The majority of people don’t stretch after they exercise. They think stretching before is important. And while yes, dynamic warm ups, including some active stretching is important before exercise, stretching after can be even more important for muscle recovery. (Make sure you check out my 10 minute dynamic warm up that I do.)
Why should you stretch after exercising?
There are many reasons why stretching after a workout is important for your health and fitness.
Stretching reduces muscle tension
When we spend 30 minutes to an hour (or more) working those muscles, they tend to get tense and strained. Stretching after you workout helps release that muscle tension that has built up over your workout.
It improves your range of motion/flexibility
Stretching when your muscles are warmed up will help improve your range of motion much more quickly than trying to stretch cold muscles. And it can keep you from getting hurt! When you consistently stretch after exercise you will notice that it’s easier to squat and bend over to pick things up. You will also be able to use your muscles to their full capacity.
Improves blood circulation
When you have an intense workout, the body pumps blood to your heart faster, making it beat at a more rapid rate. Stretching gives the body time to cool down and help your heart rate return to a normal pace.
When you stretch, lactic acid stops being released to the muscles, and allows muscle recovery to begin. This is where blood circulation also returns to the muscles (instead of being primarily directed to the heart).
Helps muscles recover faster
Like I mentioned above, when you stretch after your workout, it helps your muscles recover from strenuous exercise much quicker. It also helps remove lactic acid from the muscles, aiding in muscle recovery.
10 stretches to do after a workout
kneeling hip flexors (quads, hips)
straight leg toe touch (hamstrings, neck back)
pretzel stretch (glutes and hips)
upper back stretch (hands together out and round back)
chest stretch (hands together behind you)
standing quad stretch
overhead tricep stretch
cross-body shoulder stretch
butterfly stretch (inner thighs)
These are some of my favorite stretches to do after a workout. Not only does stretching provide all the benefits I mentioned above, it also feels amazing! Try stretching throughout the day to keep your body limber and in a more comfortable state. Stretching on your days off can also provide benefits of relaxation, muscle recovery and reduced stress. You could also do some light yoga, which incorporates stretching, on your days off intense exercise.
Start incorporating these stretches after your workouts and you will start noticing improvements in your form, range of motion, and even digestive health!