I did the world's greatest stretch every day for a week—this is why I'm going to stick with it

My spine felt soothed, my shoulders felt more robust and I was able to combat aches and pains caused by sitting at a desk all day

Fit&Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore doing the world's greatest stretch
(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

Given its name, "the world's greatest stretch" certainly has a lot to live up to. To see whether it's deserving of this moniker, I decided to put its body-boosting benefits to the test.

My average week of movement contains a mix of high-intensity resistance workouts, lifting weights, gymnastics practice and some mobility work. I decided I would incorporate the world’s greatest stretch into my routine for seven days, for a minimum of 10 repetitions on each side. 

"The world's greatest stretch has a whole host of benefits," Jess Suthard, a certified personal trainer for Goal Plans powered by MuscleFood, told me at the start of the challenge. "It can improve your core strength, help with your posture and improve mobility in your hips, ankles and spine."

I'm always on the hunt for ways to build a more mobile body—one that moves better and aches less, so Suthard's words left me excited to try this challenge. But did this stretch deliver on its world-beating promises?

How to do the world's greatest stretch

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands and toes in contact with the ground. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, and your core should be tight so your legs, back and neck form a straight line. Bring your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand. 
  • Keeping your left leg straight out behind you, drop your right elbow towards the ground in between your planted left hand and right foot. It’s ok if your elbow doesn’t touch the floor. 
  • Next, reach your right hand towards the sky, opening up your chest and shoulders. You can look up to your right hand if that’s comfortable.  
  • Continue to alternate between reaching your right elbow towards the ground and your right hand towards the sky until you've done it 10 times. Then repeat this with your left side, with your right leg extended behind you.  

Three benefits I experienced doing the world's greatest stretch

1. It works the whole body

Most stretches target a specific muscle or joint; the world's greatest stretch is more of an all-rounder. 

"It's one of my favourite exercises, simply because it works your whole body," says Suthard. 

"It can increase thoracic [mid-spine] mobility through the twist, while also stretching the lower body and encouraging flexibility in the hip, knee and ankle joints."

I definitely felt this. By letting my forward knee lean outwards a bit I enjoyed a great stretch in my hips, thighs and glutes. 

The rotational element gently eased my spine awake while my chest and shoulders opened up during the extension of the arm skywards. This was definitely a full-body stretch. 

2. It's a great addition to a warm-up

On the first day of this challenge, I included the world's greatest stretch in my warm-up ahead of 90 minutes of CrossFit training.

It opened up my shoulders and stretched my spine, which was perfect for some gymnastics practice. It also switched on my glutes and hamstrings so I was ready for some heavy barbell squats later in the session. Not only did this prime my body for the movements I was about to do but it also reduced my risk of injury. 

3. It has benefits for everyday life too

This stretch shouldn't just be reserved for gym sessions and warm-ups. 

"It can be extremely effective if you have a desk-based job and lead a sedentary lifestyle as it will help your whole body move more easily in your day-to-day life," says Suthard. 

During long stints at my laptop and especially when I noticed my back was starting to ache, I'd roll out my yoga mat and do a few reps of the world’s greatest stretch.

Fit&Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore unrolled his yoga mat next to his working from home set-up to stretch during the work day

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

I once again enjoyed the stretch in my hips and spine, both of which can feel weak and tight after long periods sitting down. So I recommend you give this a go if you work at a desk all day.

My results

After seven days of doing the world’s greatest stretch every day, I noticed my shoulders and spine felt stronger and were able to move more freely in my workouts. That meant my body was ready to move and lift, and I felt more confident to push myself in the gym, lift heavier weights and tackle more intense workouts. 

"After a week you'll find that your body will feel much looser and you will feel more flexible overall," Suthard told me.

"You'll also notice an improvement in your posture due to an increased mobility and reduced tightness in your muscles; it should improve the functionality of your muscles and joints."

So, if you're looking to improve your pre-workout routine or simply want to add a good stretch to your day, I'd definitely recommend giving the world's greatest stretch a go.

Need a new mat for you stretching routine? Our guide to the best yoga mats can help

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.