4 Morning Stretches That Will Wake Up Your Tired Muscles

As a non-morning person, I am very aware that I miss out on some of the benefits of a.m. workouts. The biggest one for me? Morning exercisers claim that getting their blood pumping first thing energizes them for the rest of the day. I’ve experienced that magic the few times I’ve been able to drag myself out of bed and to an early boxing class.

But since I know that making it to an early class regularly isn’t in the cards for me, I’ve started incorporating morning stretches into my routine as a substitute.

Getting up and moving doesn’t always have to mean doing a hard workout. It can simply mean stretching and getting your blood flowing in whatever way feels good to you. It’s still going to be beneficial.

“Stretching in the morning—particularly performing dynamic stretches—can serve as a perfect way to gradually warm and awaken the mind and body after a restful night’s sleep, preparing you for whatever the day might have in store,” Jessica Matthews, doctor of behavioral health, assistant professor of kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, registered yoga teacher, and author of Stretching to Stay Young, tells SELF.

Quick refresher: Dynamic stretching means moving through a functional range of motion at a controlled speed. It’s different than static stretching, which is sinking into a stretch and holding it for a set amount of time. It’s that dynamic movement that’s ideal for warming up your body.

“Dynamic stretching serves as a ‘rehearsal’ opportunity in which the nervous system and muscles (known as the neuromuscular system) work together to effectively prepare for the activity to follow, whether that’s gearing up for a workout or simply gearing up for the activities of the day ahead,” Matthews says via email. Stretching in the morning can also help improve your body awareness and reinforce healthy movement patterns, such as firing up your core and retracting your shoulder blades before completing overhead strength moves, Matthews adds, leading to effective, pain-free movement both in and out of the gym.

If you’re interested in starting your day with some morning stretches, try the stretching routine Matthews shares below. Do each movement for about 30 seconds, and then repeat the entire sequence a second time for a four-minute routine. Certain areas of your body may feel particularly tight and stiff in the morning, so “allow time to gradually warm, and listen to your body, working within a range of motion that feels right for you,” Matthews says.

This quick morning stretching routine is a great way to loosen up your entire body and get you ready for your day—without requiring you to set an early alarm and get out the door by a certain time. You can also sip your coffee in between stretches if you want. That’s my idea of energizing morning exercise.

1. Glute Bridge

  • Start lying on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement pattern for 30 seconds.

2. Floor Angel

  • Lie faceup with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms on the floor with elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms facing up toward the ceiling.
  • Keeping your arms in contact with floor, slide your hands overhead, straightening your elbows, until your index fingers touch each other.
  • Slide your arms back down to the starting position, keeping your arms and hands in contact with the floor throughout the movement.
  • Repeat this movement for 30 seconds, focusing on keeping the upper arms, forearms, and hands in contact with the floor, or as close as possible, throughout the movement. Avoid arching your lower back as you stretch your arms overhead.
  • If you’re unable to fully straighten your arms, keep your elbows slightly bent as you reach your arms overhead, Matthews suggests. You can also do this stretch standing with your back against the wall.

3. Cat-Cow

  • Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
  • Inhale slowly, and then, on the exhale, round your spine and drop your head toward the floor (this is the cat posture).
  • Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling as you arch your back for cow.
  • Repeat this movement pattern for 30 seconds.
  • If the all-fours position bothers your knees, do this movement in a seated position on the floor, on the edge of a bed, or in a chair, says Matthews. Place your palms on top of your thighs and gently round and arch your back. To add an upper-back stretch, shift your hips back toward your heels when your back is in the arched position.

4. Bird Dog Crunch

  • Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
  • Extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and keeping your hips in line with the floor. Think about driving your foot toward the wall behind you.
  • Squeeze your abs and draw your right elbow and left knee in to meet near the center of your body.
  • Reverse the movement and extend your arm and leg back out. Keep your left foot flexed throughout the exercise.
  • Continue this movement for 15 seconds, then switch sides. Complete the move using your left arm and right leg for 15 seconds.

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