Stretching is crucial when it comes to working out, both pre and post workout. Whenever you’re exercising, some stress and strain are exerted on your muscles. As a result, you may end up with muscle tears, and that is perfectly normal.
However, these tears can quickly develop into injuries if you ignore pre and post workout stretches in your workout sessions. That said, how exactly do post workout stretches help your muscles recover? Keep reading to find out.
Why You Need Good Post Workout Stretches
Post workout stretches primarily have one role – to help you cool down after exercising. In doing so, it triggers muscle recovery mechanisms that reduce muscle tension in your body. This ultimately reduces the risk of getting injured. Here are some of the benefits of doing post workout stretches:
Improved Posture And Reduced Back Pains
Poor posture is likely to be caused by tense and tight muscles. As a result, extra strain from pressure will be applied to your muscles whenever you don’t stand or sit correctly. This then creates a domino effect where you’ll start experiencing back and other musculoskeletal pain.
Some studies suggest that combining strength training and stretching exercises can significantly reduce shoulder and back pains. Additionally, they boost proper alignment, which can help in improving your posture. In some cases, stretching has helped relieve existing back pains and lowered the risk of back injuries in the future (2).
Enhanced Blood Flow
An animal study done in 2018 indicates that stretching daily can boost your blood circulation. This then increases the rate of nutrient supply to your muscles, hence faster healing after a workout. Additionally, improved blood flow can also prevent muscle stiffness and soreness after working out (1).
Better Flexibility And Improved Range Of Motion
The flexibility of your joints can significantly be improved by stretching. Better flexibility means that moving around will be much easier. Additionally, the range of motion in your joints will also be increased. Your range of motion is how far your joints can move normally before stopping (4).
Reduced Muscle Tension And Stress
It’s normal to feel stress after a long day with a busy schedule. However, it can be overwhelming at times and get to unhealthy levels. The effect of that is your muscles become tensed up, and you start feeling like you’re carrying the stress (3).
When you stretch, the tight and tensed-up muscles in your body relax. By extension, your stress levels will drop and therefore help you feel calmer.
13 Best Post Workout Stretches
First off, what are the types of post workout stretches? Take note, they can be categorized either by their nature (dynamic or static) or by the muscles they work on. In this article, we look at them based on the latter categorization.
That said, which stretch exercises will help you cool down after an intense workout session? Next, we look at the top 13 post workout stretches that’ll boost your muscles’ recovery.
Hip Flexors Stretch
This move primarily targets your inner thigh, hip, and lower back muscles. Here’s how you do it:
- Get in a kneeling position on a yoga mat or flat surface.
- Next, release your left leg while taking a large step forward. Doing that will put you in a lunge position. Make sure your front knee is not further than your toe.
- Push your hips forward while keeping your torso upright. Doing this should trigger a stretch along the front of your back leg.
- Maintain this position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with your right leg forward.
Pro tips: Keep your back in a neutral position and face forward while doing the hip flexor stretch. Ensure you breathe through your nose and when you exhale, try to deepen the stretch.
This move primarily targets your glutes. The other muscles stretched during this exercise are your hips. Here’s how you do it:
- Lie flat on your back and bend both of your knees.
- Next, cross your left leg over your right leg while bringing both knees toward your chest.
- Gently pull your right leg toward you. Doing this should trigger a stretch in your glutes.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Pro tips: While doing this stretch, breathe slowly and ensure your back is always flat on the mat. To deepen the stretch, exhale and pull your left leg toward your chest. There shouldn’t be any pain in your glutes, only a stretch.
You may also try the stretch below:
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Have you been wondering what are the best post workout stretches for men? Well, the abs stretch may be just what you’re looking for. This move primarily targets your abs. Secondary muscles stretched in this exercise are your obliques. Here’s how you do it:
- Lie face down on your mat. Ensure your legs are straight and your arms are in a push-up position.
- Gradually straighten your arms while lifting your torso.
- Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds.
Pro tips: Your abs and back should remain relaxed as you breathe slowly. Breathe in while pushing your torso up, then deepen the stretch. Also, maintain your pelvis on the mat and keep facing forward. Doing this will put your body in a pain-free and comfortable position.
This move primarily targets your shoulder and core muscles. Other secondary muscles also stretched during this exercise include your arms, back, and chest. Here’s how you do it:
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides.
- Next, bend at your waist while placing your hands on the floor, then bend your knees.
- Move your hands forward to get into a high plank position. Your hands should be flat on the floor and your wrists stacked under your shoulders. Also, your quads, core, and butt muscles should be engaged. Pause for a second.
- Move your hands back toward your feet, then stand, returning to your starting position.
- Repeat for the required number of reps and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Pro tips: When doing this stretch, your legs should always be straight. Additionally, don’t allow your hips to sag and maintain a neutral spine. Ensure you also engage your core to help you stabilize the movement. Take deep breaths and lift your heels as you walk out, but your toes should remain in the same spot.
Have you been wondering what are some of the stretches for post push up workouts? Well, chest stretches may be just what you’re looking for. This exercise primarily targets your chest muscles. Other secondary muscles also stretched during this exercise include your shoulders and biceps. Here’s how you do it:
- Place your left palm on the wall while standing with the side of your body facing the wall.
- Gently rotate your torso toward the right. This should trigger a stretch in your left shoulder and chest.
