Stretches For Calisthenics

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Doing stretches before and after your calisthenics session is extremely important. Often, when people start calisthenics, they want to build strength and get as strong as possible. They want to be strong enough to be able to do a handstand or a muscle up. But they don’t think about training flexibility as an equally important element of their training. 

The thing is, if you train flexibility, you can unlock the potential to develop even more strength.  If you don’t, your strength will eventually be limited by your undeveloped range of motion.

Mobility is one of the keys to longevity and training. It allows you to be mobile and maximize your progress in anything you do, it reduces pain and discomfort on your muscles and joints, and it lowers the risk of injuries. Do you want to get the most out of your training? Read on to find out what are the best stretches for calisthenics. To supplement your learning even more, you can follow along with Pat Chadwick in the video above.

Calisthenics Stretches

According to a physiotherapist at Havard, David Nolan says “A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen regularly, it should be daily”. Harvard Health reinforces the point that tight muscles can create weakness as they are unable to extend all the way, which puts you in danger of joint pains, muscle damage, and strains.

Stretch Group #1: Wrist Stretches

The tiniest things can often make the biggest impact, in particular when it comes to calisthenics and handstands. Your wrists are used to stabilize and support a considerable amount of load in all sorts of positions when working out. To keep your wrist healthy and avoid injury, you should stretch your wrists as a part of your warm-up routine as they are one of the important foundations for holding your weight during exercise.

Forward Wrist Strech

  1. Start on all fours with your hands flat on the floor and fingers facing forward.
  2. Rock gently back and forth for 10 reps, followed by holding a forward-leaning position for 10 seconds.

Backward Wrist Stretch

  1. Begin on all fours with your palms on the floor and fingers facing towards your knees.
  2. Shift your body backward towards your heels while keeping your palms flat on the ground, followed by rocking forward.
  3. Repeat this for 10 reps, followed by holding a backward-leaning position for 10 seconds.

Stretch Group #2: Arm Stretches

Crossbody Shoulder Stretch

This is a great stretch that targets your posterior and anterior deltoids, and the lats. To do this you will: 

  1. Start by standing or sitting tall. Stretch your right arm to the right across your body.
  2. Bend your left arm at the elbow to pull your right arm towards your body, stretching the right shoulder.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Stretch Group #3: Tricep Stretches

Overhead Tricep and Shoulder Stretch

This stretch will target your triceps and your shoulders, and if you lean your body to the side it will also stretch your obliques. This is great to alleviate any tension in your triceps from doing dips

  1.  Start by standing or sitting tall. Reach your left arm up towards the ceiling followed by bending the elbow to reach your left hand for your upper back. 
  2. Place your right hand on top of your left elbow and lightly pull your left arm down so that your left-hand slides down your upper back. 
  3. Lean your body to the right side. You should feel a nice stretch on your shoulders, triceps, and left obliques.
  4. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Stretch Group #4: Upper Body Stretches

Puppy Pose

The puppy pose is similar to the child’s pose stretch and is great for opening up your shoulders. It is ideal for improving your shoulder mobility for the handstand. 

  1. Begin in a tabletop position where you are on all fours with shoulders stacked on top of your wrists, and hips stacked on top of your knees. 
  2. Walk your hands forward to lower your chest down toward the ground. Keep your hips stacked on top of your knees. Lower until your forehead touches the ground. 
  3. Engage your arms by pressing your palms down into the ground, lifting the elbows and forearms off the ground. Pull your armpits down to feel a nice stretch on your shoulders. Allow your neck to be loose and relaxed.
  4. Hold this position for 20 seconds. 

Upward Dog

The upward dog is one of the easiest back-bending stretches that you can practice. It opens up your chest, engages the chest muscles, strengthens the back muscles, lengthens your spine, and stretches your wrists. This is an ideal stretch after doing core exercises such as the Russian twists and leg raises.

  1. Start by lying face down on the ground with your legs extended and spread hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the ground in line with your waist. Your fingers should be facing forward.
  3. Press your palms into the ground to gradually extend your arms and lift your torso. The only parts that should be touching the ground are your palms, hips, and legs.
  4. Hold this pose for 20 seconds.

Thread the Needle

This stretch will ease any tension you may have in your shoulders and allows for a slight twist in the spine. Do a lot of pike push ups or any push ups in general? Then this would be your go-to stretch.

