- Stretching after a workout can help you avoid injuries.
- Stretching helps restore your body, posture, and muscles to their natural state.
- Stretching reduces post-workout recovery time, stiffness and soreness.
If you've ever raced home right after a workout to start dinner, see
your family or catch your favorite show you’re not alone. In today’s
fast-paced world it’s easy to skip the oh-so-important
cooldown and post-workout stretch, but you may be affecting your health more than you realize. People who
do not routinely stretch properly for five to ten minutes after exercising
are at an increased risk of injury,
muscle strains, muscle spasms and lower back pain.
Why is stretching important after a workout?
The contractions that occur when you exercise cause your muscles to tighten
and shorten, which reduces their flexibility. Stretching not only helps
restore your muscles to their natural position, it also helps them recover more quickly and prevent injuries. A good
post-workout stretch practice increases blood flow, boosts oxygen levels,
delivers nutrients to your muscles, and removes metabolic waste (e.g.,
carbon dioxide, ammonia and uric acid) from your body. Stretching also
helps your joints move through their full range of motion and lessens
your post-workout recovery time. Proper exercise and stretching techniques
will enable your muscles to work effectively and improve your overall
What are the benefits of stretching?
In addition to stretching after workouts, you may want to add a stretching
session to your
daily routine to help:
Move around more easily and with
- Achieve better form and deeper positions during your workouts
- Avoid injuries
- Reduce stress
- Improve balance
Which stretches should I be doing?
There are many different stretches you can use to help restore your body
post-workout. However, you should avoid any movements or positions that
cause pain or discomfort. Here is a handy breakdown to help you target
specific muscle groups:
If your workout involved
strength-training exercises like bench presses, dumbbell flys or pushups you’ll want to stretch
your chest muscles to get every last bit out of your efforts. Start by
standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight
and interlock your fingers behind your back. Next, hold your back straight
and shoulder blades together as you slowly lift your arms up until you
feel a stretch in your pectoral (chest) muscles. Once your chest is engaged,
hold for 30 seconds.
If your workout involved lat pulldowns, pull-ups, or rowing exercises
restore your back muscles with a simple focused, stretch. Begin by laying
on your back with your knees pulled in toward your chest. Place your hands
on your knees and gently pull your thighs closer to your chest. Hold this
position for 20 to 30 seconds. Next, place your hands at your sides and
tilt your knees to one side, bringing them as close to the floor as you
can and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. While tilting your
knees to the side, be sure to keep the small of your back pressed against
the floor to avoid injury.
After an intense arm workout with dumbbells, be sure to engage in a deep,
slow stretch to help reduce post-workout stiffness and soreness. A good way to
stretch your biceps is to sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Place your
arms behind you (fingers facing away from your body) and slowly slide
your bottom toward your feet until you feel a stretch in your biceps.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least twice.
Triceps and shoulders
keep your triceps and shoulders loose after a workout, stand with your back straight and raise your right arm
over your head. Next, bend at the elbow so your right hand is resting
between your shoulder blades, palm facing your back. Next, take your left
hand, place it on your right elbow and gently pull it toward your left
side until you feel a stretch in your tricep and shoulder. Hold for 20
to 30 seconds and repeat for the left.
Legs, hips, and buttocks
Squats, lunges, and leg presses are great for strengthening your legs,
hips, and buttocks, but these large muscle groups need a little TLC after
a heavy workout. To give them the stretch they need, start in a seated
position with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet touching each
other. By leaning slightly forward this
butterfly stretch opens your hips and stretches your thighs. Next, your thighs and
buttocks can be easily stretched while in a seated twist position. Sit with your
legs in front of you and bring your right knee toward your chest, leaving
your foot on the ground. Next, place your right hand on the floor behind
you for balance and your left hand on your right knee. Gently twist your
back to the right until you feel a stretch in your right buttock. Hold
for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Stretching is a great way to improve flexibility, range of motion and protect
your body from injury. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise
program if your health is unstable or you have a chronic health condition
like heart disease, diabetes or asthma.
Find a skilled St. Joseph Health doctor near you.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.