Did you know that only about 23% of adults in the U.S. meet the recommended amount of weekly exercise? Getting regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%, and it has many other benefits as well.
Exercise is important, but what most people forget to do after a workout is to stretch. Keep reading to learn about the importance of post-workout stretches and some stretches you can incorporate into your routine.
Reasons to Stretch After a Workout
Stretching on its own is very beneficial. It helps to maintain good joint and muscle health. There are many benefits it offers if done after a workout, however.
Stretching can improve your flexibility and range of motion. These are important because they help you move from point A to point B.
Stretching after your workouts can improve the alignment of your spine, thus improving posture. Better posture will reduce some of the tension on the muscles in your back and reduce pain.
The main point of stretching is to reduce muscle tension. When you release this tension post-workout, you’re also relaxing your body. This relaxation can reduce stress levels.
Stretching improves circulation—this is a good thing when muscles need to heal. You can also prevent muscle soreness by stretching after your workout. You’ll reduce your risk of injury if you stretch after a workout too.
Choose Stretches That Relate to Your Workout
Stretches that work on all of the major muscle groups are great post-workout, but you should focus on stretching the groups of muscles you focused on during your workout.
These stretches will help you cool down and prevent your muscles from getting stiff after an intense workout. If you had a leg day at the gym, then focus on stretching those muscles. If you worked on your arms, doing arm stretches after your workout is key.
The Amount of Time You Stretch Is Important
Your post-workout stretch routine is just as crucial as the exercise you complete. Try to aim for 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after every workout. You can do full-body workout stretches or focus on specific muscles.
If you don’t have the time, even something as short as a two-minute stretch is better than not stretching at all after your workout. You should divide your stretching time evenly, meaning that if one leg gets one minute, the other should too.
Discomfort during stretching post-workout is normal, but any pain is a sign of a more serious issue that should be brought up to a medical professional.
Touch Your Toes
Touching your toes, or trying to, is a simple stretch you can incorporate into your after-workout routine. All you have to do is stand straight and bend forward, trying to get your fingers as close to your toes as possible.
This stretch can relieve soreness in the hamstrings and reduce pain in your lower back. You don’t need any equipment for this stretch—you just need enough room to stand comfortably.
Focus on Your Hips
When targeting your hips in a post-workout stretch, you should consider using a yoga mat. This can prevent extra pressure and make you feel more comfortable. The hip flexor stretch in a lunging position will help relieve tension in your hips, your quads, and your glutes.
Start by kneeling on your left knee while the other is bent with your foot flat against the mat. You’ll lean forward with your left hip while keeping your upper body straight. You can hold this stretch for about a minute before switching and repeating with the other leg.
Stretch the Upper Body
Exercising your upper body is a great way to gain strength. You can’t forget to add some upper body post-workout stretches to your routine, however.
One great stretch you can try is a quadruped thoracic rotation. For this stretch, you’ll start on all fours making sure your back is straight.
You’ll then proceed to gently put your left hand behind your head, sticking your elbow out to the left as well. Next, you’ll move your head and shoulder to the right so your elbow can point toward the ceiling.
Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat this motion for up to a minute. Switch to your other hand and repeat.
Your Quads Need Some Stretching Too
The quad muscles are located in the front part of your thighs and connect to your knees. These muscles are used for bending your knees forward and backward and help in doing things like kicking or squatting.
Stretching these muscles after a workout will prevent soreness and stiffness. A simple quad stretch is to stand up straight and bend your left leg up behind your back. Pull it back with the opposite hand and hold that position for a couple of seconds.
Repeat this stretch for up to a minute, and then switch to your right leg.
Prevent Back Pain With This Stretch
Stretching is an important part of your post-workout routine, but it’s especially important in preventing pain. To reduce the risk of experiencing uncomfortable back pain, try incorporating the piriformis stretch after your workout.
The piriformis muscle starts at the lowest part of the spine and connects to the muscles in the thigh. These muscles aid in moving your hips, back, and legs.
You’ll start this stretch by sitting down on a mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Keep one leg flat and bend the other, placing your ankle on the knee of the extended leg.
Move slightly forward until you feel those muscles stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat a few times. Switch legs and repeat the stretch for the same amount of time.
A Pec Stretch
After a session at the gym focused on the upper body and the muscles in your chest, it’s important to practice some post chest workout stretches. Your pec muscles are in your chest and connect to your upper arms and shoulders.
A lying pec stretch is a perfect way to cool these muscles down. You’ll start by lying on your stomach in a T shape. Push up with your left hand as you bend your left knee as well.
Roll as far as you can to your right. Hold this stretch for up to a minute, and don’t forget to repeat it on the other side.
The Cat-Cow Stretch Is Great for Your Back
It’s a good idea to try different kinds of stretches for your back. Some might feel easier to do than others; some might help prevent pain more.
The cat-cow stretch focuses on the muscles in your back. You’ll start on all fours; make sure to place a yoga mat down to lessen the pressure on your knees.
Keep your back in a relaxed position and inhale as you press your chest forward. Lift your head as you exhale and then push your back up while pushing your pelvic bone forward.
Let your head relax as you’re pushing your back upward. Repeat these stretches for up to a minute.
A Lunge With a Spinal Twist Helps the Upper Body
Next on our list of best post-workout stretches is the lunge with a spinal twist. You’ll start this stretch by standing with your feet together and then pushing your left foot as far forward as you can.
Bend your knee to go into a lunge position while keeping your other leg straight and touching the floor. Next, you’ll put your right hand on the floor while you twist the upper part of your body to the left and push your left arm up.
Hold that position for up to a minute and then switch to the right leg to repeat the stretch.
Try the Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch is a great way to open up your hips if you’re feeling a lot of stiffness there after you’ve completed a workout.
Begin by sitting on the floor and then opening your legs while trying to push the bottom of your feet together. Bend your back forward and try to keep your knees from lifting.
This stretch is great for your thigh muscles and your lower back as well.
You’ll Need Some Support for the Stand Calf Stretch
Developing strong calf muscles is as much about working out as it is stretching these muscles appropriately. Post-workout leg stretches should be an important part of your routine.
The standing calf stretch is a simple way to incorporate leg stretches into your exercise routine. Use a chair for support as you put your left foot in front of the right one.
Keep your right knee straight as you bend your left one by leaning forward toward the chair, make sure both feet stay on the ground.
Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat three times. Switch to the right leg and repeat.
If you’re still feeling stiffness in your muscles after your workouts and stretching routines, you can try this CBD muscle gel and see if it helps relieve some tension.
Try These Post-Workout Stretches
Post-workout stretches are an important part of exercising to prevent stiffness and pain. Try doing some of the stretch routines in this guide to get started.
Make sure you check out some of our other blog posts for more health and fitness topics and tips.