  1. Begin in a tabletop position with your wrists below your shoulders, and your knees below your hips.
  2. Reach your right arm towards the ceiling, twisting your torso outward to the right. Hold this for 5 seconds. Followed by threading your right arm under your body to your left, pressing your right shoulder into the ground. Pull your shoulder towards the ceiling while keeping it on the ground to feel a nice stretch.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds, followed by switching sides.

Prone Chest Stretch

This stretch allows you to target the chest and front shoulders, allowing you to have a mobile upper body. Try this stretch before and after a chest workout, it will alleviate tightness in your pec area. 

  1. Lie flat on your stomach with both arms extended out to your sides, creating a T-shape with the body. 
  2. Bring your left hand next to your right shoulder, keeping your right arm fully extended.
  3. Rolle your body to the right handstand, pushing with your left hand, bend your left knee, and place your left foot flat on the floor behind you for stability. 
  4. Hold this pose for 20 seconds, followed by repeating on the opposite side. Don’t forget to smile!

Stretch Group #5: Mid Back Stretches

Cat-Cow Stretch

The cat-cow is a simple, yet effective stretch that increases the flexibility in the back muscles. It improves circulation in the discs of your spine. 

  1. Begin in a tabletop position aligning your knees underneath your hips and your wrists underneath your shoulders. 
  2. Inhale as your arch your back to lower your belly towards the ground into a cow pose, lifting your chin and chest. Take a gaze up at the ceiling without cranking your neck. This phase should take 5 seconds.
  3. Exhale as you move into the cat pose by drawing your belly to your spine and rounding your back toward the ceiling. Relax your neck and look down towards the floor. This phase should take 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat this sequence 5 times. 

Child’s Pose

This stretch may not seem like much to the untrained eye, but it stretches your spine, quadriceps, hips, and ankles.

  1. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position.
  2. Sit back on your heels and divide your knees from each other so that your torso can rest in between your thighs. 
  3. Extend your arms overhead with your palms on the floor and rest your forehead on the ground.
  4. Hold this pose for 20 seconds.

Supine Spinal Twist 

The supine spinal twist stretches your back muscles, glutes, and hips. It allows your spine to relax and lengthen which encourages spine mobility.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent so that it is stacked on top of your wrists. 
  2. Stretch your arms out to your side to create a T-shaped body. Keeping your back flat on the ground, rotate your hips to the right to lower your legs down until your right knee touches the ground. Hold this for 20 seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Stretch Group #6: Glute Stretches

Seated Glute Stretch

This is a simple stretch that alleviates tightness in your glutes, hips, and lower back. After a heavy lower body session of doing squats, try out this stretch to ease tension in your glute area.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, and back straight. 
  2. Lift your right leg and place your right ankle beside your left knee with your feet flat on the ground. 
  3. Wrap your left arm around your right knee to pull your right leg towards your torso to deepen the stretch on your right glute. 
  4. Hold this position for 20 seconds, followed by repeating on the opposite side.

Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is a great stretch that increases the flexibility of the hips, lower back, and glutes. This is ideal if you sit or slouch for a prolonged period. After doing lots of lunges on your leg day, be sure to stretch as tight quads and hip flexors can cause lower back and knee pains.

  1. Start on all fours. 
  2. Bring your right knee towards your right wrist and your right ankle should be roughly in front of your left hip, creating a 90 degrees angle on your right leg.
  3. Extend your left leg back, point your toes, and your heels up towards the ceiling. Keep your chest up and torso upright. You should feel a nice stretch along your tight hips and glutes. 
  4. You can walk your hands forward to bring your belly towards the ground to deepen the stretch.
  5. Hold this for 20 seconds, followed by switching sides.

Glute Stretch

This is another awesome stretch that can counteract some of the effects of sitting for a prolonged period of time and help you to drive harder during your runs and leg workouts.

  1. Lie on your back with your shoulders on the ground. Bend your knees and draw them towards your chest.
  2. Place your right ankle on your left knee and loop your right arm through the gap that is created from your right leg to pull your left knee towards your torso. Feel the stretch along with your glutes.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds, followed by switching sides.

The Takeaway

Tight muscles are common for people who work out, and they’re also common for people who work at desk jobs and sit in front of computer screens for most of their day. It’s important to stretch all of your muscles to reduce tension and create more range of motion. This will help reduce injuries and enable you to unlock your full potential in calisthenics. 

Always take your time to warm up as you would not want to regret it when you get injured. If you want to deepen your mind-body connection through a series of stretches, breathing exercises, and relaxation, book a consultation with one of our coaches that can help you to increase your mobility and increase your overall health.


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