Stand hip-width apart and bring one heel up and back so the toes rest on the ground
  2. Keep your toes on the ground and begin making a circular motion with your heel
  3. Complete 10 circles and switch directions
  4. Repeat on the other side


Lying glute stretch

  1. Lie on your back, hinge at the hip to make the upper leg point straight up, and bend at the knee so the lower leg is parallel to the ground
  2. Cross an ankle over the opposing knee
  3. Grab the knee and pull it towards your chest until you feel a stretch in the opposite hip
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

Hip Circles

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Place hands on hips and slowly rotate to one side making circular motions with your hips
  3. Do 3 full rotations and then switch directions

Knee to chest

  1. Lie flat on your back with legs extended
  2. Keep one leg extended and bring the opposite knee towards your chest
  3. Grasp just below the knee with both hands and pull the knee towards your chest gently
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

What stretches should be done daily?

It’s great to do a full-body stretch every day but this may not be feasible for a lot of people.

If this is not possible it’s a good idea to incorporate stretches in both your warmup and cool down that target the muscles to be worked that day in your routine.

It’s important to differentiate between static stretching and dynamic stretching:

Static stretching:

  • Stretching a specific muscle, or muscles, until a stretch is felt and then holding the tension for a given period
  • This should be done gently and slowly
  • Tends to be best for cools downs, relaxing muscles, and preventing muscle soreness

Dynamic stretching:

  • Moving a joint or muscle through its full range of motion
  • This is great for warms ups, increasing ROM, preventing joint pain

There is a bit of controversy as to whether static stretching should be done before performance sports or training.

Some studies found static stretching may adversely affect maximal muscle performance when done before activity however this is not conclusive.

Is it OK to stretch every day?

Yes. The general idea is that the more you stretch the better.

It will only increase comfort, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching has an extremely low risk of injury if done properly.

This means it should be done slowly, gently, and within the limits of the individual. Don’t push yourself.

How often should you do a full-body stretch?

It is ideal to do a full-body stretch every day but if this isn’t possible you should aim for at least 3 times per week.

Have there been studies on the effects of stretching? 

As well as the one referenced above, there have been many studies done on stretching. 

A case titled The Effect of Time on Static Stretch on the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscles from 1994 examined the length of time the hamstring muscles should be placed in a sustained stretched position to maximally increase ROM. 

Fifty-seven subjects (40 men, 17 women) ranging in age from 21 to 37 years and with limited hamstring muscle flexibility were randomly assigned to one of four groups.

Three groups stretched 5 days per week for 15, 30, and 60 seconds, respectively. The fourth group, which served as a control group, did not stretch. 

Before and after 6 weeks of stretching, the flexibility of the hamstring muscles was determined by measuring knee extension ROM with the femur maintained in 90 degrees of hip flexion. 


  • The data analysis revealed a significant group×test interaction, indicating that the change in flexibility was dependent on the duration of stretching.
  • 30 and 60 seconds of stretching were more effective at increasing flexibility of the hamstring muscles (as determined by increased ROM of knee extension) than stretching for 15 seconds or no stretching
  • No significant difference existed between stretching for 30 seconds and 1 minute, indicating that 30 seconds of stretching the hamstring muscles was as effective as the longer duration of 1 minute

A study titled the effect of different dynamic stretch velocities on jump performance from 2010 was done on dynamic stretching has gained popularity. 

Twenty-four males (age mean 21 ± 0.3 years) performed a standardized 10 min jogging warm-up followed by either; no stretching (NS), slow dynamic stretching at 50 b/min (SDS), or fast dynamic stretching at 100 b/min (FDS).

They also did post-warm-up, squat, countermovement, and depth jumps. 


  •  FDS condition showed significantly greater jump height in all tests compared to the SDS and NS conditions
  • SDS trial resulted in significantly greater performance in the drop and squat jump compared to the NS condition
  • The reasons behind these performance changes are multi-faceted, but appear to be related to increases in heart rate and core temperature with slow dynamic stretches, while the greater increase in performance for the fast dynamic stretch intervention is linked to greater nervous system activation, shown by significant increases in EMG

A study titled Effect of Static Stretching on Prevention of Injuries for Military Recruits from 2003 was designed to evaluate whether static stretching can prevent training-related injuries in Japan Ground Self-Defense Force military recruits. 

A total of 901 recruits between 1996 and 1998 were divided into two groups. 518 recruits were assigned to the stretching group and practiced static stretching before and after each physical training session.

The control subjects (383 recruits in the non-stretching group) did not stretch statically before exercise. 

The static stretching consisted of 18 exercises. They collected injury data from medical records and assessed the incidence and the location of the injury. 


  • The total injury rate was almost the same between the two groups; however, the incidences of muscle/tendon injury and low back pain were significantly lower in the stretching group (p < 0.05)
  • Static stretching decreased the incidence of muscle-related injuries but did not prevent bone or joint injuries

Key Takeaways 

Full body stretching can provide numerous health benefits and protect your muscles from injuries.

Try to do a few stretches each day to get started. 

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