Stretch of the Week: Side Twist (Twisting #1) – Movement Labs

Stretch of the Week: Side Twist (Twisting #1)

I expect that this post finds you, my American friends, stuffed and perhaps just a little bit uncomfortable after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  [Unless you’re in that weird “we eat super early” group, and are now heading back to the kitchen for seconds.]  Anyway, I decided that today would be a great day to share a nice, passive twisting stretch.

Safety note: Check out the Stretch of the Week: Start Here! if you haven’t already – and remember, some stretches aren’t right for some people.  If you are in pain, or something feels wrong, just stop.  There will be another stretch next week.  If you don’t feel anything, that’s fine.  You don’t need the stretch.  Move right along, and have a good day.  If you love it – bookmark it!  If you bookmark your favorites, then in 6 months, you’ll generate enough stretches to easily assemble a post-workout stretching routine (or two!).

Background: Yogis will tell you that this stretch will “massage” your abdominal organs, including your digestive tract.  Personally, I prefer to think of it as a stretch to increase mobility in your spine/back, and I think it even helps me relax my shoulders and neck.  Regardless, “I’m stretching” is a great excuse to lie down on your back and relax after a big Thanksgiving meal.

Contraindications: This is actually a very easy pose to enter and control.  If you have any issues with your back, enter cautiously, use modifications (see Modifications, below), and stop if something feels off.


Lie on your back on a comfortable surface
Bend your knees, put feet on ground

Lie on your back, feet on ground.

Starting position

Keep your knees together and slowly lower your legs to the left (right hip will come off floor)
Check leg position: Knees stacked and pulled up high toward hips

Important: BOTH shoulders should be on the ground at all times!  Adjust leg position if necessary to keep shoulders down.

Drop legs to the left - right shoulder stays on the ground

Drop legs to the left – right shoulder stays on the ground




Open arms wide
Gently turn head to look to the right


This is a passive stretch – just relax!
Inhale: Check position (knees, hips, shoulders, head)
Exhale: Relax deeper into the twist

You will probably feel some discomfort or stretching in your mid- to upper- back.  You may also feel a stretch across your chest, if your pectoral muscles are very tight.

Length of Hold: I usually hold 1-3 minutes; but your tolerance for the stretch will depend on your flexibility. I find that the first 10-20 seconds are quite uncomfortable.  Then, I enjoy a minute or two of release and relaxation, before experiencing a growing feeling of discomfort in my twisting mid-back.  I suggest starting with 20-30 seconds for your first few attempts, and increasing later if desired.

Slightly different view.

View of the stretch from above.


Turn head back to neutral
Bring arms in slightly (optional)
Lift knees, keeping feet on floor
Lie on your back for 15-30 seconds, feeling the “rebound”

This stretch can cause a rather strong rebound feeling, so just lie back and let the sensations wash over you.  When you feel ready, repeat the stretch on the other side.

Modifications: If you cannot keep both your legs and shoulders on the floor, use a blanket , towel, or pillow to prop your legs up.  If your arms are uncomfortable stretching out, keep them at your sides or reach overhead.  If turning your head to the side is uncomfortable (your neck is sore or stiff), go only as far as you feel comfortable.  Prop your head if necessary, so you can relax completely.

This stretch can take 6-8 minutes total, depending on how long you hold the twist and how long you recover inbetween.  It’s not a particularly great stretch for your running muscles when you’re in a hurry, but it’s a wonderful, relaxing, passive stretch to enjoy while you digest a big turkey dinner!  [It’s also a great post-shower, before-bed stretch for Singapore – it won’t make you sweaty!]

So find yourself a spot on the floor and give it a shot!

How did the stretch feel while you were doing it?  How was the rebound?  How did your back feel afterward?

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  1. Karen@ La Chanson de Ma Vie November 29, 2013 at 11:25 am - Reply

    I do this stretch sometimes, except instead of turning my torso that far, I push on my hip a little and it pops my lower back similar to the way my chiro does. Definitely helps stretch out the time between office visits! 🙂

    • Holly @ Run With Holly November 30, 2013 at 7:22 am - Reply

      Push your hip toward the floor? Eeeps! I can only imagine the pop that you get. Just be careful – the lumbar (lower) spine doesn’t have as much natural twistability as the thoracic spine!

      • Karen@ La Chanson de Ma Vie December 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

        I realized I wasn’t very clear in describing that move. Basically, I’m pushing myself just a little further into that twist, not actually pushing my pelvis into the ground in a vertical motion. I only pop it when it feels like it’s out of place and then I push it very gently (probably not any more pressure than if I were to let the leg hang off the side of the bed).

  2. Tina@GottaRunNow November 30, 2013 at 1:25 am - Reply

    That’s a good stretch and I just read about how it’s a good one for bikers.

  3. Meagan December 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    This stretch felt really good on the middle part of my back that is often sore/tight. I also felt the stretch in my pecs, which are sore from the push ups I did yesterday. 🙂

    • Holly @ Run With Holly December 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      This one is great, in that it does double duty: back and pecs, if your pecs are tight. Try different arm positions (probably somewhere between straight out and straight over head) to see what gives you the best stretch. =)

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