36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching
We could all use a good stretch. It works great for chronic sitters, party animals, and athletes.
Proper stretching brings blood to your muscles and enables your joints to use their full power. It will also strengthen your posture and athletic condition. By performing regular stretching you will also run at a lower risk of injuries and pain.
But, how can one know which muscles to target or how to perform individual stretching during yoga classes or the regular flexibility routine?
You probably need some extra information on the issue, and keeping this in mind will help you determine which stretches could bring you closer to your main goal.
Any pain different than the normal, ‘good’ pain indicates that you are probably doing something wrong, locate the muscle that is affected by such pain and switch to other technique to prevent any further injuring.
You should feel the stretch right in the core of the muscle you are stimulating. Be careful, if you can feel some sort of pressure or strain in your joints, try to reduce the pressure, because you may be pushing too hard.
When performing a stretch, focus on your breathing, and do the movements as natural as possible.
Concentrating on the time you hold the stretch keeps you far from the actual success. Consider focusing on the way your muscles relax and gain their natural length.
Usually this takes 5-30 seconds. If you feel like the stretch does not affect your muscles, change the technique and choose any other that fits your muscles.
We give you some handy illustrations designed by Vicky Timon, a world popular yoga expert and author of the ‘Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises,’ and James Kligallon, CSCS, designer of Mazio’s Body Maintenance Program. Each of them is followed by appropriate expert description.
1. Camel pose
It is an effective stretch for both rectus abdominus and external obliques. According to experts, it is sort of a stretch that mostly fits individuals with great flexibility.
Sit on your hills, set the hands behind you and try pushing the hips up and forward at the same time. However, you should not apply too much pressure on your lumbar spine. If you are having any sort of trouble with your neck, remember not to tilt your head back.
2. Wide forward fold
It is a great stretch to get your adductors going. It stimulates both adductors and hamstrings, and opening your hips is pretty much all the effort it requires.
Bend your knees and keep your spine straight. Once you feel how your muscles start to release, straighten the legs, round the back and reach for the feet. Gently pull on the bottom of the balls of your both feet.
This will release your calf muscles. Beginners may not succeed to reach for their feet, so using a belt or a towel will help quite a bit here. You can also do the stretch when lying on the back, and make sure you push both legs up the wall.
3. Frog pose
Another way to engage your adductors. You may want to use a yoga mat for this one, because its performation requires a softer surface, as the stretch for the groin may apply some pressure on your knees, too. Rest both hands and knees. Next, start widening your knees until your groin muscles are well stretched. For a bit differing stretching, keep pushing your hips back and forward.
4. Wide side lunge pose
Work on your adductors in a different way. Start off by setting your feet forward in a quite wide stance, while keeping your legs as straight as possible. Use your hands to walk the right food, then bend the right knee while rotating your left toes upwards the ceiling. Do this while you sit in your right hip. Keep in mind that your right foot should remain flat on the floor.
5. Butterfly stretch
The butterfly stretch works great for your adductors. Sit and stick the soles of your feet together. Make sure you sit tall through your sitting bones. Start off your stretch by applying some additional pressure onto your knees, and do this using your hands.
For an optimal stretch of your groin muscles, get your feet nearer to your body. Then, set your feet far from the hips and slowly start to round the upper part of your body. It is an essential step that will get your back muscles loose.
6. Forearm extensor stretch
Now, switch to your forearm extensor. Pack both your shoulders and back down, then rotate your shoulder outward into an optimal position to stretch and stimulate your forearm muscle.
Once you bring your body into this posture, apply some pressure on the other hand to start off the stretching technique. Commence the stretch by getting the tips of your fingers close, almost together, forming a sort of a tea cup.
7. Lateral side flexion of the neck with hand assistance
Bring your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ and upper trapezius in power. Stretch your neck as farther as you can, then carefully drop your ear towards your shoulder. Remember, you should not collapse your cervical spine.
Get this stretch some further and sit on a chair and stick onto the seat. In this way the tension down your arm and neck will become consistent, enabling you to target your upper traps.
8. Neck rotation stretch
Get your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ going in slightly different manner. Slowly rotate your neck and keep your chin a bit high. This will provide that your SCM is isolated. If you are into a more advanced stretching, apply some pressure using the opposite hand from the way you rotate your neck.
9. Neck extension stretch
Another great way to stimulate your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM.’ Place your hands on the hips, while keeping your spine straight. Start tilting your head back. This is another stretch that requires caution, because you do not want to collapse your cervical spine, right?
10. Half kneeling quad / Hip flexor stretch
It is an amazing way to stimulate your psoas and quadriceps. Get your body in a half-kneeling posture. Set your right hip forward. You should be able to feel the stretching in the front part of your hip while doing so. Get your back foot towards your back glute to add more stretch to your hip flexors.
11. Lateral shoulder stretch
This one is for your side deltoid. Have your arms across your body, and lay the pressure onto your arm to stretch your shoulder even better.
12. Standing assisted neck flexion stretch
Those who like to stretch their trapezius muscle will sure love this one. Stand straight and stick your feet together, while keeping your spine stretched. Slowly start sitting your hips back and round the upper back. Consider pushing your chin towards the chest while you do this.
13. Lat stretch with spinal traction
It is time for your latissimus dorsi (Lat stretches). Take a firm grip on a bar, and start lifting your feet off the floor. The stretch should affect your chest and lats. Once you get your feet completely off the floor, you shall feel some traction in the lumbar spine. Caution note: Do not do this stretch if you have had a shoulder injury recently or if you have had an impingement of your shoulder.
