• Introduction
  • Basics of post-workout stretching
  • Physiological benefits of post-workout stretching
  • Samples of post-workout stretching routines
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources

Introduction

Flexibility and stretching are often the most overlooked aspects of training and overall athletic development. Unfortunately, this can lead to lowered performance, poor posture, strength imbalances, and even greater injury risk. While adding a variety of flexibility exercises to your training program is crucial for your performance, what’s more important is knowing what kind of stretching you do and when. Luckily, this post explains everything about post-workout stretching and why it is so beneficial during cool down. If you’ve yet to read the scientific theory behind flexibility, feel free to check out this article.

But, if you have already done the research and want to focus on making the most of your stretching after an exercise, you’ve come to the right page! You’ll find all the necessary information to take your post-workout stretches to the next level. There are even a few free samples to try out.

Basics of post-workout stretching

Post-workout stretching should consist of medium-length stretches ranging from 20 to 60 seconds. Not only does this return the muscles to their resting length, but they also enhance blood flow in and out of the muscle, helps break down lactate, relax the muscles, and boosts recovery after a long workout. To have this relaxing effect, your post-workout stretches have to also be static, which means that they do not involve movement. 

Static post-workout stretching is can be beneficial after nearly every sport imaginable. This is due to the fact that your muscles are already warmed up from your training session. Additionally, since static stretching relaxes the muscles, multiple studies have stated that it can significantly hinder power and speed performance if done before physical activity. Therefore, you should start your training sessions with dynamic pre-workout stretching and finish off with longer static stretches since you don’t have to worry about lowered performance anymore. 

"Post-workout stretches return the muscles to their resting length and enhance recovery after a long workout."

It is important to remember that static post-workout stretches aren’t meant to increase your overall flexibility. Instead, they help your body relax and recover more efficiently. Another thing worth noting is that you shouldn’t stretch immediately after a workout – especially if you trained with heavier weights. A good rule of thumb for medium intensity exercises is to wait 20 minutes before stretching. For high intensity or heavy resistance training, you should wait around two hours before performing light stretches. This is due to the fact that strength training can shorten and tire the muscles for a longer time and stretching it could cause unnecessary tears in the muscle tissue itself. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to improve your flexibility, you should perform very long static stretches or even pre-contraction stretching, such as PNF stretching as their own training routine. However, it is important to keep in mind that increasing your flexibility is a marathon, not a race. So, take your time and try to gradually improve your flexibility to stay healthy in the process. 

Post-workout Stretching


Slow and controlled movements for every major muscle group used during exerciseBodyweight20 - 60s stretches1 - 3 setsNo rest between stretchesPerform 20mins after exerciseNever immediately after heavy strength training

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Physiological benefits of post-workout stretching 

Static post-workout stretching has many beneficial effects on your body. While static stretching helps relax the muscles and return them to their resting length, it can also increase blood flow in and out of the muscle, boosts recovery, and promotes good posture. All of these factors can have a tremendous impact on your athletic performance, which means they should be incorporated into every workout you do. 

Faster recovery may be the biggest benefit of post-workout stretching. This is due to the fact that medium-length static stretches relax the muscles and returns them to their resting length. Because contracted muscles also cause tension in the joints, having more relaxed muscles also helps take some pressure off your tendons, ligaments and joints. On top of that, post-workout stretching even increases blood flow in and out of the muscle, which helps move away unwanted byproducts such as lactate while also providing the muscles with valuable nutrients for recovery and rebuilding. Some studies have even stated that stretching after a training session can even reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (doms), which is a fancy word for being sore a couple of days after working out.  However, this topic is still under debate within the sports science community. 

Better posture is another huge benefit of post-exercise stretching. Even though medium-length static stretches do not aim to improve your overall flexibility, they can help relax tight muscles and maintain flexibility and strength balance in your body. And, since tighter muscles are in a constantly contracted state, they can easily pull your limbs to unwanted positions. Therefore, more flexible muscles maintain a good balance between agonist muscles (responsible for movement) and antagonist muscles (their counterparts) and helps support better posture during exercise. This can help prevent problems such as lowered athletic performance, lower back pain, neck pain, and even muscle tears. 

Stress relief is another benefit of post-workout stretching that is often overlooked by a number of athletes. Stretching and focused breathing also have a calming effect on your nervous system and therefore helps you get your mind off things and reduce your stress levels. Naturally, this can provide significant benefits for your overall fitness and mental health. 

For the most benefits, you should always stretch before and after exercise.

Samples of post-workout stretching routines

We all love free samples, right? Well if you are looking for a few good examples to get you started, feel free to check out our samples below. We’ll also be constantly adding more samples as we grow. You can even add your own custom-made routine here by contacting us.

Enjoy!

