9 Stretches You Can Do At Any Size

No one wants an injury. And one of the best ways to ward off any potential muscle strains or post-workout soreness is to incorporate some sort of stretching into your exercise routine.

"No matter what size or fitness level you are, stretching is very important," explains certified trainer Natalie Jill of Natalie Jill Fitness. "Not only does it improve blood flow to your muscles, but it also improves your flexibility. With improved flexibility comes a decreased risk of injury, and your body learns to use a full range of motion when moving".

Trouble is, when you're carrying extra weight, your toes can feel a mile away. With these nine stretches from Jill, however, you can hit every muscle comfortably. Ideally, do these moves after you've been active. "Stretching while your muscles are cold is not advised," says Jill. "Even a light walk prior to stretching will get your body warmed up for you to then stretch."

Arms


While seated, put one arm out in front of you, palm facing away from your body. Using your other hand, push fingers toward the floor. "You will feel this stretch up the front side of your arm in your forearms all the way up to your biceps," explains Jill. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. 

Calves


Hold a chair for balance, and place one leg behind you so that your heel is off the floor. Slowly lower your leg in front while at the same time trying to press your back leg's heel to the ground. "The farther apart your legs are, the more intense the stretch will be," says Jill, who adds that using the chair helps with balance and makes it easier to perform the exercises. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. 

Hamstrings


Place one leg up on a chair with toes pointed up. Slowly start to lean forward, as if you were trying to touch your toes. "By utilizing the chair's height, it makes it easier to perform this stretch," explains Jill, "as leaning all the way down to the ground to touch one's toes or placing a leg up on a higher surface may be difficult." For a deeper stretch, try using a band to help pull your toes toward your chest for an extra pull in the hamstrings. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Hip Flexors



Standing behind a chair, step one foot back way behind you. Make sure you have your balance, and then bend the knee of the leg that's behind you so that your leg dips down toward the floor. Don't touch the floor, but get as low as you can so you feel a great stretch through the front of your hip flexors. Make sure you torso remains vertical, and push your hips forward to really target the hip flexor. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Inner Thighs




From a seated position, put one leg off to the side and make sure you point your toe outward, as far as possible. Bend forward slightly. This is an easier variation of the standard inner thigh stretch that's done from a seated position on the floor. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. 

Lower Back


While sitting on a chair with your knees at a 90-degree angle, place your hands on your knees. Then roll your body forward so your hands run down past your knees and meet your shins. "The key here is to make sure your back has a nice bend it to it," says Jill. "This will help stretch and release tension in the lower back." Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Quads

"Balance is critical in really feeling this quad stretch, so to make it easier, hold on to a chair for support," says Jill. While holding on to the chair, slowly bend one leg and grab your toes of that same bent leg. Stand up as straight as possible for a deeper stretch in both the quad and hip flexor. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Triceps 


Raise one arm up and then tuck it behind you on the same side as if you are trying to pat yourself on the back. Use your other arm to lightly push your arm back farther. Though it appears simple, it's a stretch that really targets the triceps, says Jill. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.

Upper Back 


This simple stretch helps loosen the tight upper back. While seated, lace your fingers together and press your arms out in front of you. Lean into the stretch almost as if you are trying to pull your shoulder blades apart from each other. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.