- Hold for about 15-30 seconds and repeat on the right side.
Pro tips: Your palm should always be firmly pressed against the wall while you align your hand with your shoulder. Exhale as you deepen the stretch and keep your back straight while rotating your body and opening up your chest.
Another good exercise is called Chest Opener:
This move primarily targets your calves. Other secondary muscles stretched by this exercise include your ankles and hamstrings. Here’s how you do it:
- Stand holding onto a wall with your arms extended. Ensure that your toes are pointing forward.
- Next, extend your left leg back while keeping your right foot flat on the floor.
- Leaning forward, gently bend your left knee. This should trigger a stretch in your back calf.
- Hold the stretch, then repeat on your left leg.
Pro tips: Both of your feet should face forward, and you should push your rear heels down. Also, your knee should be straight as you drop your hips down and forward. When you exhale, ease further into the stretch. However, don’t force it.
Also try Seated Calf Stretch:
This move primarily targets your piriformis muscle. Other secondary muscles stretched in by this exercise include your legs, back, hips, and butt. This makes the piriformis one of the best post workout leg stretches. Here’s how you do it:
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you.
- Ensure your right leg is flat on the floor, then lift your left leg, placing your left ankle on your right knee.
- Gently arch your back, then lean forward. This should trigger a stretch in your glutes.
- Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat using your right leg on your left knee. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
This move primarily targets your triceps and shoulder muscles. Other secondary muscles stretched during this exercise include your lats. Here’s how you do it:
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, then roll your shoulders back and down to relieve any tension.
- While reaching your left arm toward the ceiling, bend your elbow. This should bring your left palm down toward the center of your back.
- Move your right hand up to pull your left elbow downward mildly.
- Hold this stretch for about 20-30 seconds and switch arms.
- Repeat 2-3 times on each side.
Pro tips: Ensure you release all the tension from your body while keeping your back straight and your neck and shoulder relaxed. As you stretch, exhale and when you’re releasing the stretch, inhale. Also, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Finally, it’s important that you maintain a natural but slightly deep breathing pattern.
Have you been wondering how to stretch hamstrings? Well, this is it. This move primarily targets your hamstrings. Other secondary muscles stretched by this exercise include your glutes. Here’s how you do it:
- Lie on your back, then lift your right leg.
- Pull your thigh gently toward your chest. This should trigger a stretch in your hamstrings.
- Hold the stretch and then repeat using your left leg.
Pro tips: Your leg should always be straight, and pull your thigh toward your torso when you breathe out. Your breaths should be slow and deep and focused on releasing stress and tension from your muscles.
This is one of the best post workout yoga stretches out there. This pose primarily targets your lower back muscles. Other secondary muscles stretched by this pose include your inner thighs. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by kneeling on your exercise mat. You should ensure your knees are wider than hip-width apart. Also, your feet should be together behind you.
- Next, sit back on your heels, then fold forward and rest your belly on your thighs.
- Extend your arms in front of you, rest your forehead on the floor. This should trigger a stretch in your back and shoulder muscles, plus your glutes and hips.
- To deepen the stretch, mildly press your shoulders and chest toward the ground.
- Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
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This stretch primarily targets your back muscles. Here’s how you do it:
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor. Your spine should also be in a neutral and relaxed alignment.
- Let your belly sink toward the floor while breathing in, then press your chest forward.
- Next, lift your head and relax your shoulders while exhaling.
- Finally, relax your head toward the floor and repeat. Try to get in as many reps as possible within a minute.
This stretch primarily targets your quad muscles. Other secondary muscles stretched by this exercise include your ankles and hip flexors. Have you been wondering how to do lower body post workout stretches like this? Well, here’s how:
- Stand upright and shift your weight to your left leg.
- Raise your right foot and hold it with your right hand.
- Next, pull your right foot toward your butt. This should trigger a stretch in your quads.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat with your left leg.
Pro tips: Ensure your thighs are always together and your back straight. Also, you should always grab your foot with the corresponding hand (right-right, left-left). If you need extra support, you can place a hand on a wall. Finally, breathe slowly and only deepen the stretch when you’re exhaling.
This stretch primarily targets your finger, wrists, and hands. Other secondary muscles stretched by this exercise include your forearms. Here’s how you do it:
- Standing up, extend your right arm forward at shoulder height.
- Grasp your right hand using your left while ensuring your elbow is straight.
- Bend your wrist backward until you feel a stretch in your forearm.
- Hold this position, then bend your wrist downward.
- Switch arms, then repeat the procedure.
Pro tips: Always make sure that your spine and neck are lengthened while bending your wrists. Finally, avoid breathing rapidly as you release the tension and don’t overstretch.
Try Fingers Extentions as well:
Working out is bound to take a toll on your body. This may develop into injuries over time if left unchecked, and that’s where stretches come in. They are a crucial part of any physical activity that should never be downplayed.
That being said, ensure you stretch both before and after your workout for maximum safety. Post workout stretches will improve your muscle flexibility, and by extension, your overall performance and stability.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Daily muscle stretching enhances blood flow, endothelial function, capillarity, vascular volume and connectivity in aged skeletal muscle (2018, nih.gov)
- Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain (2015, nih.gov)
- Muscle stretching as an alternative relaxation training procedure (1990, pubmed.gov)
- Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk (2005, nih.gov)