| December 15, 2015

Featured, Health & Sports, Wellness

Wake Up Like an Animal: Your Morning Stretching Routine

morning stretching routine for energy and strength

Editor’s note: This post was a collaboration between AoM and Mike Fitch of Animal Flow. 

When your alarm went off this morning, how did you get out of bed? Chances are you rolled out of your covers and then lumbered and shuffled over to the bathroom like a stiff-legged zombie.

Could you use a little more vim and vigor — a little more ferocity — at the start of the day? Then consider taking a cue from the morning routines of animals. Most animals don’t awaken from slumber and immediately get going, but rather stretch themselves out first.

American Indians, who lived much closer to nature than we moderns do, readily observed this fact, and adopted the practice into their own morning routines. In a couple of places in his century-old writings, Ohiyesa, a Sioux tribesman, explained why:

“In awakening his sleeping body, the Indian patterns after his animal friends. You will observe that no dog gets up and walks off without thoroughly stretching himself, from the nose to the tip of his tail. This is an excellent cure for early morning laziness.”

“The Indian must always arouse every fiber of his body before he begins the day. The first thing he does when he awakes is to stretch every limb to the utmost, and finally the entire body. He takes pleasure in the most tremendous yawns.”

If you’d like to shake off your morning laziness each day, follow in the Sioux’s footsteps, who were following in animals’ paw prints. Stretching yourself out as soon as you wake up will get your blood flowing, release any stiffness and kinks that may have developed during the night, and leave you limber and invigorated to tackle your day.

The following 8 exercises will get you nice and loose. They consist of mobility stretches (also called mobility movements or active-dynamic stretches). Instead of bringing a muscle to an end range and holding for time (like in traditional stretching), you’ll be performing controlled repetitions, holding the end for no more than a second or two. The goal is to get slightly more range out of each additional rep. Mobility stretches are great for pushing blood and oxygen to the muscles, as well as lubing up the joints.

The whole routine will take around 15 minutes. Don’t hold your breath while you’re performing the routine (as is a common tendency), but remember to breathe throughout. If you’re shorter on time, just do a few of the movements, concentrating on the parts of your body that feel the most stiff.

Stretch yourself out at least a little each morning when you rise, and you’ll face the day roaring to go!

8 Corners (The Neck Mobilization)

neck mobilization stretch morning routine illustration
Start by lifting your head just slightly off of the pillow. Without moving your shoulders, allow your head to follow your eyes as you look towards each corner of your room. Begin with the corners of your ceiling first, then to the floor to complete one round. Go in a clockwise direction for 10 reps (8 corners =1 rep), then switch to counterclockwise for an additional 10 total reps. Be sure not to move your shoulders or torso.

Side Lying Reach

side lying reach stretch morning routine illustration

Roll to either side, stacking your upper shoulder directly on top of the lower. Place the knees and hips at roughly a 90-degree angle. Reach forward with the upper arm, allowing it to slide past the lower hand. Reverse the movement, this time reaching in the complete opposite direction, opening up the chest. Keep your eyes on the reaching hand throughout the entire movement. This allows the head to move naturally with the shoulder. Be sure to keep the knees in contact with each other and the bed throughout. Perform 10 total reps before switching to the opposite side. 

Shoulder Clocks

shoulder clocks stretch morning stretching routine illustration
Using the same start position as the previous movement, begin to make large circles with the upper arm in a clockwise direction. Be sure to keep the elbow completely straight and think about reaching with the arm as it travels through the circular motion. Perform 10 reps before switching to counter clockwise. Repeat on the opposite arm.

Hip Rotators (Supine 90/90)

hip rotators stretch morning stretching routine illustration

Begin on your back with the arms out to the sides, palms up. Place the feet and knees wider than hip width. The knees should be at roughly a 90-degree angle. Allow the weight of the legs to drop down towards either direction. Be sure to keep the lower back, and both shoulders in contact with the mattress. The upper knee should fall just inside the instep of the lower foot. Alternate between sides for 10-15 reps each direction.

90/90 Rotational Sit-Up

rotational sit up stretch morning stretching routine illustration
Begin in the same position as the previous exercise, but this time bend the elbows and bring the arms in towards the torso. As the legs drop to one side, you’ll travel with the movement of the legs, rolling on to your side briefly before sitting up into a flexed position over the top of your legs. Reverse the movement and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides for 10 reps each direction.

Rotational Hamstring Kick

hamstring kick stretch morning stretching routine illustration
Lay on your back with your arms out to the side and palms up. Your knees should be bent at roughly 90 degrees with the feet flat on the bed. When performing the movement, think about drawing a swoosh with the traveling foot. The foot will travel down first, then swoop up towards the opposite hand. The opposite leg will fall to the side as the hips rotate. Reverse the exact same movement to come back to start.

Shoulder Rolls

shoulder rolls stretch morning stretching routine illustration
Come up to a crawl position on your bed with the shoulders over the hands. Keeping the elbows straight, perform clockwise circles with the shoulder blades. Perform 10-15 circles before switching directions.

Rocking Flexion/Extension

rocking extension stretch morning stretching routine illustration

From kneeling, push your hips back towards your heels, dropping the head down between straight arms. To start the movement, lift the hips, allowing the shoulders to travel past the wrists. As the hips begin to drop down towards the bed, allow the feet to lift up towards the ceiling. Drop the hips all the way down towards the bed, squeeze the glutes, and bring the eyes to the sky. Reverse the movement by tucking the chin, then pressing back to start. Perform 10-15 reps.

Watch a Video of the Routine

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Mike Fitch is the creator of the Animal Flow and Bodyweight Athlete programs as well as the president of Global Bodyweight Training.  As an international presenter, Mike’s message revolves around movement, skill acquisition, and getting to know your body better. You can follow Mike on instagram @MikeGBT.

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

Last updated: November 20, 2017

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