Ball-sport post-workout sample 1

1. Seated forward fold

  • Take a hurdler position and bend forward
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

2. Seated quad stretch

  • Keep the same position but bend backwards
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

3. Seated glute stretch

  • Keep one leg straight and cross the other one over it. You can grab your knee and pull it towards your chest for a deeper stretch
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

4. Upper body twist

  • Lie on your back and bring either leg across your body. Keep your shoulders on the ground
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

5. Lunge

  • Lunge forward and hold the stretch
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

6. Twist lunge

  • Bring the opposite arm on the inside of your foot. Reach to the ceiling with the other arm.
  • Switch arms after 20s.
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture
  • Move on to the next stretch

7. Standing forward fold

  • Keep your feet together and touch your toes
  • 20s stretch
  • Remember to breathe
  • Maintain good posture

Static cool-down routine

1. Standing forward fold

  • Place your feet shoulder width apart and fold forward
  • Hold for 60s

2. Knee to chest

  • Stay upright and bring your knee to your chest, hold knee with both hands
  • Hold for 60s on each side

3. Arms & side stretch

  • Reach your arms up over your head and stretch sideways
  • Maintain good posture
  • Arms & side stretch
  • Hold for 60s on each side

5. Side lunge

  • Take a long step sideways and bend your knee
  • Keep your heel down and weight evenly distributed on the underside of your foot
  • Hold for 60s on each side

6. Low lunge

  • Take a lunge position and put your knee on the ground
  • Hold for 60s on each side

7. Chest stretch

  • Interlock your fingers behind your back and extend your arms
  • Maintain good posture
  • Hold for 60s

Passive cool-down stretching routine with partner

1. Hamstring stretch

  • Lay on your back
  • Partner raises your legs towards the ceiling until light muscle tension
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s on both sides

2. Calf stretch

  • Lay on your back and keep your leg raised upwards
  • Partner puts weight on your forefoot & creates a calf stretch
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s on both sides

3. Glute stretch

  • Lay on your back and bend your knee across your body
  • Partner puts slight pressure and creates a stretch on your glute
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s on both sides

4. Inner thigh stretch

  • Lay on your back, bring your feet together while spreading your knees
  • Partner pushes your legs apart slightly to stretch the inner thighs
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s

5. Quad stretch

  • Turn around and lay on your stomach
  • Partner grabs your knee and ankle while raising them towards the ceiling
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s on both sides

5. Chest/pecs stretch

  • Lay on your stomach
  • Partner grabs your arms and slowly lifts them towards the ceiling
  • Stay relaxed – don’t contract your muscles
  • Hold for 60s

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor. 

Passive flexibility also supports active flexibility - you need to have adequate mobility to build strength in a new range of motion.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Stretching and different flexibility exercises are often regarded as a safe and effective way to maintain your overall health. The same goes for post-workout stretching as well. Not only does it help you relax and recover after working out, but it can also make sure you stay healthy in the long run. This is especially important for younger developing athletes, who unfortunately tend to dismiss stretching altogether. Therefore, it is up to the coaches or PE teachers to instill the habit of stretching both before and after training to make the most of your performance and maintain a healthy progression. 

To perform post-workout stretches the right way, young athletes should be taught what happens in the body during stretching and why. This will provide youngsters with a broad sense of how the body works and how to improve performance in the best way possible. This means that just like any other form of training, stretching also needs professional guidance for the best results. As far as static stretching goes, the most important things to remember are stretching for the right amount of time and at the right intensity. This means that every stretch should be done to the point of muscle tension and slight resistance, but never to the point of actual pain. As long as you can stay relaxed in a certain position for 20-60s, you’re all set. 

One safety factor to keep in mind is to not stretch immediately after heavy weight training. This is due to the fact that it causes your fatigued muscles to stay contracted and shortened for a longer period of time. Stretching them could actually cause muscle fibers to tear, which could take you out for weeks. 

Final thoughts

Post-workout stretching is often greatly overlooked by athletes and coaches alike. However, flexibility exercises after intense performance should be a part of every routine session because they relax the muscles, returns them to their resting length, and therefore greatly reduces recovery time. With this in mind, there’s no reason not to finish your training with some light stretching.

However, you must remember that different stretching styles serve their own purpose. Muscle-activating pre-workout stretches are short whereas post-exercise stretching is often longer and relaxing. On the other hand, very long stretches help increase flexibility but they require their own workout routine altogether.

It is also important to remember that post-workout stretching is not the only thing you need to consider to maintain athletic success. As always, you must make sure that you maintain a balance between smart training, sufficient rest, and the right nutrition if you want to stay in tip-top shape and free of injuries.

But before you go, just remember our few key pointers:

  • Rest for 20 minutes after your workout before you stretch
  • Do not stretch after heavy strength training
  • Stretch every muscle used during your training
  • Start stretching from the bottom and work your way up
  • Perform medium length (20-60s) static stretches to return the muscle to its resting length
  • Perform every stretch 1-3 times
  • Control your breath while stretching

Did you learn anything new about post-workout stretches? Let us know in the comments below!

Sources

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