Often overlooked, stretching holds strong as the most important part of your workout. Why? Harvard Health says it best:
“Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight.
Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
Essentially, without stretching, you’re not fully honoring the recovery process, which will negate some of that hard work you just did, and you’re putting yourself at greater risk for injury moving forward. If you stretch, you’re also just simply going to feel better throughout the rest of your day and week. You’ll be ready to take on tomorrow’s workout with less tightness and soreness than if you didn’t take the time to stretch.
We’re all busy people, but you don’t even have to take that much more time post-workout to create an effective, beneficial stretching routine. This one below won’t take more than 15 minutes, but you’ll feel better today and recover better for tomorrow than if you didn’t do any stretching at all. Without further ado, here’s our foolproof post-workout stretching routine.
**Note: consult a certified health care professional prior to engaging in any physical activity.
** Hold All Stretches for 30 Seconds Each **
1. Standing Calf Wall Stretch
Stand a little less than an arm's distance away from the wall. Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel. Bend your left knee and press through your right heel (as shown).
Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
After you do both sides, bend the back leg and the front leg at the same time. Do both sides again, for 30 seconds each.
2. Forearm Stretch
Stand in a doorway. Press one arm against the wall at shoulder height with the thumb facing upwards. Turn the torso backwards and you will notice how all the muscles of the forearm stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other arm.
3. Happy Baby
Now we’re getting into some yoga poses.
Lie flat on your back. Bend your knees toward your chest at a 90-degree angle. Face the soles of your feet up toward the ceiling.
Reaching forward, grab and hold the inside or outside of your feet. Spread your knees apart, shifting them toward your armpits. Flex your heels into your hand and gently rock from side-to-side (hence the name, Happy Baby) for 30 seconds.
4. Figure Four Stretch
Lie on your back. Cross your right foot over your left quad, and bend your left knee. Hold the back of your left leg and gently pull it toward your chest.
When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
5. Sitting Hamstring Stretches
Sit with one leg extended and your back straight. Bend your other leg so that the sole of your foot rests against your mid-thigh. Reach toward your ankle.
Keep your knee, neck, and back straight. Feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Once you do both sides, sit with both legs extended out in front of you, still keeping your back straight. Reach toward your ankles, still keeping everything straight, and hold for 30 seconds.
6. The Butterfly
Sit down on the floor or ground with your legs in front of you. Gently pull your right foot up towards your groin, bending until it is at a comfortable spot and the sole of the foot is facing your left thigh. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot toward your groin so that its sole touches the sole of your right foot.
Hold your feet with your hands and rest your elbows on your knees. While keeping your back straight (no slouching), allow your knees to fall towards the ground. You can apply gentle pressure on the inner thigh by pressing gently on the knees with the elbows.
You should feel gentle pulling and tension in the groin. Hold for 30 seconds.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Cross your right foot over your left leg and hug your knee. Pull your knee into your chest and hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
8. Kneeling Quad Stretch
Start off in a high lunge position, with your right foot forward. Then, slowly drop your left knee to the ground. With your left arm, reach back for your toes on your left foot and pull your left leg up towards the sky, keeping your knee down on the ground.
Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides.
9. Downward Dog
Come onto your hands and knees, with your hands a tiny bit in front of your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Lift your knees from the floor, keeping your knees ever-so-slightly bent and your heels lifted off the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and draw your inner legs from your inner ankles up through your groins.
Firm your outer arms and press the bases of your index fingers actively into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, and keep your head between your upper arms. Stay in the stretch for 30 seconds.
10. The Pigeon
Start in downward dog. Swing the right leg back before you send it forward in between your legs. Place the right shin on the ground at a 90-degree angle, while dropping and lengthening the left leg behind you so that the left kneecap and top of feet are on the ground.
Hinge from the hips and fold forward, while lengthening your spine. To go deeper into this posture, come down to the forearms or extend the torso and arms forward and down so as to lay the body flat on the front bent leg. Hold for 30 seconds, before gently unfolding your body and switching sides.