Stretching is a great way to increase flexibility. While some stretches are hard to reach, many are beginner-friendly.
Flexibility is uber important for any active, healthy lifestyle. Studies show it can have a positive effect on muscle function, reduce your risk of injury, and improve chronic pain. Plus, being bendy can come in clutch during day-to-day life.
Whether your goal is to become a human pretzel or if you just want to touch your toes, we all have to start somewhere. Here are 25 beginner-friendly stretches to help you on your path to flexibility.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of each exercise, here’s a quick rundown of the top 25:
- Cobra Pose
- Cat-Cow Pose
- Seated side-straddle stretch
- Bridge Pose
- Swiss ball ab stretch
- Seated inner thigh stretch
- Heel drop stretch
- Standing quad stretch
- Runner’s lunge
- Reclined Pigeon Pose
- Eagle arms stretch
- Fingers up and down stretch
- Overhead tricep stretch
- Scissor stretch
- Doorway pectoral stretch
- Back flexion stretch
- Knee-to-chest stretch
- Child’s Pose
- Seated spinal twist
- Sphinx stretch
- Standing hip circles
- Reclining Angle Bound Pose
- Lunging hip flexor stretch
- Garland Pose
- Seated IT band stretch
Your core encompasses muscle groups in your abdomen, lower back, hips, and pelvis. No matter what exercises you do, you’ll be engaging your core to some degree. And that’s good news since having a strong, flexible core is an essential part of any active lifestyle.
Here are five killer core exercises to help you develop strength and flexibility in your mid-section.
1. Cobra Pose
To do Cobra Pose:
- Start from a prone position.
- With palms flat and positioned beneath your shoulder blades, lift your upper body and head off the floor.
- Pushing from your hands, bring your head and upper body as high as they’ll go. Engage your lower back muscles and lift that chin to raise as much as possible.
- Hold for a few breaths.
- Slowly lower on an exhale.
Pro tip: It’s easy to tense up with Cobra Pose since you’re engaging so many muscles, so remember to keep relaxed and stay mindful of your shoulders.
2. Cat-Cow Pose
Cat-Cow Pose helps strengthen your core muscles while stretching the neck, spine, and shoulders.
To do Cat-Cow Pose:
- Start in Table Pose (on your hands and knees). Your spine should be neutral.
- Lift your head, relax those shoulders so they fall away from your ears, and look straight ahead.
- Curve your spine outward on an exhale. This means tucking in your tailbone and bringing your pelvis forward, so your back arches toward the ceiling.
- Release and lower your head (although not so far your chin hits your chest).
- Relax back to a neutral spine.
3. Seated side-straddle stretch
The seated side-straddle stretch unlocks flexibility in your abs and back. Part of the seated side-straddle magic comes from extending your arms overhead. This engages and opens your chest, ribs, and shoulders.
To do a seated side-straddle stretch:
- Sit on the floor with your legs splayed in front of you as wide as possible without being uncomfortable.
- Bend your elbows and raise your arms to your sides, keeping your head and neck in line with your spine.
- Engage your abs and on an exhale bend slowly to your right. Bring that elbow as close to the floor as you can without rotating your spine.
- Bend until you feel tension.
- Hold for 15–30 secs then relax back into the starting position.
- Repeat the above 3–4 times.
- Switch sides.
4. Bridge Pose
Bridge Pose is a yoga staple and one of the first back-bending positions yoga newbies learn. It opens up the spine, and regular practice of this stretch goes a long way toward achieving the bendy, flexible core.
To do a Bridge Pose:
- Lie flat on your back.
- Bend your knees, hip distance apart.
- Push on both feet on an inhale and allow the force to raise your hips.
- Bring your hands together under your lower back. Press down even more on your feet to push your hips even higher, letting your outer thighs roll inward.
- Hold for a few breaths then on an exhale unclasp your hands.
- Let your hips sink back to the ground.
Pro tip: Lift from the pelvis though, not your navel.
5. Swiss ball ab stretch
Incorporating a fitness ball into your stretching routine with a Swiss ball ab stretch works wonders for creating a flexible core. This stretch primarily hits your abs, and also gives your lower back a little work too. Plus, it’s beginner-friendly.
How to do a Swiss ball ab stretch:
- Balance a Swiss ball in the middle of your back.
- Plant your feet flat on the floor.
- Extend your back until your whole spine is in contact with the ball, arching around it.
