At-Home Full Body Stretch Routine For Beginners

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: January 19, 2021

CATEGORIES: Physical Fitness

A great at-home full body stretch routine can help you to feel fantastic. It can be an important element in helping you to achieve your fitness goals, or simply feel better in general.

The effectiveness of stretching has been hotly debated in the fitness world, on many levels. As with most things, there are a lot of variables to consider if you’re trying to determine whether it will be a valuable addition to your health and fitness program. 

As a health and fitness coach with 20 years of industry experience, I highly value stretching when it’s performed well, and for the right purpose. As with all aspects of a health and fitness regime, stretching routines should ideally be personalized. This is because we all have different areas of tightness and weakness and different goals.

Today I’m sharing an at-home full-body stretching routine for beginners. It’s not personalized, so if you need extra guidance, please reach out and I’ll be happy to get you sorted with a plan that’s perfect for your needs.

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

What’s a good stretching routine for beginners?

As I mentioned, there are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to your stretching regime. I’m going to try and keep things as simple as possible bearing in mind this is a generic approach. For beginners, we primarily want to keep the positions simple so that you don’t feel like you’re trying to bend yourself out of shape just to obtain the correct posture.

The main concept I want you to be aware of is what type of stretching to do, and when to do it. For the purpose of keeping things simple, the full-body stretch routine I’ll show you consists of static stretches. These are stretches that you hold for a set period of time. 

In this post, I’ll cover static stretches for all the major muscles in your body. You’ll get more than one option for some muscle groups. This is because you might be able to feel some stretches more easily in one position versus another (again, we’re all different!)

If you’re just looking for a simple 5 minute full-body stretch after workout, I’ve got a great little video near the end of the post that you’ll love. It’s a really relaxing one that you can do mostly lying down and is a great way to relax and re-lengthen after your workout.

You can also gain a lot of benefits from practicing dynamic stretches, which are moving stretches. Therefore, I’ve included an awesome full-body dynamic stretch routine for you as well.

Yoga poses for back pain-extended child's pose

Static versus dynamic stretching routine for beginners

One of the biggest areas of debate in the stretching world is centered on the effectiveness of static stretching versus other types of stretching, or no stretching at all. 

Some time ago, static stretching before a workout was a widely accepted concept. However, although research findings do vary, the general consensus now is that static stretching before a workout is not effective, nor recommended. 

Static stretching can decrease muscle performance during a workout. Therefore, it’s best done at the end of a workout. Alternatively, you might want to do a whole-body stretch routine as a stand-alone session to help with relaxation, flexibility, or recovery between workouts. This can be an effective option, as long as an appropriate warm-up is considered. Warm muscles stretch more easily and safely than cold ones!

I highly recommend dynamic stretches for a pre-workout stretching regimen. Dynamic (moving) stretches are an important consideration for preparing your nervous system (brain-body connection) for a safe and effective workout ahead. Studies have found that dynamic stretches can improve workout performance to a greater extent than static stretching or no stretching pre-workout.

Dynamic full body stretching routine before workout

Ideally, a dynamic stretching program should be done after a 5-10 minute general warm-up. The purpose behind a general warm-up is to raise the heart rate gradually, get the blood pumping, and prepare for a safer workout ahead. 

Ideally, the general warm-up will be specific to the workout ahead. For example, an easy-level cycle that gradually builds in intensity for a cycle-specific workout, or an easy jog before a running workout.

Dynamic stretches should also be specific to the workout ahead. There are plenty of general ones you can try too. Overall, be sure to include similar movements to those you’ll be carrying out in the main body of your workout.

[Psst: If you’re also looking for some fab workout ideas, check out these 9 effective low impact workouts!. You can also click on the image below to try the top-rated FIIT home fitness app. It includes over 600 classes, including yoga and stretching-based ones].

Dynamic stretch examples

  • Arm swings forwards and backward to stretch the chest and upper back muscles
  • Large arm circles forward and backward to loosen the shoulders
  • Torso twists from side to side to release through your back muscles
  • Small and large circles at the hips
  • Side to side lunges, single-leg hip circles, and leg swings to warm up the lower body

There are endless options when it comes to dynamic stretches and movements to help you prepare for your workout ahead. Try out the dynamic full body stretch routine in the video below. It will be an excellent start for safe effective workout preparation.

