Guzzle all the coffee you want, but if you still feel tired after three cold brews, it might help to do a few stretches as another way to boost your energy. Certain reaches, folds, and lunges can feel like a much-needed shot of espresso whenever you’re fighting to keep your eyes open at 3 p.m.
After all, stretching boosts your energy by increasing blood flow throughout your body, says Jesse Zucker, an NCSF-certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. A quick stretch sesh gets you up and moving, which in turn helps you feel more energized and awake. “Stretches also stimulate your brain and help you feel more present in the moment,” they tell Bustle. “Focusing on feeling a stretch gives you a break from your regular thoughts, and it connects your mind and body to help you feel more energized and alert.”
A stretch break is also an ideal way to relieve both mental and physical stress so you feel less exhausted and overwhelmed. If you’re stiff as a board in your desk chair, a few hamstring stretches or neck rolls might be just what you need. Zucker recommends stretching first thing in the morning to shake off sleepiness, in the middle of the afternoon to refresh yourself during work, and before you exercise to get your blood pumping.
If some pep in your step is what you’re looking for, keep reading for the 10 best stretches you can do for a boost of energy, according to trainers.
1. Forward Fold
According to Zucker, the forward folding motion of a hamstring stretch helps relieve the tension in your neck, legs, and lower back that accumulates while sitting at a desk. It also allows blood to flow to your brain so you’ll feel wide awake.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees.
- Inhale, then exhale and tuck your chin towards your chest as you roll your upper body down.
- Keep your knees bent as you relax your chest towards your thighs.
- Let your head and arms hang heavy and relax.
- Feel a stretch in your hamstrings as you lift your tailbone towards the ceiling.
- Hold your forward fold for several rounds of deep breaths.
- Roll up slowly to stand.
2. Low Lunge
A low lunge will provide a nice, deep stretch for your hip flexors and get your blood flowing, says Zucker.
- Begin in a plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
- Inhale, then exhale to step your left foot forward between your hands.
- Keep your right leg straight back behind you.
- Drop your right knee down to the floor for a deeper stretch in your right hip.
- Hold for two to three rounds of deep breaths.
- Inhale and lift your right knee.
- Exhale to step your left foot back to plank pose.
- Inhale, then exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands.
- Keep your left leg straight back behind you.
- Drop your left knee for a deeper stretch in your left hip.
This dynamic yoga stretch will wake you right up thanks to the way it warms your body, Zucker says. Combine it with a few deep breaths to help you feel more centered and focused.
- Begin in tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
- Inhale and drop your belly, arch your spine, and look up gently without craning your neck.
- Stick your tailbone up.
- Exhale and round through your spine, pressing your back into the ceiling and gently tucking your chin and tailbone.
- Continue alternating back and forth for 10 rounds, linking your breath with your movement.
4. Seated Side Stretch
Carrie A. Lamb, PT, DPT, OCS, a Pilates instructor and physical therapist with Balanced Body, recommends this juicy side stretch which can be done on the floor or in a chair. It’ll bring more oxygen into your lungs, which’ll result in more energy flowing through you.
- Keep both butt bones firmly planted on the floor or chair.
- Reach your left arm up towards the ceiling.
- Imagine your spine is growing taller as you reach.
- Continue to reach up as you inhale and bend to the right.
- Exhale as you sit back up straight.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Aim for five to eight stretches per side.
5. Wall Roll Downs
According to Lamb, this move will feel so good during a mid-day break. “Circulation is a factor here,” she tells Bustle. “Good blood flow helps deliver oxygen to your muscles and your brain.”
- Stand with your back up against a wall.
- Strep your feet about 12 inches in front of you.
- Starting with your head, gently peel your back off the wall as you bend forward vertebrae by vertebrae.
- Keep going until your tailbone touches the wall.
- Exhale and start to slowly lift yourself back up until your head touches the wall.
- Repeat five to eight times.
- For a variation, stretch your arms overhead to start, then pull your arms down the wall into a goal post position between reps.
6. Upward Dog
According to Alex Artymiak, an instructor with ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy, an upward dog is one of the best stretches you can do for an energy boost. It opens your chest, improves your posture, strengthens your legs, and stretches your hips, too.
- Start by lying flat on your belly.
- Bring your hands under your shoulders.
- Stretch your legs back and press the tops of your feet strongly into the floor.
- Engage your core to lengthen your tailbone to your heels.
- As you inhale, lift your chest forward and up.
- Press through your feet and lift your pelvis off the floor.
- Hold for a few breaths.
7. Chair Pose
Chair pose is a well-known energy-boosting stretch thanks to the way it heats up your body, Artymiak says. It’ll get your heart rate up so you’ll have no choice but to feel more awake.
- Start by standing up tall.
- Shift your weight back into your heels.
- Bend your knees and sit your hips back.
- Reach your arms up overhead.
- Slowly lower your butt a bit more.
- Hold for a few breaths.
8. World’s Greatest Stretch
Celestine Compton, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Origin, suggests a full-body move called the world’s greatest stretch. “This [stretch] encourages movement through your spine and hips, while also asking the muscles that stabilize your shoulders to kick in and get moving,” she tells Bustle.
- Begin on your hands and knees with hips directly above your knees and shoulders above your hands.
- Move into a tall plank by stepping both feet straight back behind you.
- Step one foot forward so that it rests along the outside of your hand on the same side.
- Press the opposite hand into the ground for stability.
- Reach the hand that is next to your foot up towards the ceiling, twisting your body open towards your forward leg and bringing your gaze upwards towards your fingertips.
- Bend your elbow and bring your arm down, untwisting your body so that your gaze faces the floor and your elbow almost touches the ankle of your forward leg.
- Repeat on the other side.
9. Seated Spinal Twists
- Sit on the ground with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the outside of your left thigh.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine.
- As you exhale, twist to the right.
- Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Repeat on the other side.
10. Child’s Pose
Even though it’s extra chill, Garcia says the child’s pose stretch helps improve energy levels by reducing stress and fatigue.
- Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching and knees spread apart.
- Sit back on your heels.
- Extend your arms in front of you.
- Lower your chest to the floor.
- Rest your forward on the mat and relax your arms.
- Hold for one to two minutes.
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Jesse Zucker, NCSF-certified personal trainer, yoga teacher