The World’s Greatest Stretch is an essential part of my routine — here’s how to do it

 Man doing the world's greatest stretch.
Credit: Getty Images

When a move is called the World’s Greatest Stretch, it really has to produce the goods, so it’s fortunate that the World’s Greatest Stretch really is one that everyone should be doing, because it targets so many different parts of the body.

I added it to my recovery routine for after runs on the advice of a physio a year ago, and have been doing it regularly ever since. It’s not only one to do after workouts either, because I’ve found it helps to get my muscles ready before I start a run or a strength workout, and it’s also perfect for loosening up after a few hours sitting at a desk. Basically, there’s really no bad time to do the World’s Greatest Stretch.

You can also do it anywhere, and it only takes a minute or two. I’ve added it into my yoga for runners routine and prefer to do it on a yoga mat if you’re on a hard surface, but I’ve also done it at the running track before my workouts, and on sidewalks too, though the latter can be a little embarrassing.

How To Do The World’s Greatest Stretch

There are a few integral parts of the World’s Greatest Stretch, but it’s also a move that you’ll see done with minor variations, so you can adjust it slightly to make it work best for you.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing the World’s Greatest Stretch:

  1. From standing reach down and walk your hands out until you’re in a push-up position.

  2. Bring your left foot forward and place it outside your left hand, so you’re in a deep lunge position with your back leg straight. The stretch is usually done with the back leg raised, but you can put it on the floor.

  3. Lift your left arm up and drop your left elbow towards the floor, then rotate your torso and stretch your left arm up towards the ceiling.

  4. Rotate your torso to bring your left arm back down and reach under your standing arm.

  5. Do five rotations on your left side, then five on your right.

You can also return to a standing position between each rotation, as demonstrated in the video below, or just hold the position with your arm stretched up to the ceiling for five breaths to deepen the stretch.

During my recovery yoga I will do five rotations on one side then hold the stretch for five deep breaths on that side, before doing five rotations and five breaths on the other side.

World’s Greatest Stretch: muscles worked

The World’s Greatest Stretch is a full-body stretch, mainly working the glutes, hamstrings, hips, chest and back muscles. It also helps with mobility in your thoracic spine, and stretches the obliques muscles in your core.

What are the benefits of the World’s Greatest Stretch?

The World’s Greatest Stretch produces a lot of benefits and has no downsides — if you’re flexible enough to do it and have a spare minute throughout the day, it’s worth doing. Here are the main benefits I’ve noticed from doing the stretch regularly over the past year.

It’s great for tight muscles after a run

The main reason I started doing the stretch is to loosen tight glutes and hips after runs during my marathon training. I run every day and try to do yoga for runners two or three times a week, and did the World’s Greatest Stretch as part of that yoga. Now I do the stretch even on days I’m not doing a full yoga routine, because, along with the pigeon stretch, I find it the most effective for loosening up the muscles in my glutes in particular.

It’s the perfect way to break up the working day

After an hour or two sitting at a desk, where my posture is rarely very good, I like to do the World’s Greatest Stretch to loosen up my back and hamstrings in particular. If you add the walk out section to the move and stretch your arms up to the ceiling while standing, then it really does help to wake up all the muscles that have gone to sleep while sitting, and stretch out the back.

It only takes a minute or two and you’ll feel a lot better when you sit back at your desk, or if you’re about to head for a lunch workout it’s the perfect way to get the muscles moving again before you start.

It’s ideal in warm ups for workouts

For the most part I don’t like to do static stretches before workouts — generally I prefer to do dynamic stretches with some movement before, and then static stretches after. The World’s Greatest Stretch can be done as a static or a dynamic stretch, and the latter is a great way to warm up for pretty much any kind of session.

Along with doing the rotations I like to move my hips around while doing the stretch before a workout, whether it’s a strength session or a hard run. The variety of muscles you stretch makes it great for full-body workouts in the gym, especially those that involve twisting moves like the Russian twist or woodchop.

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