If you're the type to dip out of a workout class before the stretch, or jump on the treadmill the second you walk into the gym, we get it: Stretching can feel tedious and time-consuming. The good news is, there's one very efficient stretch you can do in less than five minutes that will set you up for whatever workout you have planned. And it's actually called the World's Greatest Stretch (WGS).
Technically, the WGS is a series of six or seven stretches that are each held for five to seven seconds, explains Sasha Cyrelson, PT, DPT, clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy. When done in sequence, the WGS has a flow-like quality that makes it easy to remember, and provides an excellent pre-workout stretch.
Here's how it's done: Step forward with your right leg into a lunge, with your hands on the floor inside your right leg. Then, bring your right hand off the floor, bending your right elbow and bringing it toward your right foot. Staying in a lunge, rotate your upper body and extend your left arm to the ceiling. Repeat this step with your right arm. Then, lower your knee to the ground to stretch your hip flexors and quads. Finally, extend your right leg and shift your weight back to stretch your hamstrings and calves. Return to standing, and then repeat on the left. (Sound confusing? Don't worry, we've included some videos ahead.)
What makes this the "greatest" stretch? The WGS is a dynamic stretch, meaning it simulates movements you'll perform during a workout, Cyrelson says. "It helps increase your available range of motion, allowing you to train your muscles through the full range, and decreases the overall risk of injury," she says. According to Cyrelson, the WGS is also unique in that it targets most of the major muscle groups that tend to get overlooked: your trunk, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
Whether you're about to go rock climbing, take a boxing class, or just sit on a plane for a long time, the WGS will safely and effectively prepare your muscles for movement (or lack thereof). While the WGS is a set pattern, some trainers and physical therapists use slight variations to fit their clients' needs. Cyrelson suggests starting by doing the entire series three times on each side. Once you have that down, feel free to repeat certain sections (like the trunk rotations) to get a deeper stretch.