36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching

36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching

Whether you’re a chronic sitter, a daily exerciser, or a weekend warrior, you probably know stretching is a critical habit. By sending blood flow to your muscles and helping your joints move through their full range of motion, stretching improves your posture and athletic performance while lowering your risk of pain and injury.

But when you do yoga or a flexibility routine, do you know which muscles you’re actually stretching? Or whether you’re performing each stretch correctly?

Vicky Timón, a yoga expert and author of “Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises,” created these beautiful illustrations, and James Kilgallon, CSCS, creator of Mazlo’s Body Maintenance Program, contributed the expert commentary.

    Photo credit: Source


      1. Camel Pose

      Muscles highlighted: Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques. This stretch is best reserved for people who have good flexibility already.  Sit on your heels and place your hands behind you as you push your hips up and forward. Avoiding putting too much pressure on your lumbar spine. If you have neck problems do not drop your head back.

      2. Wide Forward Fold

      Muscles highlighted: Adductors. This is a great exercise to open the hips, and stretch the adductors and hamstrings.  Start this stretch with your knees bent, and spine straight.  As your muscles begin to release you can slowly straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet.  Lightly pull on the bottom of the balls of your feet to release the calf muscles as well.  If you can not reach your feet you can use a belt or towel. You can also perform this stretch lying on your back with your feet going up the wall.


        3. Frog Pose

        Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. This is a deep groin stretch that can place pressure on your knees so it’s helpful to be on a soft surface.  Start by resting on your hands and knees and slowly bring your knees wider until you feel a good stretch in your groin muscles. You will feel slight variations in the stretch as you actively push your hips back and forward.

        4. Wide Side Lunge Pose

        Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start with both feet forward in a wide stance with your legs as straight as possible.  Slowly walk your hands to your right foot while bending your right knee and rotating your left toes up to the ceiling, sitting into your right hip.  Keep your right foot flat on the ground.



          5. Butterfly Stretch

          Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Progress this stretch by placing pressure on your knees with your hands. The closer your feet are to your body the more you will stretch your groin muscles.  Bring your feet farther from your hips and slowly round your upper body to release your back muscles.

          6. Forearm Extensor Stretch

          Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.


            7. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck

            Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair and grabbing the bottom of the seat. This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.

            8. Neck Rotation Stretch

            Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by slowly rotating your neck, while keeping your chin slightly elevated to isolate the SCM.  If you would like to get a deeper stretch apply pressure with the opposite hand from the direction that you are rotating.


              9. Neck Extension Stretch

              Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by placing your hands on your hips, while keeping your spine long start to tilt your head back, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine.

              10. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance

              Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM” and Upper Trapezius.  Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair while grabbing the bottom of the seat.  This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.


                11. Half Kneeling Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch

                Muscles Highlighted: Psoas and Quadracep. Start in a half-kneeling position. As you slowly bring your right hip forward you should begin to feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Grab your back foot and squeeze your back glute to increase the stretch on your Hip Flexors.

                12. Forearm Extensor Stretch

                Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.



                  13. Lateral Shoulder Stretch

                  Muscles Highlighted: Side Deltoid. Bring your arm across your body and lightly apply pressure to your arm to increase the stretch on your shoulder.

                  14. Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch

                  Muscles Highlighted:Trapezius Muscle. Start by standing with you feet together. Keeping your spine long, slowly sit your hips back and round your upper back, tucking your chin to your chest at the same time.


                    15. Lat Stretch with Spinal Traction

                    Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start by taking a firm grip on bar, then slowly lift your feet off the ground. You should feel a stretch in your lats and chest. If you take your feet completely off the ground you will feel traction in your your lumbar spine.  Avoid this stretch if you have recently injured your shoulder, and/or have impingement of the shoulder.

                    16. Lat Stretch at the Wall

                    Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start by placing both hands on the corner of a wall or post.  While keeping your spine long, slowly push your hips out to the side. Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.


                      17. Child’s Pose

                      Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start on your hands and knees then slowly bring your hips back until your forehead is on the floor.  You can bring your knees wider to get a better stretch in your hips. Arch your upper back and externally rotate your shoulders to stretch your lats and chest muscles.

                      18. Standing Calf Stretch

                      Muscles Highlighted: Soleus and Gastrocnemius. You can perform this stretch on a rack or on the edge of a stair step. Lightly rotate your ankles internally and externally to actively stretch the calf muscles.


                        19. Front Split

                        Muscles Highlighted: Psoas and Hamstring. This is an advanced stretch, proceed with caution if you have any hip problems. Start in a kneeling lunge position, it can also be helpful to have the support of a chair as your hip flexors and hamstrings release.

                        20. Seated Forward Fold / Seated Toe Touch

                        Muscles Highlighted: Hamstrings and Calfs. Start by sitting into your sit bones and bend the knees if needed. As your flexibility improves your legs will naturally straighten. If you have back problems keep the spine as straight as possible. You can also perform this stretch lying on your back with your feet up a wall.