When you become more comfortable with the concept of dynamic stretching, you can tweak the routine to make it more specific to the workout you’re doing.

For further workout preparation ideas find out all about voodoo flossing for mobility and how to use a trigger point ball. Both of these techniques can be included as part of your warm-up for an effective workout ahead.

Full body stretch routine guidelines – How often do I need to stretch and for how long?

The total body stretch routine I’m going to share with you consists of static (held) stretches. It could be used as a daily stretching routine for men and women, or you can complete it less frequently (depending on your program objectives and what else you are doing). 

As I mentioned earlier, you can complete it as a stand-alone session for re-lengthening, relaxation, and recovery. Or you could complete it after a workout. (Again, stick with dynamic stretches if you want to stretch before your workout).

[Scroll further down the post if you’re simply after a short 5 minute full body stretching routine after workout].

Some general points to note:

  • Hold each stretch to the point where you can feel a good stretch, but you do not feel pain
  • You should be able to breathe continuously through the stretch
  • For general re-lengthening and relaxation, hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds
  • If you’re looking for more of a full body stretching routine for flexibility improvement, hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds
  • Sometimes I’ll offer you more than one option to stretch a particular muscle group. You only need to choose one of the options. They’re there to offer you an alternative if a particular stretch isn’t working for you
  • Sometimes you will be able to ease into a stretch a bit further after you have been holding it for a while. Feel free to do so if it feels good and you can breathe continuously and comfortably
  • Release out of a stretch if you feel any pain, or if you don’t feel like you’re reaching the intended muscle group effectively. Feeling pain or discomfort in areas such as the knees or back is an indicator that you need an alternative stretch or technique. Always seek advice from a qualified trainer if you are unsure about stretching protocol or techniques.
Elly McGuinness (Penang)-Tricep Stretch-ZoomedOut [SB1 OptionB]

List of stretches for a whole body stretching routine

We’ll go from the top to the bottom of the body with this all over body stretch routine. By the end of this list, you should have a good idea of how to stretch all the main muscles in your body.

If the stretch works into just one side of the body (as most of them do), please repeat it on the other side. I thought I’d mention that now so that I don’t need to write “repeat on the other side” for nearly every exercise! 

Let’s get started, first with some upper body stretches, then stretches for the midsection, and finally the lower body.

[By the way, if you are pregnant, try this stretch routine, which considers the potential contraindications of pregnancy, and accommodates a growing belly].

Neck stretches

Side neck stretches

First up in my list of best full body stretches are neck stretches. These are great options for those who spend a lot of time on the computer.

[For a routine that you can do sitting at your desk, check out these simple stretches].

Stand up tall and use your hand to gently pull head to the side, feeling a stretch down one side of the neck.

Full body stretch routine-side neck stretch

Next, gently turn your head to one side as far as you can. 

Full body stretch routine-neck stretch-head turned to side

Back of neck stretch

Finally, stand up tall and gently drop your chin down to your chest to stretch the back of the neck

Full body stretch routine-back of neck stretch

Bicep stretches

Option 1

Stand up tall and extend arms out to the side. Rotate your arms so that your thumbs point down, and then pull arms behind you to feel the stretch.

Full body stretch routine-bicep stretch

Option 2

Take one arm out in front of you and rotate your arm so that your palm faces upwards. Pull the fingers of this hand back with the other hand to feel the stretch. 

Full body stretch routine-bicep and wrist stretch
Full body stretch routine-bicep and wrist stretch-side view

Triceps stretch

Stand up tall with arms above your head. Bend one elbow so that the hand touches between the shoulder blades. Use the other arm to pull the elbow across so you feel a stretch through the back of the arm.

Full body stretch routine-standing tricep stretch

Side flexors stretch

Stand up tall with arms above your head. Bend one elbow so that the hand touches between the shoulder blades. Use the other arm to pull the elbow across so you feel a stretch through the back of the arm, and at the same time, move your body over to the side so you feel a stretch all the way down the side of the body.

