Stretches & Functional Movements

This page contains links to printable instructions and video downloads of stretches and functional movements we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. In the Alexander Method we have very specific definitions for what constitutes a stretch or a functional movement.

Several of the movements below can be done as passive stretches, active stretches, or functional movements, the only difference is how long you hold the extended positions. Each movement is listed below in the category we recommended but do not require for how you execute them. Be sure to experiment with your timing with each movement to find the best tempo for your unique situation.

You should practice at least 5 of the stretches and movements below every day (or substitute your own that accomplish the same goal).

If you are not moving your body in the ways listed below on a regular basis, you will gradually lose your ability to move this way as you age. (Use it, or lose it!)

Passive Stretch: a passive position you hold for a long period of time (typically 2-5 minutes or more) to allow muscle tissue to lengthen beyond its functional capacity so as to encourage the growth of additional sarcomeres within each muscle involved to allow greater ROM and ease of movement.

Active Stretch: an active position you hold for a short period of time (typically 1-10 seconds) to lengthen and retrain muscles to more effectively coordinate across a joint and allow for improved movement patterns, especially when each muscle is at its full-range functional length.

Functional Movement: a constant motion movement you slowly practice to train muscles to more effectively coordinate across a joint and allow for improved movement patterns, especially when each muscle is at its full-range functional length.

Passive Stretches

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of passive stretches we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Some of them can be performed as active stretches and a few can also be exercised as functional movements.

Start with learning how to perform them very slowly as passive stretches, and as you make progress add more activity to address the more nuanced areas in addition to the targets of each stretch.

Active Stretches

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of active stretches we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Some of them can be exercised as a functional movement as well as a stretch.

We recommend you try each movement and hold it for a short period of time to train your muscles to activate at full length prior to attempting faster repetitions. Moving quickly tends to utilize the nerve pathways you are already familiar with, which is why when you are learning new coordination you should move through the movements slowly to allow your nervous system to "learn" the new combination of activation for your muscles.

As you repeat any movement many times over, it becomes easier for your brain to send signals along the nerve pathways to the muscles needed for that movement. You can then begin to practice the movements faster without sacrificing proper alignment (which should translate into fewer injuries and faster recovery times).

Functional Movements

Below are links to printable instructions and video downloads of functional movements we recommend to get the most out of your SMR efforts. Portions of the movements below can be separated into individual stretches, and we encourage you to chop them up into little sequences as needed.

When you are ready feel free to combine the movements below (and a few from above) into a routine as a warm up prior to a workout. The movements below are primarily warm-up techniques intended to better establish how well you can coordinate your movements, not necessarily to increase the ROM possible at any joint. To dramatically increase your ROM spend more time with the stretches listed above and allow your muscles time (2-5 minutes) to actually lengthen.

Stretching quickly is not likely to increase your muscle length, but quick movements are a good way to remove light restrictions between tissues, which will allow you to move better. For your best results do some slow stretches at times and do some faster functional movements other times as part of your program.

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