Military Muscle | 6 therapeutic stretches to help you look & perform better

Military Muscle | 6 therapeutic stretches to help you look & perform better

You’ve probably heard of the two principal styles of stretching: dynamic and static. 

Dynamic — holding the stretch for about a two-count — looks almost like a continuous movement. The focus is on warming up and loosening the muscles.

Static — some call it “passive” — is the familiar 20- to 30-second stretch typically done at the end of an event or competition when the muscles are already warm and ready for the lengthening that they will undergo.

These static stretches are normally done in two, sometimes three, reps. The most lengthening happens on the second and third rep.

The stretches listed here are static and work you through the majority of your muscles. Do these after your workout. If you have a stretching day in your plan, do some mild exercise first so your muscles are warm prior to stretching.

These stretches will make you feel better, look better and give you greater success in your workouts or athletic endeavors (tennis, golf, softball, swimming, kayaking, etc.).

Except for the core stretch, which also can be done as a dynamic movement, perform these daily as:

30-second hold

2 reps

3 sets

Go up to multiple times a day if you are really tight.


Kneeling stability ball lat stretch (top)

This stretch loosens the lats and helps you keep good posture.

Choose the right size ball. Your fitness center should know which one is right for you based on your height. But here’s a cheat sheet: 4’8” to 5’5”: medium; 5’6” to 6’0”: large; 6’0”-6’5”: extra large.

Kneel on the floor and place the ball 2 to 3 feet in front of you.

Place your hands on the ball, palms facing each other, 4 to 6 inches apart.

In a dual motion, lean forward at the hips while pressing your shoulders toward the floor. It is important to keep your lower back straight.


Sleeper stretch (not shown)

The name refers only to the position. This stretch loosens the rotator cuff muscles — it doesn’t make you go to sleep.

Lie down on your right shoulder, knees tucked slightly in front and bent at 90 degrees. Your left shoulder should be slightly behind the your right one, right arm perpendicular to your trunk and your right hand pointing toward the ceiling.

Use your left hand to grasp your right, then gently push your right hand toward the floor, rotating at your shoulder.

Repeat lying on your left shoulder.


OFF MilMuscle stretch

Biceps stretch

Tight biceps muscles keep your arms bent and affect your shoulders’ range of motion.

Hold your left arm straight and reach behind you, grasping a bar (palms up) that is below your shoulder level.

Shift your weight forward until you feel the stretch. Hold.

Switch arms after each set.


OFF MilMuscle stretch

Kneeling hip flexor stretch 

This one loosens the muscles at the top of the quad, keeping the pelvis in the correct position and reducing stress on the lower back.

Kneel on your right knee. Your left foot will be on the floor, knee bent at 90 degrees.

Reach your left hand as high as you can, contract your right glute, and brace your abs.

Bend your trunk from the waist directly to the left over your forward leg. Keep your left arm in the same position in relation to your trunk.

Rotate your trunk to the left and reach your left hand as far behind you as you can, keeping your arm straight.

Repeat from the opposite knee.


OFF MilMuscle stretch

Lying glute stretch 

This mainstay among runners can fend off lower back pain.

Lie on your back on the floor, knees bent and hips elevated. Cross one leg over the other so that the ankle of the top leg lies directly on the thigh of the bottom leg.

Keeping the top ankle in contact with the thigh of the bottom leg, grab the knee of your top leg and gently pull toward your chest. It is important to keep the ankle in contact with the bottom leg during the stretch, pulling the foot of the bottom leg off the floor.

Switch legs and repeat.


OFF MilMuscle stretch

Half-kneeling rotation

A must-do for those who sit for long periods, this exercise improves upper-spine mobility and enhances rotation. Do this daily (5-second hold, 15 reps, 3 sets):

Put a broomstick or PVC pipe across your upper back.

With trunk upright, kneel down on your right knee, with your left knee at 90 degrees, foot on the floor. Brace your abs throughout the stretch.

Rotate your right shoulder toward your left knee and hold for 5 seconds.

Slowly return to center, repeat for required reps, then switch to the other side.


Demonstrating this workout is Patricia Kime. Kime is a health writer for Military Times and wife of a Marine Corps retiree. She is a two-time marathoner who is training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Thomas

Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Thomas has been our Military Muscle columnist since 2007. He’s the director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. He’s his base’s lead trainer, a wounded warrior program facilitator and the Navy nutrition counselor there. His special emphasis is on fitness for the military retired population.

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