What do you typically do when your workout is over? Do you book it out of the gym as fast as you can the second you’ve finished your last set? If that sounds like you, you might want to reconsider your cooldown routine and take a few minutes to do some stretching before you rush off to drink your post-workout protein shake (which, spoiler alert, might not be as important as you think!).
In this post, I talked about the pros and cons of static stretching. One of the pros that I mentioned is the fact that static stretching, when done after a workout, can help you get your body into a parasympathetic state, which is essential for muscle recovery.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of post-workout stretching but aren’t sure what kinds of stretches to do, this cooldown routine is for you. It only takes a few minutes but will do a great job of helping you loosen up your muscles and unwind when your workout is finished.
Read on for a breakdown of each stretch and its benefits:
Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is great for opening up the hamstrings, the calves, the upper back, and the shoulders. I like doing a more active plank-to-downward-facing-dog exercise as a warm-up, but a static downward facing dog is perfect for stretching out these muscles when your workout’s over.
It helps to start from a plank position and push your hips back when you’re doing this stretch — it helps you make sure everything is lined up properly. Don’t be afraid to bend your knees if you have a hard time keeping your heels on the floor, either!
Extended Side Angle
This yoga pose helps to open up the side of the body, as well as the hips and upper back.
Start in a low lunge position, then pivot your back foot so it’s flat on the floor and perpendicular to your front foot.
Try to keep your front knee bent in a 90-degree angle and distribute your weight evenly between your two feet as you reach your hand up toward the ceiling.
Seated Forward Fold
Ah, good old seated forward fold. This is an awesome hamstring and lower back stretch!
To get the most out of the stretch, flex your feet at the beginning and start with hands up over your head.
Think about hinging at your hips and reaching out toward your feet instead of down toward them and rounding your lower back. This will help you get a deeper stretch.
Pigeon and thread-the-needle both are excellent for stretching out the glutes and hips.
To do pigeon, start in a low lunge position. Then, slowly walk your front foot over toward the opposite wrist so that your shin ends up perpendicular to your back leg. If this is too difficult, bring your front in closer to the body and shrink the angle your front leg creates.
Once you’re comfortable, you can hold this position or slowly walk your hands out to get a deeper stretch in the hip. Keep your hips even and don’t let yourself fall to one side.
If pigeon hurts your knee or is uncomfortable in another, go ahead and switch to thread-the-needle. Lie flat on your back with your legs in a figure-4 position. You’ll feel the same sensation when you do this stretch, it’ll just be in a gentler way.
Cooldown Stretching Routine Video Breakdown
Need help with any of these cooldown stretches? Check out this video to see how they’re done.
Give this cooldown routine a try after your next workout and let me know how it goes! Tell me, too, what are your favorite post-workout stretches?