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8 Stretches You Can Do on the Couch

These seated stretches from HSS Brooklyn rehabilitation and performance expert Asma Mohammadi can get your blood flowing again and work out the kinks from too much couch time.

We’ve all been there — glued to the TV, binge watching out favorite show while growing increasingly stiff and sore from too much sitting. Unfortunately, these days, the most movement many of us get is the walk from bedroom to kitchen table to couch. This inactivity takes a toll, leaving our bodies tight and tense.

But you can limit the damage of plowing through the entire season of Bridgerton in one session. HSS Brooklyn rehabilitation and performance expert Asma Mohammadi, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OCS, CSCS, suggests the simple movements outlined below, which you can do from the comfort of your couch to get the blood flowing again and start giving your body the attention it needs.

woman stretching on sofa

As you stretch, make sure you’re breathing properly and paying attention to your posture. “You don’t want to slouch,” Mohammadi says. “Sit in an upright posture to allow your diaphragm to function optimally, which enables better lung expansion and breathing.” Throughout the stretches, gently lengthen the muscles you’re working but don’t overextend. While you may feel a stretch, you should never feel pain.

Chin Tuck: This strengthens the deep neck flexor muscles.

  1. Sit up tall on the couch and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Make sure your head is aligned with your spine and centered over your shoulders, looking straight ahead. Your head should not protrude forward.
  3. Keeping your head level (not tilted up or down) and the front neck muscles relaxed, gently glide your chin and head straight back with a small movement. Make sure your head and chin stay level. You should feel the muscles at the base of the neck working. Since this is a muscle contraction, you will not feel a stretch with this movement.
  4. Hold for five seconds.
  5. Return to the neutral position.
  6. Repeat a total of 10 times.
photo of chin tuck stretch

Neck Stretch: This stretches the levator scapulae, which starts at the top of the shoulder blade and goes to the top of the neck.

  1. Sit up tall at the edge of the couch and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring the left arm behind you and rest it on the couch.
  3. Rotate your head to the right side.
  4. Place your right hand at the back of your scalp (at the top of your neck).
  5. Gently lower your head downward as if looking at your right hip. Don’t pull with your hand; only use it as support.
  6. You should feel a gentle stretch along the left side of the neck and left upper shoulder area.
  7. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. Bring your right hand down and return your head to a neutral position.
  8. Bring the right arm behind you and rest it on the couch.
  9. Rotate your head to the left, repeating the stretch on the left side.
  10. Repeat for a total of two to three sets on each side.
photo of neck stretch

Mid-Back Extension: This stretches the thoracic spine, which is the upper/middle part of your spine.

  1. Sit at the edge of the couch and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Clasp your hands on the back of your neck for support and bring your elbows forward.
  3. Extend with your upper back as you point your elbows toward the ceiling, arching through the mid-back.
  4. Make sure your neck stays in neutral and doesn’t extend forward or pull back, while allowing your gaze to follow your elbow.
  5. Return to a neutral position.
  6. Repeat for a total of 10 times.
photo of Mid-Back Extension

Shoulder Blade Rolls: This loosens tight shoulders.

  1. Sit up tall on the couch and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Make sure your arms are relaxed at your sides.
  3. Bring your shoulder blades up, then back, then down, then forward in a rolling position, until you’re back to where you started.
  4. Continue rolling your shoulder blades for a total of 10 times.
  5. Repeat the exercise going the opposite way (bringing your shoulder blades back first, then up, then forward, etc.) for a total of 10 times.
photo of shoulder blade roll stretch

Pelvic Tilt: This moves the lower lumbar spine.

  1. Sit at the edge of the couch and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands on your hips.
  3. Gently tilt your pelvis forward, feeling a slight arch in your back.
  4. Gently tilt your pelvis backwards, feeling a slight rounding of your back. Your abdominals may help control the movement.
  5. Repeat for a total of 10 to 15 times. Tip: Think of this as a sitting cat/cow of the lower lumbar spine.
photo of pelvic tilt
photo of pelvic tilt

Hamstring Stretch: This stretches the back of your thighs.

  1. Sit at the edge of the couch.
  2. Stretch out your right leg, making sure your heel is on the floor, your toes are pointing comfortably upward and your knee is straight.
  3. Keep your left foot flat on the floor and rest your hands on your hips.
  4. To intensify the stretch, gently lean forward, keeping your core engaged and your back straight, until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your right leg and behind your knee. Make sure you’re hinging forward from the hip, not bending at the waist or rounding the back.
  5. Hold for about 30 to 45 seconds.
  6. Move your upper body back to a neutral position.
  7. Move your right leg back to match your left.
  8. Stretch out the left leg and repeat the stretch.
  9. Repeat on each side one to two times.
photo of hamstring stretch

Figure 4 Stretch: This opens up the hips and stretches the glute area.

  1. Sit up tall and place both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your right leg and place your right ankle on top of your left knee.
  3. To intensify the stretch, gently lean forward while keeping your flat back. You should feel a stretch in the right glute but no pain in the knee.
  4. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  5. Sit back up.
  6. Return your right foot to the floor so you’re back in a neutral position.
  7. Repeat the exercise with the left leg.
  8. Repeat on each side three times.
photo of figure 4 stretch
photo of figure 4 stretch
photo of figure 4 stretch modification

Tip: If you have limited hip mobility, just bring your leg up to without leaning forward. If that still feels too hard, hug your knee into your chest instead.

Ankle Circles: This helps with range of motion in the ankles.

  1. Sit comfortably on the couch with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your right foot.
  3. Move your ankle in a clockwise circle.
  4. Go all the way around about 10 times, making sure you’re turning your ankle completely.
  5. Switch directions for 10 circles.
  6. Put your right foot back on the floor.
  7. Lift your left foot and repeat the exercise 10 times in each direction with the left ankle.
  8. Repeat on each side two to three times.
photo of ankle circle stretch

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