                          21. Single Leg Forward Bend

                          Muscles Highlighted: Hamstrings. Start this position with one foot in front of the other. Bring your hands to your hips and while keeping the back straight, begin to bend from the hips.

                          22. Deep Squat

                          Muscles Highlighted: Glutes. This movement has a global effect on all areas of your body. If you have bad knees, or cannot keep your heels on the ground, practice your squat before proceeding. Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart then slowly lower yourself into the deep squat. Once in position bring your arms inside your legs and lightly apply pressure to the inside of your knees, sitting into the hips and heels. You can also practice this position lying on your back with your feet against a wall.


                            23. Seated Half King Pigeon Pose

                            Muscles Highlighted: Glutes. Start in a seated position slowly pull your leg to your chest and externally rotate your hip while keeping your spine straight.  You should feel this stretch in your glute.

                            24. Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall

                            Muscles Highlighted: Soleus and Gastrocnemius. Start out in a lunge position with your back foot slightly turned out.  Slowly bring your back heel to the ground to stretch your calf muscles.


                              25. Lateral Flexion at the Wall

                              Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques. While keeping your spine long slowly push your hips out the the side.  Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.

                              26. Supine Twist

                              Muscles Highlighted: Glutes and External Obliques. This is a great stretch for those trying to manage Sciatic Pain.  Start by lying flat on your back then bring one leg across your body, slowly rotating your gaze and upper body in the opposite direction. The key to this stretch is using your breath to open up your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without placing too much pressure on the lower back.  If you find this stretch to be too difficult you can stack both of your knees on top of each other. Once in this position you will feel more of a stretch on the upper spine when the knees are higher, and more of a stretch on the lumbar spine when the knees are lower.


                                27. Lateral Flexion with a Dowel

                                Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques and Latissimus Dorsi. With your spine long, slowly push your hips out to the side while keeping your shoulders externally rotated. Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.

                                28. Triangle Pose

                                Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques. Start with a wide stance with your front foot straight ahead, and your back foot at 90 degrees. Place your hand on your front leg or floor as you sit back into your front hip with a straight back. As you rotate away from your front leg keep your gaze on the hand that is in the air.



                                  29. Chest Stretch at the Wall

                                  Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals. Start by facing the wall with your thumb up. Slowly rotate away from the wall to stretch your chest muscle. You should feel this stretch in the belly of the muscle.  If you feel it in the shoulder joint you are stretching too far.

                                  30. Assisted Chest Stretch

                                  Muscles Highlighted: Chest and Latissimus Dorsi. Start by lying on the floor with your palms facing up. As you partner sits into a deep squat you should feel a stretch in your chest and lats.  You will also get some traction in your spine from the stretch. Avoid this stretch if you have impingement of the shoulder.


                                    31. Seated Half Pigeon Variation

                                    Muscles Highlighted: Anterior Tibialis. Start by sitting with your feet in front of you. Bring one hand behind you as you externally rotate your hip and bring one foot above your knee. To increase the stretch on your hip slowly lean forward, initiating the movement by hinging at the hips.

                                    32. Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch

                                    Muscles Highlighted: Subscapularis. Start by lying flat on your back, bring your arm straight out to the side with your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Slowly bring the back of your hand to the floor. If you hand is far away from floor it means your rotator cuff and other muscles that control internal rotation are tight.


                                      33. Down Dog Variation at the Wall

                                      Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals and Latissimus Dorsi. Position yourself far enough from a wall or rack so that when you touch the wall your body becomes parallel to the ground.  Move into this position by hinging at the hips and keeping your spine straight.  Once in position, push your chest forward creating a slight arch in your upper back, stretching your lats and chest muscles. If you have tight hamstrings try bending at the knees.

                                      34. Assisted Chest Stretch Variation

                                      Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals. Start by lying face down on the floor with your palms facing down. As your partner pulls back on your hands you will feel a deep stretch in your chest muscles. Avoid this stretch if you have impingement of the shoulder.

                                        Photo credit: Source

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                                        Last Updated on June 15, 2018

                                        What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                                        What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                                        Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

                                        Video Summary

                                        Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

                                        Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

                                        Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

                                        Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

                                        This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

                                        Sitting Is the New Smoking

                                        Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

                                        The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.


                                        Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

                                          Sit Properly

                                          If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

                                          Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

                                            Credit: StayWow

                                            Stand Up More

                                            Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.


                                            Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

                                            Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

                                            Or get a standing desk.

                                            One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

                                            Exercise for Lower Back Pain

                                            Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

                                            But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

                                            The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

                                            Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

                                            Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

                                            This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.


                                            Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

                                            Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

                                            There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

                                            Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

                                            I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

                                            Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

                                            If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

                                            Where to Start

                                            The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

                                            Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:


                                            If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

                                            Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

                                            Keep a straight back.

                                            Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

                                            Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

                                            I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

                                            If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

                                            Stay Away From the Back Pain League

                                            Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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