14. Lat stretch at the wall
It is your latissimus dorsi once again. Set your both hands on the corner of a post. A wall will do fine as well. Stretch your spine and slowly push your hips outwards. Caution note: This stretch may cause additional problems to those who deal with lower back issues.
15. Child’s pose
Child’s pose stimulates your latissimus dorsi. Keep your body close to the ground with both hands and knees onto the yoga mat. Gradually bring your hips back until your forehead gets close to the floor. For an optimal stretch in your hips, set your knees a bit wider. Hold your upper back in a position that resembles an arch, and rotate your shoulders externally. This will get the stretch in your lats and chest muscles.
16. Standing calf stretch
It is a nice technique to stretch your soleus and gastrocnemus. You may want to perform the stretch on a rack or on the very edge of a stair step. Rotate your ankles slightly inwards and outwards to stimulate your calf muscles.
17. Front split
A good one for your psoas and hamstring. It is not fit for absolute beginners, as it requires better flexibility. Always do it carefully, especially if you are dealing with any sort of hip issues. Take a position of kneeling lunge. It would be nice if you can use the support of a chair while you release your hip flexors and hamstrings.
18. Seated forward fold / Seated toe touch
Your hamstrings and calfs will sure like this one. Sit on the mat and bend your knees if you feel like you have to. Once you develop a nice flexibility, your legs will become a lot stronger. Hold your spine as straight as possible, and this applies especially to those who deal with back issues. Lie on your back when performing this stretch if it feels better. In this case keep your feet up a wall.
19. Single leg forward bend
It is a stretch for your hamstrings only. Develop the stretch by setting your feet one in front of the other. Straighten your back, and get your hands on your hips. Start bending your hips.
20. Deep squat
This is a perfect way to get your glutes stimulated. This stretch will affect every part of your body. Those who have issues with their knees or cannot set their heels on the floor should do the squat before they perform the stretch.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Gradually lower your body in a deep squat. Once you get in that position, set your arms inside your legs, and apply some pressure onto your knees from the inside, while sitting into your hips and heels.
Perform the stretch while lying on the back and keeping your feet against the wall if it works better for you.
21. Seated half king pigeon pose
One more for your glutes. Sit down and slowly pull your leg towards the chest. Rotate your hip outwards and make sure you keep your spine straight while doing so. The stretch will have an impact on your glute.
22. Standing calf stretch at the wall
work on your soleus and gastrocnemus with this one. Take the lunge position and turn the back of your foot slightly. Slowly bring the back of your heel to the ground. This will help you stretch your calf muscles.
23. Lateral flexion at the wall
Get your external obliques in some motion. Prolong your spine and bring your hips outwards. If your lower back is giving you trouble, skip this stretch.
24. Supine twist
It is time for your glutes and external obliques again. This stretch benefits those who deal with sciatica pain, and brings them a pleasant relief.
Lie flat on the back and place one leg across your body. Slowly rotate your gaze and upper body in an opposite direction. There is one thing you should focus on, and that is your breath.
It serves you to open your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without applying additional pressure to your lower back. If you find this stretch hard to perform, stack your knees one on top of another.
Remain in this position and set your knees higher to feel the stretch on your upper spine. Lower your knees to bring the stretch on your lumbar spine.
25. Lateral flexion with a dowel
Get ready to stretch your external obliques and latissimus dorsi. Prolong your spine and slowly push the hips outwards. Keep your shoulders outward at the same time. Skip this stretch if you are dealing with lower back issues.
26. Triangle pose
The triangle pose is for your external obliques only. Start off by standing wide. Keep your front foot ahead and get your back foot at a 90-degree angle. Place one hand on your frond leg. You can set it on the floor as well. Sit into your front hip, while keeping your back straight. Rotate away from the leg that is in the front, and look towards the hand that floats in the air.
27. Chest stretch at the wall
This technique will help you stretch your pectorals. Stand close to a wall, and face it with your thumb up. Slowly rotate away from the wall. This will bring the stretch to your chest muscle.
You should feel the stretch in the core of the muscle, but make sure not to stretch it too hard, because that might make your shoulder joint sore.
28. Assisted chest stretch
Get your chest and latissimus dorsi ‘rolling.’ Lie down on the mat and face your palms up. As your partner to get into a deep squat and have him or her hold your hands.
This should bring the stretch in both your chest and lats, and you should also feel some traction in the spine. However, this stretch is not recommended to those who have a shoulder impingement.
29. Seated half pigeon variation
A nice stretch for your anterior tibialis. Sit on the mat and have your feet set in front of you. Place one of your hands behind you and rotate your hip outwards, while putting one foot above your knee. If your goal is to enhance the stretch on your hip, slowly lean forward and develop the stretch by hinging at your hips.
30. Supine shoulder external rotation stretch
Do you know where your subscapularis is? If yes, get prepared to stimulate it. Lie flat on the back. Set your arm outwards and keep your angle at a 90-degree angle.
Then, slowly move the back of your hand towards the floor. If it is hard for you to bring it close enough to the floor, your rotator cuff and other muscles that have the role to control your internal rotation are probably stiff.
31. Down dog variation at the wall
By performing this stretch you activate both your pectorals and latissimus dorsi. Stand far from a rack or wall. Once you are able to reach the wall, your body should get parallel to the floor.
Develop the stretch by pivoting at your hip. Keep in mind that your spine should be straight all the time. When you succeed to get into this position, bring your chest forward and set your upper back in a slight arch, whole stretching your lats and chest muscles. If your hamstrings feel tight, bend your knees.