Imagine an exercise that could wake up every muscle in your body, get your blood flowing, and prepare you for any workout.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, that’s exactly what the “World’s Greatest Stretch” does.
This isn’t just any old stretch. It’s a full-body exercise that involves a lunge and a twist, following by a reach, activating your hips, legs, back, core, shoulders and arms, all at once.
It’s like a morning alarm clock for your muscles, getting them ready for any sort of workout or physical activity ahead.
But what does all this mean for you? Well, a good warm-up can help prevent injuries and make your workouts more effective… which is why you really don’t want to underestimate the positive impact these sorts of stretches and movements can have.
This exercise guide outlines how to perform this stretch properly, as well as muscles worked, benefits, and common mistakes to avoid.
- The world’s greatest stretch is a dynamic stretch that involves a lunge, twist and reach.
- It targets your hips, legs, back, core, shoulders and arms, all at once.
- A common mistake is to rush the movement.
- Samson stretch, thread the needle and book openers are other alternatives worth trying if world’s greatest stretch is too challenging.
What is “The World’s Greatest Stretch” Exercise?
The aptly named “world’s greatest stretch” is like a mini workout in itself.
It starts with a lunge, then adds a twist, and ends with a reach for the sky. This means it works your legs, back, and arms all at once.
As far as stretches go, it’s quite hard to find a movement that targets so many joints and muscles in one go… and that’s ultimately why it’s called the “world’s greatest stretch”. It’s not just about stretching one muscle, it’s about waking up your whole body, getting every muscle ready for action.
For us, this stretch really does live up to its name. Whatever physical activity you’re doing, a few sets of world’s greatest stretch beforehand is well worth it. (It also features on our list of the best hip mobility stretches too).
How to Perform The World’s Greatest Stretch
To do the world’s greatest stretch:
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides. This is your starting position.
- Bend forward from your waist and place your hands on the ground. Walk your hands forward until your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels, like a plank.
- Step your right foot forward, placing it next to your right hand. Your right knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle, and your left leg should be straight and strong.
- Place your left hand on the ground for support, and twist your upper body to the right. Extend your right arm towards the sky, following your hand with your eyes. You should feel a stretch in your chest and back.
- Bring your right hand back to the ground, step your right foot back to return to the high plank position, and then repeat the lunge and twist on the left side.
Remember, the key to this stretch is to move smoothly and maintain control throughout the exercise. Don’t rush through the movements. Instead, take your time to feel each stretch and engage each muscle.
Dynamic Vs Static World’s Greatest Stretch
For beginners, it’s okay if you can’t twist very far or if your lunge isn’t very deep. Just do what you can, and remember that flexibility improves with time and practice.
These muscles, located in the front of your hip, are stretched when you step into the lunge position. The more you drive your hips forward, the more you’ll feel your hip flexors being stretched.
The muscles at the back of your thigh get a good stretch when you straighten your front leg during the lunge.
Your glutes are engaged when you step forward into the lunge and when you twist your torso.
The twist in the stretch helps to mobilize the spine, particularly the thoracic spine (middle and upper back). This is often a hard-to-reach part of the body when it comes to stretching, which is why this movement is so beneficial.
Chest and Shoulders
When you reach up towards the sky during the twist, you’re opening up your chest and stretching your shoulder muscles.
The muscles located on the front of your thigh, particularly of the back leg, are engaged during the lunge.
Your abdominal and lower back muscles are engaged throughout the stretch to maintain balance and stability.
World’s Greatest Stretch Benefits
The “world’s greatest stretch” is a full-body stretch, meaning it works multiple muscles at the same time. From your legs to your back, and even your arms, every part of your body gets a good stretch. This is great because it helps to wake up all your muscles, getting them ready for your workout.
If you’re short on time, or don’t know many stretches, this single movement can achieve what 5 separate stretches might do.
But the benefits of this stretch go beyond just warming up/stretching your muscles. It also helps to improve your joint mobility too, which means you can move your body more easily and freely. This can make your workouts more effective and help you get better results.
Especially around the hips, improving the range of motion will have a noticeable impact on overall movement.
But perhaps one of the most important benefits of the “world’s greatest stretch” is that it can help to prevent injuries. By warming up your muscles and making them more flexible, it can help to reduce the risk of pulling a muscle or hurting yourself during your workout.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Rushing the Movement
This isn’t a race. The goal is to stretch and activate your muscles, not to finish as quickly as possible. Take your time with each movement, and make sure you’re feeling the stretch where you should.
We tend to finish each repetition by holding the reach for 10 seconds, to really stretch out the muscles.
When you’re in the high plank or lunge position, it’s important to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Don’t let your hips sag or your glutes stick up in the air.
Not Twisting Enough
The twist is a key part of this stretch. Make sure you’re rotating your upper body as much as you can, without straining or causing discomfort.
Not Lunging Forward Enough
When you step your foot forward into the lunge, make sure it’s next to your hand, not behind it. This helps you get a deeper stretch in your hip and thigh.
Variations and Modifications
The “world’s greatest stretch” is versatile and can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels and needs. Here are some variations and modifications you can try.
If you’re a beginner or have tight hip flexors, you might find the lunge challenging. In this case, you can modify the stretch by dropping your back knee to the ground in the lunge position. This takes some pressure off your hips and makes the stretch easier.
You could also try doing the Samson stretch to start with too. This focuses on the hip flexors and doesn’t include the twist or reach.
If the full twist is too difficult or uncomfortable, you can do a half-twist instead. Just rotate your upper body as far as you can comfortably go, even if that means you’re not reaching all the way up to the sky.
If you have balance issues or find it hard to get down on the ground, you can do a chair-assisted version of the stretch. Sit on the edge of a chair, extend one leg out in front of you, and twist your upper body towards the bent knee.
Integrating World’s Greatest Stretch into Your Workouts
The “world’s greatest stretch” is a versatile exercise that can be included in any workout routine. Here’s how to make it a part of your fitness journey.
This stretch is a fantastic way to start any workout. It wakes up your muscles and gets your blood flowing. Try doing it at the beginning of your workout, as part of your warm-up.
There’s no reason why you couldn’t do the “world’s greatest stretch” before all your workouts. It’s a great way to ensure your muscles are warmed up and ready to go.
If you’re short on time, even doing it once or twice a week as part of a stretching routine would also be beneficial.
This stretch is a great addition to any workout, whether you’re running, cycling, or lifting weights. Before a run or cycle, it can help to loosen up your legs and hips. Before a weightlifting session, it can help to activate your muscles and increase your range of motion.
The “world’s greatest stretch” is a dynamic, full-body exercise that lives up to its name.
It’s a versatile stretch that not only warms up your entire body but also improves flexibility, mobility, posture, and helps prevent injuries.
We think it’s definitely worth giving a go, and might be the movement you need to loosen up your joints and muscles (either as part of a warm-up or a stretching routine).
The stretch can also be modified to suit different fitness levels and needs, making it accessible to everyone.
Don’t rush things though, and don’t push your body beyond what feels comfortable.
Featured image and video demonstration – The Active Life