For Legs, for Back, and More

We rounded up the top stretching exercises to improve your flexibility from your neck to your calves.

Whether you’re working on your splits or trying to finally touch your toes, it isn’t a stretch to imagine these will help you reach your goal.

FYI: Just starting your fitness journey? Here’s your reminder not to push yourself too hard while stretching. If you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, reach out to your doctor or physical therapist before trying any of these stretching exercises.

The stretching exercises on our list are perfect to:

Ready to get started? Choose a few of the following exercises for the home stretch.

1. Best for mobility: Downward-Facing Dog

How to do it:

  • Lie on your stomach with your hands flat by your shoulders.
  • Press hands and toes against the floor as you gently lift your heels.
  • Raise knees and hips, bringing your butt toward the ceiling.
  • Extending your arms, lengthen your spine and tuck chin to chest.
  • Breathe gently as you hold the pose.

Pro tips:

  • If your hamstrings feel super tight, feel free to slightly bend your knees.
  • Try to push your hips behind you when getting into the pose.
  • It’s OK if your heels don’t touch the floor right away.

2. Best for legs: Seated straddle

How to do it:

  • Sit on the floor and open your legs into a V shape (aka straddle position).
  • As you inhale, slowly bend forward. Keep your back straight.
  • Reach forward with your hands, working on lowering your chest as close to the floor as possible. Keep your toes and knees pointing toward the ceiling.
  • Hold the position as you take a few deep breaths.

Pro tips:

  • If you feel pain while you’re stretching, ease up.
  • Up for a challenge? Slowly move your hands farther away from your body to deepen the stretch.

3. Best for back: Cat-Cow

How to do it:

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Tuck your head downward as you arch your back up (Cat Pose).
  • Come out of Cat Pose by lengthening your neck up and sinking your belly all the way down (Cow Pose).
  • Hold this pose for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.

Pro tips:

  • Cat-Cow is all about gentle movements, so when you look up, be careful not to overextend your neck.
  • If holding this pose puts too much pressure on your wrists, try placing your forearms on the floor instead.

4. Best for calves: Standing calf stretch

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step one foot forward.
  • Slowly bend your front knee and keep back leg straight.
  • Sink down until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  • Straighten your front leg to come back up to a standing position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Pro tips:

  • Remember to maintain a neutral spine and engage your abs as you shift forward.
  • You can also hold onto a sturdy surface to keep your balance throughout the stretch.

5. Best for at your desk: Lunge with spinal twist

How to do it:

  • Start in a low lunge position: Keep your left leg straight behind you, right leg bent, and hands on the floor inside your right leg.
  • Raise your right arm toward the ceiling as you twist your upper body and open your chest toward the right side.
  • Hold for 1 minute, and then repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: This is a powerful chest-opening stretch, so make sure you’ve warmed up your muscles a little before trying it.

6. Best for neck: Upper trapezius stretch

How to do it:

  • Stand or sit with your back straight.
  • Tilt your head to your left, bringing ear to shoulder.
  • Looking in front of you, hold your head with your left hand. You should feel the stretch in your neck.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: For a deeper, more focused stretch, place your other arm on your lower back (but don’t arch your back when you do this).

7. Best for shoulders: Thread the Needle

How to do it:

  • Start on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Raise your chest and right hand toward the ceiling.
  • Slowly bring right hand under your chest to reach to your left.
  • Continue to glide your right arm onto the mat, and rest your upper body on your right shoulder.
  • Hold this position for about 30 seconds.
  • Release and come back to your starting position, then repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Need some assistance? You can use a chair to help you out! Hold onto the chair to get more control over your movements as you thread your arm under your shoulder.

8. Best for hips: Lunging hip flexor stretch

How to do it:

  • Kneel on your left knee and place your right foot flat in front of you.
  • Lean into your right knee to stretch your left hip toward the floor.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Try not to press down your front leg as you move. This can put unnecessary pressure on your joints.

9. Best for arms: Overhead triceps stretch

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and roll your shoulders behind your back.
  • Raise right arm toward the ceiling, bend it at the elbow, and place right hand against the middle of your back.
  • Lift left hand toward the ceiling and place your fingers on your right elbow, applying some light pressure to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Pro tips:

  • Your shoulders should be relaxed, so try to keep them down and away from your ears to avoid extra pressure on that area.
  • It’s also important to engage your core as you do this stretch (it protects your back!).

10. Best for posture: Thoracic spine rotation

How to do it:

  • Start on your hands and knees, sinking hips back to heels.
  • Raise left hand behind your head, with elbow out to the side.
  • Rotate left elbow upward by twisting your whole torso. (This should be a slow, controlled movement.)
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Remember to keep your hips heavy during this move. You should be twisting from your upper back, not from your hips.

11. Best for abs: Cobra Pose

How to do it:

  • Lie on your stomach on either the floor or a mat.
  • With hips firmly on the floor, push your upper body upward. Look straight ahead.
  • Hold this pose for about 30 seconds before returning to the starting position.

Pro tips:

  • Your hands should be close to your body to avoid extra pressure on your shoulders.
  • Try to keep a slight bend in your elbows and keep them pointed behind you.

12. Best for the splits: Half split (aka runner’s stretch)

How to do it:

  • Start in a low lunge position with right knee bent and left leg straight. Place your hands on either side of your front foot.
  • Gently lower your left knee to the floor.
  • Shift your weight back into your hips to straighten your right leg in front of you.
  • Hold this pose for about 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

Pro tips:

  • The goal isn’t to curl your back. Instead, focus on lengthening your spine and reaching your chest forward and toward your toes. It’s OK if your chest doesn’t touch your leg.
  • Try placing your hands on yoga blocks if it’s hard to reach the floor.

13. Best for before bed: Child’s Pose

How to do it:

  • Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels.
  • Lower your head and chest as you extend arms in front of you.
  • Relax shoulders and breathe deeply as you hold the pose for about 30 seconds.

Pro tip: Child’s Pose is already a chill stretch, but if you want an extra relaxing experience, let your arms hang by your sides.

14. Best for knees: Standing quad stretch

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Slowly bend right leg, bringing foot behind you.
  • Reach right hand behind you to hold onto foot.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then slowly release your foot to the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Keep your core engaged through this stretch to help you keep your balance.

15. Best for hamstrings: Lying hamstring stretch

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with arms by your sides. Extend your legs on the floor.
  • Gently raise right leg, placing hands around thigh for support.
  • Hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower your leg.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: If you can’t reach your leg with your hands, try wrapping a towel or resistance band around your leg that you can hold onto.

  • Stretching is a great way to reduce stress levels, increase flexibility, and achieve better posture.
  • Research suggests stretching for 5 minutes per week, 5 days per week to get the best results.
  • If you feel pain while performing any of these stretching exercises, ease up until there’s no pain. That might mean stopping the stretch entirely.