Wish you had better flexibility? Well, grab your fit bud and get to doing these partner stretches from trainer Shay Kostabi and yoga instructor Barry Ennis (all photos by Jesse DeYoung). Shay is a bi-coastal fitness professional and personality, and Barry’s fit expertise has been featured in magazines like Shape, Men’s Fitness and Yoga Life, and he’s modeled for top brands and publications. Not only will these partner stretches help you to improve your flexibility, but they also just feel darn good!
Benefits of Partner Stretching
- Helps improve flexibility (increases your range of motion)
- Assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position
- Potential to decrease injury by preparing muscles for work before activity
- Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness
- Even a short amount of time (10 to 15 minutes) of stretching can calm the mind, provide a mental break and give your body a chance to recharge
How to Stretch With a Partner
Remember to communicate clearly with each other. Have your partner tell you if you’ve stretched them far enough, and if they can be stretched farther after holding for a few seconds. Avoid talking while stretching so that your partner can focus on breathing and relaxing.
Partner Stretch One
Have your partner lie on their back facing you. Now take their right leg (That’s the one on your left) and begin to extend it overhead. Keeping your right knee to the inside of their leg on the ground, lock your right ankle over their leg on the ground. Don’t allow it to lift off the ground. Take your hands to their heel, keeping your own spine in a nice neutral position. Press on the base of their heel to flex their foot (bring it into an “L” shape). Continue to do this and press their leg toward their head. Allow your partner to communicate when they’ve been stretched far enough. Make sure the leg in your hands is straight with no bend in the knee. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Partner Stretch Two
Take your partner’s right leg again and cross it over their body, allowing the knee to bend like they’re pulling it towards their armpit. This one’s tricky. Step your left foot up against their left thigh (this is a bit like Twister isn’t it?) to keep it locked in line with the rest of their body. Now bring your right shin behind the bend of their right knee. Walk your right foot up as far towards their armpit as is comfortable for them. Take your left hand and press gently down on their right shoulder to prevent it from lifting off the ground. At the same time, press their right knee down with your right hand to increase the twist through the spine. Don’t forget to communicate how far to stretch, and keep your own spine neutral. Hold for 30 seconds; switch sides.
Partner Stretch Three
From essentially the same position, walk your right shin out to your partner’s right ankle. Your shin should be pressing into their Achilles tendon. Straighten their leg out across their body making sure both of their shoulders remain on the ground. Work to help them keep both hips on the ground as much as possible. Keep their foot flexed (in that “L” shape) and parallel to the floor. Keep their leg straight and begin to walk your foot up towards their head as far as they can go comfortably. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides!
Partner Stretch Four
Take your partner’s right leg in both your hands. Step your right foot to the inside of their left thigh just above the knee to lock their leg in a position in line with the rest of their body. Take their right leg down to your left ankle and place their ankle on the base of your shin. Keeping their leg straight, slowly walk your leg up at an angle towards their head. Be sure they keep both legs straight, and both shoulders and hips on the ground. Have them flex their right foot and keep it parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
Side Note: stretches 1-4 can comfortably be done on one side first, and then repeated on the second side.
Partner Stretch 5
Have your partner lie on their back and bring the soles of their feet in front of them about 18 inches away from their groin. Kneel down and clamp your knees on either side of their feet to hold them together and in place. Very gently press down on their knees towards the floor. Be sure they are not arching their low back away from the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
Partner Stretch 6
Take your partner’s right foot and place it up on your left pec. Take their left ankle and cross it over their right knee. Gently use your body weight to press their right leg towards their chest. At the same time grab a hold of their left knee and gently pull it toward you. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Partner Stretch 7
Have your partner place both of their feet on the ground with their knees up in the air. Have them bring their legs all the way together. Kneel down on their right side to keep their right knee pointing straight up by using your hips as support. Now take their left foot and walk it away from you off to their left. Their knee should start to lower down to where their foot used to be. Gently press down on their left knee with your right hand while at the same pressing down on their left hipbone with your left hand to keep their hips from lifting off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Partner Stretch 8
Have your partner come onto their back. Grab a hold of their left knee (finally it’s easy to figure out which one that is!) and lift it up. Press their left foot towards their left glute. At the same time use your left hand to press gently on their left low back to ensure their hips do not lift off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. (You might get a workout in on this one so keep your body aligned properly!)
Now, have your friend stretch YOU out!
Which partner stretch felt best for you? Number 1 is always my fave because my hamstrings are always so tight and need the extra work! —Jenn