Top 5 Stretches For After Your Workout
When scheduling time to work out, the most overlooked aspects of the routine tend to be the warmup/cooldown and post-workout stretch.
While there are mixed reviews on the effectiveness/purpose of stretching, we know that it is vital to your success when it comes to both cooling down and relaxing after a tough workout AND injury prevention.
Not only does stretching reduce your chance of injury, but it also improves your flexibility and your body’s ability to heal your muscles. If you want to work more, you may do a resistant band stretching. Those who incorporate even a few minutes of stretching after a workout has been known to say they feel their recovery is faster and they tend to feel “less sore” in the days after a particularly difficult workout.
When you really think about it, it makes complete sense. During your workout, your muscles are contracting and lengthening. Overworking muscles through a progressive overload causes your muscles and surrounding tissues to become shorter and tighter. At this point, stretching is vital to prevent injury… but we never want to reach this “do or die” scenario, so we have chosen to highlight our top five post-workout stretches here.
So, the top five stretches for after your workout are:
- Calve and Hamstring Stretch
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Abs Stretch
- Glutes Stretch
- Back Stretch
Some people may also choose to foam roll or use a band as an accessory to their stretching after workout routine. While this is not 100% necessary, it’s a nice addition and a nice change to keep your muscles fresh and recovered so you can give your workouts everything you’ve got!
Top 5 Post-Workout Stretches
Our top 5 stretches to perform post-workout are:
1. Calve and Hamstring Stretch
You have probably seen this post-workout stretch earlier, as it is very popular. Many people think of this as a stretch for runners because it targets your calves and hamstrings, but if you are doing any type of lower body workout this is a great stretch.
- Sit on the floor or a yoga mat with both legs extended in front of you
- Lift and turn one leg so your foot rests against the inside of your right thigh (like an upside-down “4”)
- Reach for the foot of your extended leg (not the folded one) with the corresponding hand while bending from the hip (i.e. reach for your left foot with your left hand).
- If you can reach your toes, gently pull them back towards you to lengthen the stretch
- Hold this position for 20-30 sections while breathing deeply
- Repeat on the opposite side
You can bend and reach for your toes with both your hands to also feel this stretch after a workout in your shoulders and back but remember to always bend at the hips and move in and out of these positions slowly.
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
- Starting in a kneeling position on the floor or yoga mat, release one of your legs and take a step forward into a lunge position
- Your front knee should not be further than your toe
- Keeping your torso straight (not leaning forward) push your hips forward so you begin to feel a stretch along the front of your back leg
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Repeat with the opposite leg
In this stretch, you may keep your back foot flat on the ground (with your toes straight and pointed back) or with your toes curled under your foot for stability.
You should feel a stretch but not any pinching or pain. If a stretch is ever painful, stop.
3. Abs Stretch
This post-workout stretch is sometimes called the Cobra. It’s a great way to stretch your lower back.
- Lay flat on your stomach on the ground or a yoga mat
- Bring your arms in and place your hands flat on either side of your chest (with your elbows bent)
- Slowly extend your arms while pushing your chest off the floor
- Keep your shoulders down (don’t hunch them)
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and release
You should feel this stretch on your front abs. If you start feeling fatigued in your arms or lower back, take a break and return to the stretch later.
4. Glutes Stretch
You can do this stretch standing up or seated if you do not have enough balance to complete it standing.
- Start with both feet planted on the ground shoulder-width apart
- Pick up your right leg and turn it out so the ankle is resting above the knee (figure 4)
- Bend the left knee so you are in a “single-leg squat” and push down on your right knee using your elbow
- You’ll be a bit hunched over to keep your center of gravity
- Try to complete this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg
- An alternative is to start seated with both feet on the floor and complete the same movement while leaning forward (bending at the hips and keeping the seat bones planted)
This is a great glute stretch for after a workout and you should really “feel the burn” if you have been completing squats, lunges, plyometric jumps, or anything involving the glutes.
5. Back Stretch
This position also called child’s pose in yoga, is an excellent back opener stretch. Use this post-workout stretch if you have been completing any sort of lat, shoulder, or back focused exercises.
- Start by kneeling on a mat or the floor with your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart and your feet together tucked under you
- Sit back on your heels and fold forward at the hips
- You will be resting your belly on your thighs. At this point, you can extend your arms in front and rest your forehead on the floor
- Gently press your chest and shoulders into the ground to deepen the stretch (while keeping your butt low and close to your heels)
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute to finish your stretch routine
You may feel this stretch in your glutes and hips, which is completely normal.
And there you go, our top five stretches to complete after every workout. These stretches for after workout should cover your whole body no matter what type of workout you completed, but always feel free to research other stretches if you have some areas that feel tighter than others.