- Bring your arms up over your head and place them on the ground.
- Stretch out as much as you can without discomfort and hold for 30–60 seconds.
- Repeat as required.
Flexible legs aren’t just important for ballet and kickboxing. If you’re on your feet then your legs are in action. Whether you’re a runner, soccer player, or even casual hiking enthusiast, flexible leg muscles can mean the difference between a fun workout or a visit to Ouch Town in Crampsville, USA.
6. Seated inner thigh stretch
The seated inner thigh stretch — sometimes called the butterfly stretch — is one of the easiest ways to open and engage your inner thighs, hips, and groin. It’s one of the best ways to relieve the hip discomfort many get from spending hours sitting at a desk.
To do a seated inner thigh stretch:
- Start from a sitting position with your legs out in front of you.
- Reach out and grab your right foot.
- Pull your foot up toward your groin. Do the same for your left foot so that the soles of your feet are connected.
- Holding your feet in your hands, allow your elbows to rest until they connect with your knees.
- Press gently into your knees with your elbows so they sink toward the ground. Do this until you feel tension and pull in the groin.
- Hold for 20–30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
FYI: You can hinge a bit forward from your waist, but try to keep your spine straight.
7. Single heel drop stretch
Known as the heel-drop calf stretch, this leg stretch opens up your calves. It can help increase flexibility from knee to toe.
To do a single heel drop stretch:
- Stand on a raised step or sturdy object.
- Slightly bend your right knee and drop your right heel to the ground.
- Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat 2–3 times on each side.
Pro tip: You can totally hold onto the wall if this helps with balance.
8. Standing quad stretch
The standing quad stretch is a running mainstay. They’re super easy even by the standards of this beginner-level list. Plus, you can do them just about anywhere.
To do a standing quad stretch:
- Stand tall with your spine aligned.
- Raise your right heel toward your butt.
- Stand up straight and try to point your right knee directly down toward the ground, keeping your knees as aligned as possible.
- Hold your right foot with your right hand and hold for 30 seconds.
- Return to standing.
- Repeat 2–3 times on each leg.
Pro tip: This is another stretch that requires a bit of balance. So again, feel free to use a wall or a stable surface to help you hold the position.
9. Forward lunge
Whether you’re bulking, cutting, or just trying to improve overall fitness, lunges are where it’s at. Lunging calf stretches go a long way in building foundational muscle memory that can be built on in tailored goal-specific training involving complex and/or weighted lunges.
To do a runner’s lunge:
- Start in a plank position with both hands planted into the ground.
- Step your left foot toward your left pinky finger.
- Relax your back and hips and let them sink toward the ground.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch sides.
10. Reclined Pigeon Pose
While the reclined Pigeon Pose is primarily used to stretch the hips and lower back, it can also help release tight hamstrings. Why would you want more flexible hammies? Well, according to studies like this 2019 study, flexible hamstrings could combat posture issues and general muscle pain. An earlier study in 2015 also linked tight hamstrings to lower back pain.
To do a Reclined Pigeon Pose:
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your heels planted close to your butt.
- Lift your right foot and bring it across your body, resting your right angle on your left thigh.
- Clasp both hands together under your left thigh. Use them to bring your left knee up toward your chest, letting your left foot lift from the floor.
- Allow your hips to bend and hold once you start to feel them stretch.
- Keep your right foot flexed and your right knee open, away from your chest, to enhance the effectiveness of the hip stretch.
- Hold the pose for 3 deep breaths then lower yourself back to the first position.
- Switch legs and repeat.
Strong flexible arms are important for a number of reasons. These stretches can help strengthen your arms which can come in clutch anytime you need to lift, throw, or grab something.
11. Eagle arms stretch
Eagle arms stretch helps promote flexibility in the shoulders, elbows, and forearms. It’s also great for opening up the trapezius which is super helpful if you’re planning to follow up on your arm work with back stretches.
To do an eagle arms stretch:
- Start from a sitting position. Cross-legged on the floor or in a chair is fine, so long as your spine is straight and your hips aren’t twisted.
- Bend your elbows as you cross your right arm underneath your left arm.
- Wrap your arms until your palms touch, or simply grab the left fingers with the right hand.
- Lift your elbows to shoulder height, if possible, and hold for 15–30 seconds.
- Switch sides.
