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10 Minute Stretch Routine For Better Mornings

By: Jeremiah Schulze

Have you ever woken up after a long night’s sleep, feeling like you just aren’t warmed up enough for the day? Do you ever feel like you just need a few minutes to prepare yourself before getting on with your daily obligations? This stretch series is ultimately designed for any and all people, as a “10 minute” daily routine to get you up and moving correctly, pain free, first thing in the morning. Shake off that morning fatigue and stiffness, get your blood flowing, joints moving and have a better day.

Overhead Reach with Hip Hinging

  • Standing with feet hip width apart, reach both arms straight up as high as you can pushing your chest and head forward while thinking about touching the top of your head to the ceiling. Actively try to lift your rib cage while taking a deep belly breath. Do not arch your torso backwards to try and achieve more length and do not tilt your head to look up to the ceiling.
  • Keeping a small bend in your knees hinge forward at the hips placing weight through the heels of your feet. Keep your back as straight as it was in Step 1 and without compromising a neutral spine. Let your arms fall down to your sides and reach for your toes. Remember, the goal is not to touch your toes; it is to learn how to maintain a neutral spine (keep your back flat) and stretch your glutes and hamstrings. This is a great stretch that teaches you to use your hips as a pivot point instead of your lower back.

Standing Lunge With Reach

  • Step out with your right foot forward as if you were about to squat down into a lunge step. Slightly bend your knees, place your right hand on a nearby wall for balance and then reach straight overhead with your left hand. While in this position, gently ease your pelvis forwards without arching your low back. You should begin to feel a stretch in the front side of your left hip. Then, continue to rotate your torso to the left about 45 degrees and reach your arm over your head and back towards your balance wall, taking a belly breath as you do so. Allow a small arch in your low back at this point and allow your torso to follow the path of your arm towards your balance wall. Hold this position taking deep breaths and breaks as needed for up to a minute per side. Complete on both sides.
    • If you are feeling particularly tight with this stretch and you’d like to try more, then refer to video #7 in our rehab video archive, Psoas Stretches for Low Back Pain.

Assisted Squat

  • Find a nearby door frame and set your feet just outside shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly. Grab the door frame with both hands and lean back into your heels. Squat down, pushing your hips back like you are sitting into a chair, but do not allow your torso to fall forwards. Keep your chest up, breathe at the top of the squat and exhale as you squat down. Then, breathe and exhale twice in the bottom of the squat using your lower abdominals before standing up and repeating for 2-3 more reps. Remember to keep your focus on easing your hips back and don’t squat lower than you can maintain a neutral spine position.  

McKenzie Push Up

  • The McKenzie Pushup allows us to achieve safe spinal extension, which is essentially bending backwards. Lay on your stomach on the ground with your palms on the floor, elbows tucked by your sides and arms parallel to each other. From here, gentle press up. First emphasize extension with the muscles of the lower back and the glutes first using the arms solely for balance and minimal assistance. Never let your lower ribs leave the ground. After around 5 reps, place your arms out in front of you for support and relax all the muscles you were flexing to extend at the back.
  • After you have relaxed, pull your arms toward you as if you were about to drag your body across the ground. While doing this maintain a relaxed lower back and allow some gentle distraction to occur along your spine, hold for 30 seconds taking full belly breaths. RELAX!
  • If you find relief  with this exercise and you want more, then go through the whole drill in video #2 of our rehab video libary, McKenzie Pushup for Low Back.

Spine Twist

  • Laying on your left side, draw your right knee towards your chest until your right hip makes a 90 degree angle. Take your left hand and place it on your right knee. Then, relax your torso take a deep belly breath and gently exhale while you twist your torso to the right. Reach your right arm away from you to your right at a 90 degree angle to your torso. Gently press your right shoulder towards the ground while maintaining contact with your right knee on the ground. Relax for a moment releasing all air and tension; then, inhale as you bring yourself back to the starting position. Repeat 2-3 times and then complete this on the opposite side.  
    • If you find relief with this stretch, need more direction, or feel particularly tight in this position, then go through the whole drill in video #25 of our rehab video archive, Spine Twist Stretch.

“Armpit Sniff” Stretch

  • Standing straight up, draw your chin in (almost giving yourself a double chin) turn your head to the right. Take your right hand over your head and pull your nose toward your armpit. Bring your left hand behind you and reach it as far as you can passed your right hip and try to see your fingertips. You should feel some lengthening in the left side of your neck and/or behind your left shoulder blade. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat other side.
    • If you are feeling particularly tight with this stretch and the morning stretch routine just isn’t enough stretch for you, then refer to video #12, Neck Stretching Series, in our rehab video archive, for the full neck stretch routine

Self Hug

  • Standing straight up, draw your chin in (almost giving yourself a double chin) and make an equal sign with both forearms before hugging yourself as tight as you can. Then drop your head forwards and round your upper back. Take several deep belly breaths and on one of your exhalations squeeze your arms even tighter. Continue to drop your head and round your upper back. After completing several rounds of this drill, relax your posture and bring your spine back to a neutral position. In one motion roll your shoulders back pinching your shoulder blades together without shrugging your shoulders. Pause here for a moment and then relax back to a neutral position.

Remember that all of these stretches are designed to be pain free and approachable for everyone. If you are experiencing sharp pain or overwhelming discomfort in any position, then omit that stretch from your routine. Be sure to get professional help if you have been experiencing pain in any particular area that we are stretching in this series, before your symptoms flare back up with this routine. Otherwise, enjoy this series and use it to add 10 minutes of daily stretching to your morning routine!