A stretch is so natural, it can be almost unconscious. We all do it from time to time, but do you stretch after a workout? Like you, I’ve noticed a lot more people doing stretches before they exercise, than after a workout.
Most people stretch prior to exercise because they are aware that 1) muscles and tendons tend to shorten when not in use and cold 2) cold muscles are more prone to injury 3) it just makes the start of a workout easier.
But I’m not so sure all of us realize how crucial stretching after a workout is to overall results and recovery time.
Do You Stretch After A Workout?
If you’re not stretching after your workout, The rest of this post could help you realize the importance of stretching after a workout, and 3 popular stretches to do when you’re finished.
Benefits of Stretching After A Workout
Everyone is aware that stretching pre-workout gets your body, muscles, and mind geared up for what’s coming next. These few minutes get’s blood circulating and warming muscles before they start stressing from extreme exertion, but are there any real benefits to post workout stretching?
According to this study the benefits of post workout stretching make this few minutes well worth your time:
An active cool-down is believed to have many physiological benefits compared with a passive cool-down, such as a faster recovery of heart rate, less muscle soreness, and more rapid reduction of metabolic by-productsRead the study here
8 Reasons To Stretch After A Workout
- Stretching afterward can significantly reduce post workout soreness and pain
- Reduce fatigue and speed recovery
- Relax tight muscles from your workout
- Aid in staying flexible and range of motion to help keep muscles from stiffening up after being stressed
- Helps eliminate latic acid that accumulates in muscles during exercise
- Increases energy
- Gives your body time to slow down and cool down gradually instead of going from wide open to dead stop
- Allows your heart rate to gradually slow down to it’s normal pace
The end result
My exercise, whether it’s resistance training, running, or some cardio machine is usually done in the mornings. So, that means I frequently go straight from the gym to work.
Without stretching after a workout, I am forced to endure my muscles starting to shorten, soreness, and in an hour or two I start coming down and start fatiguing.
On the other hand spending 5-10 minutes cooling down and stretching after my workout and before a shower keeps me in step for work. Life is just a lot easier when I take my exercise by the numbers and don’t skip my stretches.
If you want to seriously decrease or eliminate that post workout muscle soreness, make sure you are stretching immediately after your workouts. As you exercised your muscles stressed, elonggated, and built up a lot of tension. Just a few minutes of stretching out those muscles will release quite a bit of that tension and reduce the soreness and fatigue.
Post Workout Stretches
These stretches are simple, quick, and really work for any post exercise, workout, or physical activity. They are just as good after a walk around the park as they are for HIIT workouts, resistance training, or running for cardio.
Obvously you will want to use the appropriate stretches for your own workout. However, I’ve learned that upper body stretches sure feel good after a run? In fact, they work well for any time of the day that you feel your body starting to tighten up.
Legs, hamstrings, glutes, and calves will almost always take a lot of punishment regardless of the particular type workout. You can never go wrong, and save yourself a ton of anguish by stretching these muscle groups. Here’s how to get started with hamstring stretches:
Sit on the floor or ground with with legs extended in front of you. Now bend one leg at the knee joint and place the sole of that foot on your inner thigh. I like to lift my arms over my head and lower both hands towards my foot that is extended out in front. Either grab your big toe and pull it back, or just reach both hands out as far towards it as possible.
You will certainly feel the stretch. Remember to breathe. It’s easy to forget to breathe, but it’s important to oxygenating your body while you are stretching. Take 10 breaths and concentrate on the muscles in your leg that you feel.
If your upper body is the workout routine today, and you did it justice, you’ll have sore arms later on; possibly tomorrow too? As my arms start the recovery process muscles, including triceps will naturally try to shorten. Just reaching up in the cabinets will alert my arms that it’s time for a little pain.
Stretching out my lats and triceps right after my workout does wonders to prevent this. Just extend one arm up as high as possible, holding for about 5 seconds and then place your palm or fingertips on your spine between your shoulder blades.
Now with your other arm, push on your elbow as far as you care to extend it, without tearing or breaking something. Hold that stretch for about 30 seconds. Now do the other arm.
Next comes shoulder stretches. Most people doing any exercise know the feeling shoulder and neck pain after a workout. To avoid that after your exercise, grab a towel, or broom handle.
Hold it in both hands and raise it as high as you can over your head. If you are using a towel, wind it up length wise as if you are going to pop someone with it. With a towel you will need to grab it, like a stick, a little wider than your shoulders.
Now raise it above your head as high as possible. Next let it down behind your head towards your back and shoulders. You will feel the tension release in your shoulders as you hold it behind your head for 30-45 seconds. It may feel so good that you want to do a few reps.
Taking just a few minutes after your workout for stretching will:
- Enhance performance in the long run
- Decrease and eliminate a lot of normal muscle soreness afterwards
- Can aid with building strength and muscle because stretching helps activate the recovery and repair process quicker.
Another great benefit of stretching anytime at all is the positive effect it has on your posture. In only a couple of days you can’t help but notice that you are standing up straighter with more stature than before. You’ll look better and feel better with only a few minutes following each workout.
If you are still dealing with sore and stiff muscles during your recovery time, it might be time to start using a quality foam roller.
Do you stretch after a workout? If you haven’t been, you haven’t been taking full responsibility for the benefits possible from regular exercise.