The SAT at times can be a test of endurance as well as of intelligence. You have to sit for about three hours with only one ten minute break, and one five minute break in between tests, and even longer if you have extended time. How do you avoid stiff muscles or a cramping neck during this time? Fortunately, we have a few SAT break stretches to help you out. All and all, these should take about three minutes to complete.
If anything hurts, or feels like tearing: stop. Something is wrong. Maybe the stretch has gone too far, or maybe you’ve just got a knot where you didn’t expect one to be. Either way, that’s not something you can deal with during an SAT break, so don’t try and push it.
1. Focused Breathing
First of all, pay attention to your breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply, and relax everything you can consciously relax. Spend some time breathing in, finding where in your body you carry tension, breathing out, and releasing that tension. You can do this at any time so it’s a good choice for right before the test, or during the short periods when tests are being handed out or picked up.
2. The Twist
Keep your bottom half facing forward in the chair, and try and twist around so you can grab the seat behind you, remaining as upright and tall as you can while doing so. Do this on one side, count to ten, then twist around the other way to do it on the other side for a count of ten. This should help stretch the muscles in your lower back and sides. It’s very helpful if you’ve been hunched over your test, but it’s best to wait until a break has started to begin doing this stretch.
3. Neck Stretches
Draw a vertical line with your nose by nodding your head, keeping your shoulders still. Then, draw a horizontal line by shaking your head, looking all the way over each shoulder. Do five of each, and then start drawing small circles with your nose, keeping your shoulders still, and have them get bigger and bigger. Once they’re as big as you feel comfortable going, stop and go the other way, getting slightly smaller and smaller with each circle until you’re back to where you started. These are good for any neck tension you might carry. If you’ve been really looking directly down at your test, these should be especially helpful.
4. A Sitting Reach
This is one of the easiest stretches to do in a testing environment, because it comes so naturally to people who’ve been sitting down a long time. Reach both hands over your head, interlace your fingers and push upwards, like you’re trying to lift the ceiling off you. Lengthen your back, shoulders and arms as much as you can. Your goal is to stretch your body as far upwards as possible. Try to make everything in your upper body long.
This should stretch out your arms, shoulders, and upper back pretty well. You might find yourself doing this as much as possible during the breaks due to how freeing it feels.
5. The Arm Across
This shoulder stretch is sometimes taught in gym classes because of it’s effectiveness. Reach one arm across yourself: if you’re using your left arm for this, reach towards your right with it, so your left elbow is almost touching your right shoulder. Then take your right arm, and hug your left arm as close as you feel comfortable doing so. Stay like that for about ten seconds, and then do the same thing with your other arm. This should help with the sides of your shoulders.
6. The Bow
Reach your arms above your head and grab one of your wrists with the other hand. Use that hand to pull that arm over your body until you’re gently leaning to one side. You should feel a single line of stretch running from your wrist to your hip. This targets the arm, upper shoulder, and sides. Hold it for 15 seconds on one side, really taking the time to feel the stretch, then switch to the other side. It’s one of the more effective relaxing SAT break stretches to do.
7. Back Link
Reach one arm above you, bending at the elbow to touch your back. Then, take your other arm, and reach down, also bending at the elbow to touch the center of your back. Try and get your hands to touch. It’s okay if they can’t, try grabbing a pencil and having your hands hold onto either side of the pencil, and pass it back and forth. Hold it for ten seconds on one side, then try it for ten seconds on the other. This might be easier to do on one side than the other, our arms tend to have different flexibilities. This is a targeted back stretch.
8. Gorilla Wrists
Reach forward, and bend your hands under your wrists, so that your knuckles touch the table and your fingers point at your body. Now lean forward, and get more and more of the back of your hand to touch the table. Go only as far as you feel comfortable going, but if your wrist is starting to cramp up, this will help loosen it enough to keep going.
That’s it! We hope you’re ready to return to your tests relaxed and reinvigorated with these SAT break stretches. If you want advice on the best snacks to pack for your SAT breaks, check out our guide to SAT break snacks. If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.