The 5 All-Time Best Stretches for Weight Loss
Let's face it: Trying to lose weight can feel overwhelming, exhausting, and disheartening—especially when you've put in weeks (or months) of effort only to find that the number on the scale hasn't budged. So whether you're about to kickstart your weight loss journey or have been trying to crack the code on fat loss for a while, we're here to offer support with sound advice from an expert trainer. We spoke with Dan Johnston, CPT, certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, who shares five of the all-time best stretches for weight loss.
Instead of losing faith in your pursuit of a healthier weight, keep your chin up, and add these stretches to your daily routine. And next, check out these Exercise Habits for Weight Loss That Science Says Actually Work.
Stretching for weight loss
You've likely heard that a combination of regular exercise that includes cardio and resistance training, along with a nutritious, well-balanced diet (enjoyed while in a calorie deficit) is fundamental for achieving your weight loss goals. However, incorporating other aspects of physical fitness into your workout routine, such as stretching to improve your flexibility and mobility, is also a wise decision. Stretching supports weight loss by bumping up the number of calories you burn daily, according to Healthline. In addition, a study published in Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging found that stretching can improve muscle hypertrophy, another factor for boosting fat loss.
Two main types of stretching can promote weight loss—static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is the image you likely have when you think of stretching. According to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, it calls for stretching out a muscle and remaining in that position for a minimum of 15 or 20 seconds. Static stretching pinpoints a single muscle group during each stretch. Conversely, dynamic stretching involves active movements where your joints and muscles go through a full range of motion (ROM), burning more calories than its static counterpart.
While stretching won't torch as many calories as aerobic exercise and resistance training, every little bit helps. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 154-pound person will burn approximately 90 calories during 30 minutes of static stretching. However, the heavier you are and the more dynamic the stretch, the more calories you'll burn. "Stretching alone won't promote weight loss, but a combination of diet and exercise that increases flexibility while strength training can be helpful during your weight loss journey," states Johnston.
Now, let's dive into Johnston's top recommended stretches for weight loss.
Bulgarian Split Squats
"The bottom position of the Bulgarian split squat is similar to what you would see if you were doing a classic couch stretch. However, add some resistance to it, and you get a better stretch to the hip flexors," says Johnston.
This movement opens up your hips while targeting your hip flexors (muscles at the front of your hips) and improving hip mobility. Better hip mobility enhances exercise performance and allows you to perform daily activities like squatting down to lift objects, both of which promote weight loss. During Bulgarian split squats, your quads, glutes, and hamstrings also receive a solid stretch, according to research published in PLOS One. Since this is a single-leg exercise, make sure you do the movement with both legs for a balanced stretch.
The deep squat effectively stretches several lower body parts, including your hip flexors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, while engaging your core. Deep squats can also enhance hip, knee, and ankle joint mobility, improving your overall range of motion and stretching for weight loss.
"Elevate your heels to squat lower and stay more upright," explains Johnston. "This will stretch your adductors (groin area), which tends to be a stiff area for many people. Also, deep squats allow the glutes and quads to experience load in a more stretched-out position."
Hanging Leg Raises
The third stretch to boost weight loss is the hanging leg raise. "This is a great exercise with the combined effect of not only working your core but also allowing your lower back and pelvis area to experience flexion and extension, movements that you might not be exposed to often throughout the day if you are stationary at your job," says Johnston.
According to the experts at Healthline, performing a dead hang can stretch and strengthen muscles in your shoulders, upper back, core, forearms, and hand and wrist flexors. In addition, it stretches and decompresses your spine, which is essential for optimizing physical performance and calorie burn.
Side Bends with Elevated Elbows and Feet (or Dumbbell Side Bends)
"Most movements occur in the sagittal plane (straight up and down), so this is a good movement that not only works the core but can also get your body moving in the frontal plane while providing a big stretch to the trunk and pelvis area," Johnston explains.
If this movement is too difficult, try side bends with a dumbbell or kettlebell, making sure to push the hip out to the side and have the resistance move straight along your side for an optimal stretch.
Single-Arm Lat Pulldowns with a Twist
Last but not least of these stretches for weight loss is another excellent combination movement that delivers the benefits of stretching your muscles while working toward your resistance training and weight loss goals. "The lats are another area that tends to be tight for many people for various reasons," says Johnston. "Adding a twist at the bottom of the movement allows you to stretch out the lat in its end range position."
So if you spend most of your day in front of a computer screen, consider giving this one a try to loosen up your back muscles and get you one step closer to achieving a healthier weight.