12 Morning Stretches

Why You Should Start Your Day With Stretches

Morning stretches are a great way to maintain or increase your flexibility while getting your muscles ready to be put to work.

Twelve morning stretches worth adding to your routine include:

  • Prone press-up
  • Neck mobility stretch
  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Morning shoulder stretch
  • Standing quad stretch
  • Knees to chest
  • Tricep stretch
  • Side stretch
  • Child's pose
  • Glute bridge
  • Lumbar flexion stretch
  • Spinal twist

Read on for how and why to do each of these morning stretches, as well as some things to consider before you try them.

How Morning Stretches Can Be Helpful

Morning stretches can help you relieve sleep-related pain or joint stiffness that you may feel upon waking.

Stretching first thing in the morning can also help improve blood flow and flexibility, so your body ready to take on the activities of the day.

Some people also say it improves mood, helping you get things started on the right foot.

Safety Considerations

If you're not used to exercising, it's best to begin a morning stretch routine slowly.

Don't try to stretch more than is comfortable. Your flexibility will improve over time as you continue to do these exercises each day.

Stretching should not be painful. If you do experience pain, especially a sharp or shooting pain, stop doing the stretch immediately. Give yourself some time to recover before resuming that activity.

It is also important to speak to your healthcare provider before you start any exercise routine. This is especially true if you have an injury or a chronic condition such as arthritis. 

Prone Press-Up

Start your morning by protecting your back with the prone press-up exercise. This is a type of McKenzie exercise that helps to keep your spine in a good position to start your day:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands in a push-up position.
  2. Relax your back and hips, and slowly push your upper body up, allowing your back to gently arch.
  3. Hold this position for 2 seconds, and then release.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

This exercise is not safe or recommended for people who have spinal stenosis, however. If you have back problems, check with your doctor before doing any back stretches.

Neck Mobility Stretch

Stretch 2
Dr. Laura Inverarity

A simple way to get your neck moving is with the neck rotation stretch.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Remain seated on the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor.
  2. Rotate your neck in a circle, touching your ears to your shoulders.
  3. Rotate slowly in a clockwise direction 5 times.
  4. Rotate slowly in a counterclockwise direction 5 times.

Shoulder Shrugs

You can do the shoulder shrug with both shoulders or one at a time

Getty Images / bymuratdeniz

Get your shoulders loose with the seated shoulder shrug, like this:

  1. Remain seated on the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor.
  2. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears.
  3. Repeat 10 more times.

Morning Shoulder Stretch

Stretch 4
Dr. Laura Inverarity

Keep your rotator cuff and shoulders healthy with the overhead shoulder stretch. Here's how:

  1. Stand next to your bed.
  2. Lace your fingers together.
  3. Raise your hands above your head, palms upward.
  4. Lift up stretching your rib cage.
  5. Hold for a count of 10.
  6. Repeat 5 more times.

Be sure to watch for any pinching or painful sensations in your shoulders as you do this. If you feel shoulder pain while stretching, stop the exercise immediately.

Standing Quad Stretch

Photo of a young woman stretching her thigh.

Cultura RM Exclusive / Jordan Lutes / Getty Images

To stretch your quadriceps muscles in the front of your thighs:

  1. Stand up and hold onto something stable.
  2. Bend one knee up and grab your ankle with one hand.
  3. Hold your leg up for 15 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Knees to Chest

This stretch can be performed while you're still in bed. Here's how it's done:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees.
  3. Slowly raise both knees and grab one knee with each hand.
  4. Bring your knees as close to your chest as you can.
  5. Breathe deeply for a count of 5, then slowly lower your knees.

Tricep Stretch

This exercise is good for your shoulders and triceps. It can be performed standing or seated.

  1. Extend your right arm across the front of your body.
  2. Place your left arm vertically over your right elbow.
  3. Gently pull your right arm closer to your body.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths, then slowly return your arms to your side.
  5. Repeat, this time starting with your left arm.

Side Stretch

The side stretch can be done while seated cross-legged on the floor or while standing.

  1. Make sure your back is straight. If standing, keep your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Raise your arms and clasp your hands together.
  3. Slowly and gently lean to one side until you can feel the stretch.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths.
  5. Still clasping your hands together, slowly lean towards the opposite side.
  6. Hold for 5 breaths.

Child's Pose

This yoga pose stretches your arms, shoulders, back, hips, pelvis, glutes, and hamstrings. It can be performed in bed or on the floor.

  1. Begin in a kneeling position. Keep your knees hip-width apart.
  2. Lower your body towards your knees.
  3. Stretch your arms out with your palms down.
  4. Keep lowering your body until your chest is close to the mattress or floor.
  5. Keep stretching your arms away from you as far as is comfortable.
  6. Hold for 5 breaths.

Glute Bridge

This stretch is great for people who do desk work or spend a lot of time in a seated position throughout the day. Do this exercise on the floor.

  1. Lie on your back with your arms straight at your side and your palms facing down.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping them hip-width apart.
  3. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  4. Lift your hips, keeping your arms flat at your side. Your weight should be on your feet and you should feel the stretch in your glutes.
  5. Hold for three to 5 breaths.
  6. Lower your hips slowly until you are back in the starting position.

The glute bridge should not be performed by anyone in the third trimester of pregnancy. You should also avoid this stretch if you have any back injuries or problems with your abdomen, knees, or ankles, including recent surgeries.

Lumbar Flexion Stretch

Photo of a person bending forward.
Dr. Laura Inverarity

To gently stretch your low back, perform the seated lumbar flexion exercise. This is a perfect stretch if you have spinal stenosis.

  1. Sit on the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor.
  2. Bend over, reaching your hands toward your feet.
  3. Round your back.
  4. Hold for a count of 10.
  5. Repeat 5 more times.

You must be careful with this stretch if you have a bulging or herniated disc in your spine. This exercise may place increased stress on your herniated disc, causing pain. If that happens, stop the exercise and check in with your healthcare provider right away.

Spinal Twist

This exercise stretches your neck, shoulders, back, chest, and glutes. It can be done in bed or while on the floor.

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees.
  2. Stretch your arms out straight to the side so your body makes a T shape.
  3. Bring your knees together and raise them above the bed.
  4. Lower your knees towards one side of your body. Ideally, they should rest on the bed or floor.
  5. Turn your head to the opposite side.
  6. Hold for 5 breaths.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat on the opposite side.  

Don't do this stretch if you have an injury in your knees, hips, or back. 

A Word From Verywell

These stretches can make you feel ready to tackle your day. Consider adding a few others in the morning or throughout your day as well.

For example, you can rotate your wrists and ankles clockwise and counterclockwise while you are sitting or standing at work to prevent stiffness and help keep up your energy.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hotta K, Behnke BJ, Arjmandi B, et al. Daily muscle stretching enhances blood flow, endothelial function, capillarity, vascular volume and connectivity in aged skeletal muscle. J Physiol (Lond). 2018;596(10):1903-1917. doi:10.1113/JP275459

  2. Cambron JA, Schneider M, Dexheimer JM, et al. A pilot randomized controlled trial of flexion-distraction dosage for chiropractic treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014;37(6):396-406. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.05.005

By Laura Inverarity, DO
 Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.