Need to know how to stretch after a workout? Post-workout recovery is by far the most important part of your training and should incorporate stretches after a solid workout. While you warm up, you keep your body in motion and prepare your muscles for the intensity of your training program. However, your cool down period needs to include static stretches to lengthen muscle fibers, increase your mobility and help prevent injury. Follow these examples of stretches after your workout to get the most from your recovery. Remember to hold each stretch for at least ten seconds, and avoid bouncing or stretching beyond your comfort zone. Avoid holding your breath, and use a rhythmic deep breathing pattern to increase the flow of oxygen into your bloodstream.
Upper body post-workout stretches include:
- Chest stretch. Standing tall, hold your arms out to the side, then slowly pull them back toward the wall behind you. Feel your muscles lengthen across your chest.
- Upper back stretch. In the same standing position, interlock your fingers in front of you with your arms outstretched. Press your hands toward the wall in front of you, rounding out your back.
- Shoulder stretch. With a long rope, towel, or wooden stick, take a wide overhand grip and raise the object over your head. Slowly maneuver the object back behind you, keeping your arms straight. Take the object all the way to the lower portion of your back and hold for two counts. Bring it back up.
Lower body post-workout stretches include:
- Hamstring stretch. Lie on your back and slowly raise your right leg. Pull it toward your chest with your hands, while keeping your knee only slightly bent. Hold for ten to 30 seconds, and then slowly lower your leg back down. Repeat on the other side.
- Quadriceps stretch. Position yourself at the side of a bench with your right side leaning against the bench surface. Place your right leg on the bench so your quadriceps lie across the bench and your knee angles up with your bottom of your foot facing the ceiling. Your left leg is in lunge position. Stabilize your upper body by placing your left hand on the bench. Pull your right ankle toward your glutes to feel the stretch in your right quadriceps. Repeat on both sides.
- Calf stretch. Position yourself against a wall and lunge into the wall, keeping your back foot flat on the floor. Hold for ten seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
Stretching after a workout with a foam roller prevents scar tissue from building within the muscle fibers and also breaks up any muscle knots. Typically, a foam roller is six inches in diameter and round like a log. Using a foam roller once a week will prevent trips to a massage therapist and also help you avoid painful delayed onset muscle soreness.