12. Fingers up and down stretch
This stretch works your hands, wrists, and fingers, as well as your upper arms and forearms. Flexibility across the whole arm is important, but the hands and fingers are an often overlooked area.
To do the fingers up and down stretch:
- Reach your left arm out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Face your left palm toward the ceiling.
- With your right hand, gently pull back on your left fingers.
- Breathe in and hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds.
- Switch hands.
13. Overhead tricep stretch
This is an ideal stretch to help reduce tension during your work day. It also makes for a top-notch warm-up or cool-off stretch.
To do an overhead triceps stretch:
- Stand tall with your spine aligned.
- Bring your right arm up toward the ceiling.
- Bend your right arm at the elbow, reaching down toward your upper back. Leading with your middle finger, get your right hand as close to your spine as you can.
- Lift your left arm overhead, grab the right elbow and pull the arm until you feel the right triceps stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3–4 times per arm.
14. Shoulder cross-arm stretch
The shoulder cross-arm stretch helps stretch and release tension in the back of the shoulder.
To do a shoulder cross-arm stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bring your right arm straight across your body.
- Bend your left arm at the elbow and hook your left forearm under your right arm.
- Support the right arm above the elbow and use your left arm to pull your right arm further across your bod.
- Hold for up to 20 seconds and switch sides.
15. Doorway pectoral stretch
The doorway pectoral stretch is a great way to open a cramped chest. You’ll also be flexing your triceps, biceps, forearms, and upper back.
To do a doorway pectoral stretch:
- Standing in an open doorway, bring your arms up by your sides. Bend your elbows and place your hands on either side of the door frame.
- Bring your right foot forward and take a step. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest straight away.
- Hold for 30 seconds then take a step back.
- Repeat 2–3 times per leg.
Pro tip: It’s important to keep your back straight and not lean forward.
16. Back flexion stretch
Back flexion stretches are perfect for increasing the bendiness of your spine, as well as undoing any built-up tension for daily activities. The following is for a standing lumbar flexion, but sitting variations also exist.
To do a standing back flexion:
- Start in a standing position with your arms down by the sides of your body.
- Bend forward and hinge at the hips.
- Keep going until you can either touch your toesor grasp your ankles.
- Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should feel a bit of pull in your hamstrings.
- Return to stand.
Pro tip: Try and press your chest and torso as much into your thighs as you can.
17. Knee-to-chest stretch
The knee-to-chest stretch unlocks flexibility in your lower back muscles, as well as having the added bonus of opening your glutes.
To do a knee to chest stretch:
- Start by laying down on a flat surface, back to the ground. Make sure the backs of your heels are firmly on the floor.
- Bring your feet in toward your butt and allow your knees to bend.
- Grasp your knees with both hands.
- Pull your knees in toward your chest, bringing it as close as you can. You should feel the stretch in your lower back.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds.
18. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is a simple yet effective way to increase flexibility and relieve back pain. When done correctly it can help open up the thighs, hips, and ankles, too.
To do Child’s Pose:
- Start from Table Pose. That’s on your hands and knees, making sure your hips, hands, and knees line up.
- Bring your backside back so it’s resting on your heels, letting your knees bend.
- On an exhale, bring your torso as low toward the ground as possible. Stretch your arms further out in front of you to aid the stretch.
- Relaxing your arms and shoulders as you flex your pelvis toward the ground.
- Hold for 30–60 seconds. Relax and reverse back into Table Pose.
Pro tip: Your head should always be facing the floor, with your neck straight. Twisting your neck can wreck the flexibility benefits you’re trying to gain.
19. Seated spinal twist
In addition to your back and neck, the seated spinal twist works your gluts, chest, and abs.
To do a seated spinal twist:
- Start from a sitting position on the floor. Keep your back upright with your hands on your thighs.
- Bring your right knee up and bend it.
- Cross your right leg over your left with your right ankle on the outside of your left thigh.
- Place your right arm behind you, fingertips on the floor, twisting to reach as far behind you as you can without strain. Raise your left arm upward to help drive the motion.
- Bring your left arm down so your triceps rest against the outer side of your left knee/thigh. On each exhale twist a little further to the right.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths, then gently reverse out of the pose.
- Alternate and repeat with the other side, completing 5–10 twists total.
Pro tip: Make sure your feet are both touching the floor still, and your hips are square.