Full body stretch routine-standing tricep and side flexor stretch

Chest stretches

Option 1

Stand up tall and clasp both hands behind your back. Draw shoulder blades back and down.  You can also pull the hands away from the body to enhance the stretch.

Best full body stretches-standing chest stretch

Option 2

This stretch could be my all time favorite in this entire full body stretch routine. It’s such a fantastic stretch to do after you’ve been sitting at your laptop for a while! Stand in a doorway with elbows bent and hands around the height of the head. If this position is stressful on the shoulders, you can take the elbows and hands lower. Lean forward until you feel your chest and shoulders stretch.

Stretching exercises for flexibility-door stretch for chest-front view
stretching exercises for flexibility-door stretch for chest-side view

Option 3

Place your hand against a wall and twist your body away to feel a stretch through the chest and shoulder. You could do this stretch with either a straight arm or a bent arm.

Full body stretch routine-single arm chest stretch on wall-straight arm
Full body stretch routine-single arm chest stretch on wall-bent arm

Option 4

Kneel on a mat with butt to heels. Extend one arm out to the side and relax the other arm – you can bend it in front of you slightly. Gently push the shoulder of the extended arm towards the floor and look in the opposite direction to feel the stretch through the front of the shoulder and chest.

Full body stretch routine-single arm chest stretch on floor

Shoulder stretches

Option 1

Kneel on a mat with butt to heels. Extend one arm straight out in front of you. Take the other arm and thread it under your body with the back of your hand down to the mat. Lengthen arm as much as possible to feel a stretch through the back of the shoulder. You may also need to push the shoulder towards the floor.

Full body stretch routine-single arm shoulder stretch on floor

Option 2

Stand up tall and bring one arm (extended) across the body. Use the other hand to bring the arm close to the body. Keep shoulders square to the front, and down, away from the ears.  

Full body stretch routine-standing shoulder stretch

Wrist stretches

Kneel on all fours with hands facing forward. Slowly lean forward whilst keeping the arms straight, to stretch the forearms and wrists. Come back to the start position, and then do the same thing with hands facing backwards.

list of stretches-wrist stretch position 1
Full body stretch routine-wrist stretch position 2

Upper back stretch

Stand up and join hands together with arms stretched straight out in front of you. Drop head forward slightly and push arms and shoulders forward until you feel a stretch through your upper back.

Full body stretch routine-upper back stretch

Mid and lower back stretches

Option 1

It’s time to focus on the middle part of the body in your full body stretch routine. Sit down with one leg extended and one leg bent. Take the arm that is opposite the bent leg, and bring it to the outside of the bent leg, by twisting the body. The other hand is resting on the mat.  Gently use the elbow to pull yourself around into a spinal twist. You might feel this through the butt/hip, spine, and/or through the back of the shoulder.

Full body stretch routine-lower back-seated twist-bottom leg extended

For a slightly easier beginners version, you can also try this stretch with both legs bent.

Whole body stretching routine-seated twist bent legs

Option 2

Lie down with both knees bent, feet on floor, and arms extended to the sides. Gently let the knees drop over to one side whilst keeping the shoulders on the floor. You might feel this through the butt/hip, spine, and/or the chest and front of the shoulder.

Full body stretching routine-lower back stretch lying down

Option 3

Lie down on your back and hug both knees into your chest. Aim to keep your shoulders drawn back and down, and your tailbone on the floor (this might take a while to achieve). You should feel a nice release through the lower back. You might want to complete this one in addition to one of the twisting stretches, rather than “instead of”.

Total body stretch routine-lower back stretch-knee hug to chest

Option 4

Kneel on the mat with buttocks towards heels and body gently folded foward. Extend arms out in front and relax. If it’s more comfortable, you can place your arms by your sides.

Full body stretch routine-lower back stretch-child's pose

Abdominals

Lie on your stomach with legs straight and feet slightly apart. Place elbows under shoulders and pull back on them whilst keeping chin up. You should feel a stretch through the front of the body.

