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How to Stretch After Your Workout

You just finished a tough workout.

All the areas of your body that allow you to train hard are elevated.

This is commonly known as the “fight or flight” system.

Your heart rate, respiratory rate, stress hormones and nervous system are all elevated.

Your muscles, joints and tendons are fatigued and damaged.

This is all a good thing.

This system is what allows you to push harder, helping you lift more weights, run faster and longer and increase your exercise intensity -- leaving you gaining strength, shredding fat and reaching your goals.

Now that your training is done, it is time to turn down this system and turn up recovery.

This will allow your body to build back stronger, leaner and healthier.

All that hard work in the gym is meaningless unless you are properly able to recover from it.

Where to get started?

Enter, your post-workout stretch routine.

Stretching after your workout will:

  • Speed up and improve recovery
  • Turn down the “fight or flight” system
  • Increase joint and muscle flexibility
  • Decrease joint stiffness and pain
  • Improve posture and alignment
  • Decrease your risk of injury

Let’s get into the BEST post-workout stretches!

#1 90/90 Hip Lift

Every training session at DSC starts and ends with a positional breathing drill. One of our favorites shown above is called the 90/90 hip-lift. This exercise is specifically designed to relax your entire system, including your heart and respiratory rate, nervous system, low back, hips and shoulders while improving the posture and position of your hips and spine. The combination of a relaxed position and exaggerated exhales work like a massage to calm your stiff and overworked body leading to better recovery. 

Key Points

  • Lay on back with thighs and shins at 90 degrees, feet on wall
  • Keep low back in contact with floor (think of melting into the floor)
  • Keeping shoulders and neck relaxed, inhale easily through nose
  • Exhale through pursed lips
  • Make exhale as long and drawn out as possible
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes focusing on deep exhales

#2 Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch

One of the most overworked areas of your body are your quads (front of thigh and hip flexors). Because we use them so much in and outside of the gym, it is crucial we are consistent when it to comes to keeping them loose and mobile with proper stretching. Because they attach to our pelvis and knees, stretching them will decrease your risk of hip, knee and low back injury and pain. 

Key Points:

  • Start on one knee down and one foot out front
  • Legs should make 90 degree angles
  • If right knee is down, reach right arm up and over left leg
  • Stay tall with stomach braced
  • Feel stretch through front of thigh of down knee
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes/side focusing on deep exhales

#3 Pigeon Stretch

The pigeon stretch is our favorite hip and glute stretch. Your glutes are responsible for propelling you forward and up during strength exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlift and aid in running. Couple that with the fact we tend to sit too much and they get over worked and stiff. Decreases in range of motion at your hips is a great way to cause excessive movement and irritation at your low back and knee. Keep those hips moving well. 

Key Points:

  • Start with one knee and foot out front
  • Weight should be in hands and on shin and knee of front leg
  • Try to get front shin parallel to shoulders
  • Rotate shoulders towards lead knee
  • Feel stretch in hip of front leg
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes/side focusing on deep exhales

#4 Calf Stretch

Your calves or the muscles on the back of your shins take a real beating when you run. They are responsible for accepting force and the push-off phase of every stride you take when you run and walk. Your calves actually attach to the fascia that starts on the bottom of your feet. It is crucial for the health of your feet, ankles, calves and knees to keep the flexibility of your calves. Our favorite calf stretch is the down-dog.

Key Points:

  • Start in push-up position with hands under shoulders
  • Push your hips as high as you can and heels flat as possible
  • Feel stretch in back of heel and calf
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes focusing on deep exhales

#5 Rack Lat Stretch

Your lats are the biggest and strongest muscles in your body. They are great for helping you move some serious weight in the gym with exercises like rows, chin-ups and deadlifts. They also have a big role in posture and stabilizing your trunk. This is both a good and bad thing as they aid in performance but can become overworked and stiff leaving you at risk for shoulder issues such as impingement. Keep them good and stretched out. 

Key Points:

  • Grab stable surface such as rack with one arm - waist height
  • Lean back until you feel stretch through lat and back of shoulder
  • Keep back slightly rounded and relaxed
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes focusing on deep exhales

#6 Forearm Stretch

If you have ever had a hand, wrist or elbow injury you quickly realized how much you use them during the day. This is true for your workouts as well. All the gripping during exercises like rows, chin-ups, dumbbell presses and lunges add up. This causes your forearm muscles to stiffen and shorten, placing stress on your hands, wrists and elbows. 

Key Points

  • With one arm extended, use other hand to pull fingers down
  • Feel stretch on bottom side of forearm 
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes focusing on deep exhales

#7 Neck and Upper Traps

We've all experienced a stiff neck. This can be due to a variety of areas such as a poor sleeping position, posture and muscle imbalances. We can add to this stiffness and pain with exercise. Holding weights and heavy breathing can all attribute to making the upper traps and neck muscles work overtime. A great way to alleviate neck stiffness and stress is some dedicated stretching after your workout. 

Key Points:

  • Place one hand on side of head and other hand behind back
  • Stay tall and lightly pull head to the side until you feel a stretch 
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes focusing on deep exhales

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