Few things feel better than a nice solid stretch after a great workout. Whether it’s yoga, weight training or cardio, I know my body needs time to cool down afterwards. As a virtual health and fitness coach, I have access to a breadth of at-home workout programs—all of which include some great warm ups and cool downs. I handpicked my favorites from these programs, as well as others I’ve picked up along the way, to give you’re the perfect cooldown.
I find it’s always best to stretch larger muscle groups first, so I start with this Figure 4 series of moves, holding each pose for 30-60 seconds. Start by sitting on the ground with one leg out in front, then bend your other leg with the bottom of your foot touching the inside of the straight leg. Bend forward as far as you’re comfortable.
Next, move your bent leg to the top of your straight leg, with your ankle resting just above your opposite knee. Again, bending only as it’s comfortable. Then, sit up, place your hands behind you and bend your straight leg—you’ll start to feel the stretch in the glutes.
Finally, rotate your leg so that your grounded foot is towards your opposite glute, and your top foot is now on the floor. Rotate your torso so your elbow is on the outside of your opposite knee. Watch the image above a few times and this should feel like a flow.
IT Band Stretch
This is the hurt-so-good stretch! You don’t need much range of motion to get all you need out of it. The band used in the photo can be swapped out for a towel and can be made as long as needed so you can keep your legs straight and shoulders on the floor. Take your leg straight up with the band around it and stay here for as long as needed. Then, pull your leg across your body a few inches. This is where the main stretch in the IT band will occur, outside of the thigh.
Rotator Cuff Stretch
Shoulders are easy to stretch, which you’ll see later on. But, the rotator cuffs are a part of the body that gets very little love (and may need it the most)! After a workout, or when you’re feeling tight in the shoulders/cuffs, give this move a try and I’m sure you’ll notice a difference. The first two moves in the shape of an “L” and upside-down “L” are intended to be done repeatedly, in slow movements for about a minute. Then, resting the in third position for at least 30 seconds to really settle into the stretch.
Definitely one of my favorite stretches; it’s a two-in-one and feels amazing! It may look advanced but it’s a very simple move when done slowly. From position one, bring your left arm to your right leg. Then, bring your right arm to the floor and slowly inch your hand towards the left so your torso begins to open up to the right side. Enjoy the twist and stretch in the shoulder blades, as well as the hamstrings. Be sure to balance it and do it on both sides.
Back, Chest and Shoulders
These moves provide a quick-and-easy back, chest and shoulder stretch. Standing (or sitting if you prefer), cross-cross your arms in front of you and round your back. It’ll feel simple, but it’s a great way to stretch even the smallest muscles in your back, which for most people tend to get pretty knotted. Next, clasp your hands behind you at your glutes (or use a towel if your hands aren’t able to meet) and slowly raise your arms a few inches at a time. Only raise your arms as high as it’s comfortable. Repeat as needed.
Stretching might not always seem important, especially if you’re trying to fit in a quick workout but it’s crucial to maintaining a healthy, balanced body. I hope you give these moves a try!