Full body stretch routine-lying down abdominal stretch

Groin

Option 1

Begin in a seated position. Bend knees in front of you and then let them flop out to the sides whilst placing soles of feet together. Sit up tall and use the elbows to gently push the knees down towards the ground if you’d like to enhance the stretch.

To make this a more beginner-friendly option, sit on a cushion to raise your hips. This will help reduce any pull on your lower back.

Full body stretch routine-seated groin stretch basic
Full body stretch routine-seated groin stretch-extra

Option 2

The standing version from my pregnancy stretches article offers an easier option for stretching into the inner thigh and groin. Take a wide stance with feet turned out slightly. Gently bend into one knee until you feel a stretch through the inner thigh of the other leg. Rest your hands just above your knee for extra support.

Inner thigh stretch

Glutes

Option 1

Lie down on your back. Keep one leg extended, and bend the other one whilst pulling it in towards the chest. If you need to enhance the stretch, gently pull the knee towards the opposite shoulder.

Full body stretch routine-lying down glute stretch-single knee hug

Option 2

Lie down on your back. Keep one leg extended, and bend the other one. Take one hand onto the knee and one onto the foot of the same leg. Draw your knee and foot in towards you.  It may feel better to pull on either the knee or foot more. Do what feels best to get a great stretch.  

You may feel even more of a stretch through the side of the buttock if you draw the knee slightly towards the opposite side of the body. Do whatever feels best and make sure you’re not feeling any strain in your knee or back. If you choose this option, ensure you keep both hips on the floor. 

Full body stretch routine-glute stretch lying down

Piriformis (buttocks) stretch

This is a great addition to your at-home full body stretch routine, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting. However, if you’re very tight through your hips or lower back, you might find that you can’t get into the stretch effectively, or that you end up straining the knee. If this is the case, please stick with one of the previous glute stretches.

Lie down on your back. Bend both legs. Cross one leg over the other, letting the foot rest on the other knee, and letting the top knee drop to the side to open the hips. Reach through and pull the bottom leg towards you. 

Start position:

Full body stretch routine-lying down piriformis stretch-start position

Finish position:

Full body stretch routine-lying down piriformis stretch- position 2

Hip flexor stretch

Option 1

Stand up and place one foot in front of the other. Lift the back heel up and tilt the pelvis underneath/push the hips forward to feel a stretch through the front of the back leg. Try squeezing your buttocks to feel a more enhanced stretch.

All over body stretch routine- standing hip flexor stretch

Option 2

From a kneeling position, step one leg through in front of the other (take a big step). Bend into the front leg, whilst pushing the hip forward gently and keeping hips square to the front. Rest the hands on top of the front knee for a little support, if you need to. You should feel the stretch through the front of the hip (back leg). 

Full body stretch routine-kneeling hip flexor stretch

Note that you can also perform this stretch with a closer stance. Simply use the technique highlighted in the standing version above (tilt the hips under and try squeezing the buttocks). For some people, the longer stance is too intense.

Quadriceps (front of thigh) stretch

Option 1

Stand up tall and take your weight onto one leg. Bend the other knee by taking your foot up behind you and take hold of that foot with the hand on the same side. Pull your foot towards your buttock whilst pushing your hip forward gently. Ensure knees stay close together and hips stay square to the front.  Use a wall for support if it is needed for balance. 

Full body stretch routine-standing quad stretch-front of thigh-side view
Full body stretch routine-standing quad stretch-front of thigh

Depending on your flexibility, you might find it difficult to take a hold of your foot. A good option for those who have less flexibility is to place your back foot on a chair. Instead of reaching back to take hold of your foot, simply bend into your supporting leg, and tuck your hips under to gently push your hip forward. Keep your body upright throughout.

Option 2

Lie down on your stomach with your body extended. Bend one knee by taking your foot up behind you and take hold of that foot with the hand on the same side. Pull your foot towards your buttocks whilst pushing your hip towards the floor. Ensure knees stay close together and hips stay square to the front. 

Full body stretching routine-lying down single leg quad stretch

Hamstring stretches (back of leg)

Option 1

Stand up and take one leg out in front of you. Put most of your weight into the leg at the back and bend this leg and take your upper body weight down through it. The other leg remains extended (or slightly bent). Pull toes back towards your face until you feel a stretch through the back of the leg. You can enhance this stretch by placing the extended leg on a box or step. 

