Stretching at the end of your workout can help boost your flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, and decrease muscle tension in your body. It can even help improve your performance the next time you work out.
But when you’re running low on time, stretching can sometimes take a backseat, and it may be tempting to skip it.
Stretching after a workout doesn’t have to take long, and you can find shortcuts by stretching several muscles groups at once.
This article will look at six simple yet highly effective stretches you can add to the end of your workout.
The benefits of stretching have been well-established. Here’s a summary of the key ways that stretching after a workout can help you.
Greater flexibility and range of motion
Stretching can help increase the flexibility of your joints. Having greater flexibility helps you move around more easily, and it can also improve the range of motion in your joints. Range of motion is how far you can move a joint in a normal direction before it stops.
Better posture and less back pain
Tight, tense muscles can lead to poor posture. When you sit or stand incorrectly, you often put extra pressure and strain on your muscles. This, in turn, can lead to back pain and other types of musculoskeletal pain.
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Stretching your muscles regularly may also help existing back injuries, and lower your risk for back injuries in the future.
Less muscle tension and lower stress
Stress is a part of our everyday lives. But sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. High levels of stress can cause your muscles to tense up, which can make you feel as if you’re carrying stress in your body.
Stretching muscles that feel tense and tight can help relax them. In turn, this may help lower your stress levels and help you feel calmer.
Improved blood flow
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You may have heard about static and dynamic stretching and wondered how they differ.
Static stretching involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time, usually 20 to 60 seconds. In other words, you don’t move while you’re stretching a particular muscle or group of muscles.
Static stretching is typically done at the end of your workout, once your muscles are warm and relaxed.
Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, involves active movements. With this type of stretch, your joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.
Dynamic stretching is usually done before a workout to help warm up your muscles and get your heart rate up. For instance, a runner may jog in place or pump their legs before starting a race.
When you stretch after your workout, try to focus on the muscles you used while you were exercising.
You don’t need any equipment, but a yoga mat or other cushioned surface can reduce the pressure on your joints and make your stretches more comfortable.
1. Lunging hip flexor stretch
This stretch targets the muscles in your hips, quads, and glutes.
- Kneel down on your left knee. Keep your right knee bent, with your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.
- Lean forward and stretch your left hip out toward the floor.
- Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds before switching legs and doing the opposite side.
2. Piriformis stretch
This stretch targets your piriformis muscle that runs from the base of your spine to your thigh bone. This muscle can affect how well you move your hips, back, legs, and buttocks.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Keeping your right leg flat on the floor, lift your left leg and place your left ankle on your right knee.
- Slightly arch your back and lean forward until a stretch is felt in your buttocks. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat with your right leg on your left knee.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times with each leg.
3. Cat-Cow stretch
This stretch targets your back muscles.
- Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, with your spine in a neutral, relaxed alignment.
- Inhale as you let your belly sink toward the floor, pressing your chest forward.
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders, and begin to exhale.
- Round your spine upward, tucking in your tailbone and pressing your pubic bone forward.
- Relax your head toward the floor and repeat. Do this several times in the span of a minute, if you can.
4. Standing calf stretch
As the name suggests, this stretch targets your calf muscles.
- Start by standing near a wall or chair for support, with one foot in front of the other, front knee slightly bent.
- Keep your back knee straight, both heels on the ground, and lean forward toward the wall or chair
- You should feel a stretch along the calf of your back leg.
- Try to hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Switch legs, and do at least 2 or 3 repetitions on each side.
5. Overhead triceps stretch
This stretch targets your triceps and the muscles in your shoulders.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and roll your shoulders back and down to release any tension.
- Reach your right arm up to the ceiling, then bend your elbow to bring your right palm down toward the center of your back.
- Bring your left hand up to gently pull your right elbow downward.
- Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before switching arms.
- Repeat on both sides 2 or 3 times, attempting to get a deeper stretch with each repetition.
6. Standing bicep stretch
This stretch targets your biceps as well as the muscles in your chest and shoulders.
- Stand up straight. Place your hands behind your back, and interlace your hands at the base of your spine.
- Straighten out your arms and turn your hands so your palms are facing down.
- Then, raise your arms as high as you can until you feel a stretch in your biceps and shoulders.
- Hold this stretch for 30 to 40 seconds.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times.
- Don’t stretch to the point of pain. You should feel mild tension as you stretch your muscles, never pain. If you feel pain, stop right away.
- Watch your posture. Pay attention to your posture with each stretch. Keep your chin up, spine straight, core engaged, and your shoulders aligned with your hips.
- Breathe through your stretches. Not only will breathing help you relieve stress and tension in your muscles, it may also improve the quality of your stretches and help you hold a stretch for longer.
- Start slowly. Don’t try to do too much the first time you stretch after a workout. Start with just a few stretches, and add more repetitions and stretches as you get used to them.
Stretching after working out can help you reap many rewards.
When you stretch your muscles after a workout, you’re helping to give your body a jump-start on recovery, while also releasing stress and tension, and boosting the flexibility of your joints.
If you’re unsure about how to stretch safely, ask a certified personal trainer to show you how. And be sure to talk with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have an injury or a medical condition.