This Cool-Down Routine Will Keep Your Muscles Happy
Stretching is such an important part of your workout routine. Without stretching, your muscles can stay in their contracted state, resulting in soreness and stiffness the next day.
To avoid this discomfort, practice following this post-workout cooldown routine to keep your muscles happy. It may seem time-consuming at first (4-5 minutes!), but after a few run-throughs, you’ll have it memorised so it’ll be even easier to do.
If you’ve practised some stretching before, the quick labeled slideshow below might be enough to follow this routine. But, if not, scroll further down for static images and more detailed instructions.
|Calves||When you’re stretching your calves, you’re actually targeting the ‘gastrocnemius’ muscle. Regardless of whether you can pronounce its official name, it’s one of the leg muscles that will hurt a lot if you neglect it. The stretch we’re showing here requires no equipment—just a wall. Start slow and breathe deeply as you deepen this stretch. Your calves will thank you.|
|Hamstrings||The ‘Hamstring’ muscle group is actually made up of three posterior thigh muscles. You can target them all with this stretch. It requires a steady surface that you can rest your foot on. Lean forward slowly at the hip, focusing on the hamstring muscles and counting with deep breaths, to stretch this group effectively.|
|Inner Thighs||Again, you’re actually targeting quite a few different muscles when you stretch this area. Five different ones, in fact! So we won’t list them here (refer to our detailed Muscle Map to Stretching if you’re curious to learn more). Instead, we’ll show you a stretch that will target them all. If you’d like to deepen this stretch, you can lean forward slowly at the hip. You can also lean slightly the opposite way, tilting the pelvis forwards, to make sure this stretch reaches every muscle in this group.|
|Glutes||This stretch will allow you to soothe the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus in one fell swoop. Take your time with it and experiment carefully to see exactly what positioning feels best for you at that moment. You can lean forward to deepen this stretch, straighten your leg (or bend it further) or even perform it while sitting down.|
|Quads & Hip Flexors||This is a powerful stretch for the quadriceps & hip flexor muscle groups. Perform it near a wall or box if you need help with your balance. The more you straighten your back and lean forwards from your pelvis, the deeper this stretch will be. As this muscle group includes a very large muscle—the rectus femoris—you may find this stretch very intense. So take breathing breaks if you need to.|
|Abdominals & Chest||It can be tricky to stretch the muscles that lie within your core, up your abdomen and across your chest all at once, but it’s essential not only to combat aches after training but also to fight against the forward slope many of us desk workers develop. This stretch is shown using a medicine ball for support, but once you’ve become adept you may be happier performing it without one.|
|Biceps & Anterior Shoulders||Using an anchor point, like a wall, doorway or vertical pole, begin this stretch from a fully upright position. Only once you’re ready to deepen it should you start to bend your knees.|
|Back||The longest muscles in your back are the erector spinae muscles. They run along either side of your spine. Neglecting this pair can lead to all kinds of problems, including spinal movement restriction and back pain. So whether you’ve been working out, or simply running errands, perform this stretch daily to release tightness and relax your back. To increase this stretch’s intensity, you can reach for your toes.|
As always, the stretches here have been drawn from our comprehensive Muscle Map to Stretching database. Be sure to check it out whenever you’re looking for new stretching techniques and tips.