Full body stretch routine-standing single leg hamstring stretch

Option 2

Lie down on your back. Bend one leg whilst keeping foot on the floor, and extend the other leg up above the hip. Place hands around the back of the thigh or calf and pull the leg towards you until you feel a stretch through the back of your leg. Keep your leg as straight as possible. Try both flexed and point toes – you will feel the stretch into different parts of the muscle. 

Full body stretch routine-lying down hamstring stretch-bottom leg bent

For a more advanced version, you can extend both legs, as in the photo below.

Full body stretch routine-lying down single leg hamstring stretch-both legs extended

Long calf muscle stretch (back of lower leg – gastrocnemius)

Let’s move into the lower areas of the body to finish off your at-home full body stretch routine.

Option 1

Stand up and take a step forward. Keep both feet facing forward and heels on the ground, and bend the front leg, whilst keeping the back leg straight. Bend your front knee as much as you need to. If you can’t feel a stretch, try taking a longer step. 

Full body stretch routine-standing long calf stretch-gastrocnemius

Option 2

Stand on a box or step with one foot halfway off. Let the heel drop down as low as you can whilst keeping the leg straight.

Full body stretching routine for flexibility-long calf stretch on step-gastrocnemius

Option 3

Start this stretch on hands and knees. Keep back straight and shoulders back and down away from ears. Extend one leg straight behind you and push the heel of this leg down towards the floor to feel the stretch through the back of the lower leg.  

Full body stretch routine-long calf stretch on floor option 1

You can try a more advanced version of this stretch by taking the knee off the floor, as in the picture below.

Full body stretch routine-long calf stretch on floor-option 2

Short calf muscle stretch (back of lower leg- soleus and achilles)

Option 1

Stand up and take a small step forward. Keep both feet facing forward and heels on the ground, and bend both legs, whilst keeping weight through the back leg. You should feel the stretch through the lower back part of the back leg, right down to the Achilles tendon. 

Full body stretch routine-standing short calf stretch-soleus

Option 2

Stand on a box or step with one foot halfway off. Push the heel down as low as you can whilst bending the knee. You should feel this down into the Achilles tendon.

Full body stretching routine for flexibility-lower calf stretch on step-soleus

Option 3

Kneel down on a mat or the floor on one leg, with the other foot placed next to the knee. Sit your buttocks down towards your heel, and keep the heel of the other foot on the ground. Lean body weight forward to feel a stretch through the back of the lower leg, and into the Achilles tendon. 

List of stretches-lower calf stretch on floor-soleus

Front of lower leg

Stand up tall and take one foot slightly behind the other. With this leg, take the top of your foot and place it in contact with the floor. Put your weight down through it by pushing towards the ground, and feet the stretch through the front of the lower leg and foot. Switch sides and repeat.

Full body stretch routine-anterior lower leg stretch

What is a good 5-10 minute stretching routine to do after calisthenics training?

Post-workout is a good time for static stretching. However, you might want a shorter version of the full body stretch routine above. Ideally, your post-workout stretches should be specific to the muscles you have trained and want to re-lengthen. If you’ve done an upper body workout, then focus on upper body stretches. If you’ve done a lower body workout, stretch out those muscles. 

I’ve put together a short stretch routine video, which you can watch and follow along with below. It’s a general full body stretch routine that covers the major muscles in the body. Most of it is done lying on the floor, or a mat, so it’s a really nice relaxing way to end a workout. If you enjoy it, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel for more!

So now you’re sorted with some great options for a full body stretch routine that’s suitable for beginners! In case you’d like a simple workout to go with your stretches, grab my free bodyweight workout download via the button below. There are seven exercises, with three progression levels for each. That way, you can choose the one that’s right for you.

You can use my dynamic stretch video at the top of this post for your pre workout stretches, and my static stretch video to do after the exercises.

I’d love to hear how you get on with your stretches. Please join the conversation, and leave any questions and comments below!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page].

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Elly McGuinness

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