20. Sphinx stretch
The sphinx stretch, or Sphinx Pose, is another yoga mainstay. Much less complex than the previous entry, the sphinx stretch will nevertheless open up your entire back, increasing flexibility and teaching your spine to bend.
To do a sphinx stretch:
- Start in a prone position, stomach to the ground.
- Position your elbows beneath your shoulder blades.
- Engage your quads and knees to drive the tops of your feet into the floor.
- Lift your upper body by pressing your palms into the ground.
- Allow your spine to bend and push your chest outward. Look up to create distance between your chin and collarbone to help drive the movement.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths then relax.
- Repeat as many times as needed.
Flexible hips are important for just about every kind of athlete. They’re vital in every kind of leg movement. Flexible hips are mobile hips, and mobile hips help you run faster, jump higher, kick harder… you get the point.
21. Standing hip circles
If you’re looking for a low impact way to flex those quads, you found it. Standing hip circles employ the full rotational range of your hip joints to work not only your groin and pelvic muscles. They also help open up the thighs and glutes.
To do standing hip circles:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward.
- Lift your right knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Bring your knee out until you feel the stretch in your inner thigh, groin, and hip.
- Return your leg to a standing position, making a circle in the air with your knee.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Perform 5–10 circles for each leg.
22. Reclining Bound Angle Pose
The Reclining Bound Angle Pose is a top-tier yoga position for stretching the hips and groin. In addition to expanding your hips, this positing will expand your inner thigh adductors and tighten the lower abdomen.
To do Reclining Bound Angle Pose:
- Start from a position of laying down, back on the floor. Legs should be extended, arms at your sides with your palms facing up.
- Bending your knees, bring the soles of your feet together. Allow your legs to open.
- Bring your connected heels toward your groin. Push the motion through until you feel the stretch in your hips and thighs.
- Allow your shoulders and upper body to relax. Hold the pose for 1–5 minutes.
- Bring yourself back to Position 1 by slowly bringing your knees closer, allowing your knees to unfold and extend. No need to repeat!
Pro tip: An easy variation for this stretch is to put a yoga block on the lowest level under each knee. This can give you extra support and may reduce tension or stress on the joints.
23. Lunging hip flexor stretch
The lunging hip flexor stretch is one of the best ways to open up your hips while working the glutes and quads.
To do a lunging hip flexor stretch:
- Start in a standing position, looking straight ahead.
- Lift your right knee up and take a big step forward with your right foot.
- Bend deep into your right knee and let your hips sink down and forward toward the ground.
- Return to your starting position and repeat with the left leg.
- Perform 10–15 lunges per leg.
24. Garland Pose
This squatting pose works the hips, groin, thighs, ankles, and torso.
To do Garland Pose:
- Start in a standing position with your feet apart. They should be wider than your shoulders (about the width of your yoga mat if you have one).
- Bend your knees and bring yourself down into a squat.
- Drop your buns as close to the ground as you can get without touching it and your heels firmly planted into the floor.
- With your elbows and arms inside your knees, bring your palms together in a prayer position.
- Keep your spine straight, and your hands over your heart. Push your upper arms into your knees, holding for 5 breaths.
- Relax out of the pose, coming back to a standing position.
- Repeat 3 times.
Pro tip:Sit on a yoga block or put a folded firm blanked underneath your heels for added support.
25. Seated IT band stretch
IT band syndrome (aka runner’s knee) causes flaring pain at the outer knee. You know what’s a good way to stop IT band syndrome in its tracks? A flexible IT band! The Seated IT band stretch promotes IT band, hip, and leg flexibility.
To do a Seated IT band stretch:
- Sit on the floor with your arms by your sides and your back straight.
- Cross your right leg over your left.
- Pull your right knee up toward your chest, placing the inside of your knee as close to your torso as you can get it.
- Bring your left arm up and hug your right knee with it. Allow your upper body to gently twist as you follow the motion through.
- Engage and tense your right thigh. You should feel the stretch across the outside of your hips and in your butt.
- Hold for 15–20 seconds.
- Repeat 3–5 times per leg.
Flexibility is linked to a number of health benefits. It can enhance muscle function, increase range of motion, reduce your risk of injuries, and improve chronic pain. These 25 beginner-friendly stretches are a great way to increase flexibility and build strength. Just keep in mind that this list is aimed at flex-life newbies. If you want to take things to the next bendy level, trying some more intermediate yoga poses are a great next step!