You started with a dynamic warm-up, crushed a treadmill run, and are ready to hit the shower. Before you do, spend a few minutes doing these stretches for flexibility. Stretching may not be the most exciting part of your workout, but it's an important tenant of a well-rounded fitness routine. Taking time to stretch after a cardio workout will help your body cool down, improve your flexibility, and keep your body working like a well-oiled machine.
Why should you stretch after a cardio workout?
As SELF has previously reported, stretching post-workout gives your body a chance to cool down properly. It's important to make time for that—versus just abruptly stopping your workout—so that your body has a chance to slowly recalibrate. Otherwise, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy if your heart rate and breathing rate are trying to go from one extreme (intense!) to the next (less intense!).
Stretching after a workout may also help you recover more quickly, thanks to the way it increases blood flow to muscles and soft tissues that need all those good nutrients and oxygen to repair themselves, Jennifer Morgan, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a sports physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, previously told SELF.
Focusing on stretches for flexibility post-workout is typically recommended over doing them beforehand. Dynamic stretches, which are more active and focused on moving your body through similar motions that you'll do in your workout, are great for warming up. But static stretches, which are the classic hold-a-stretch moves you think about when you think about flexibility training, are best to save until the end of the workout. As SELF has previously reported, research suggests static stretching can potentially reduce strength, power, and explosiveness if done right before a workout—all things you might need to crush your cardio routine.
It's also best to stretch when your body is already warmed up (to reduce the risk of pulling or straining anything). There's no better time for warm muscles and tendons than right after a sweaty cardio workout.
What are the best stretches to do after a cardio workout?
In general, you want to focus on stretching the muscles you just used in your workout. After a cardio workout, that probably means your lower-body muscles. But remember that your core—including your abdominal muscles and back muscles—also do some serious work when you run, bike, or spend time on your favorite cardio machine. Even your upper back and shoulders might feel fatigued. They just worked hard, too, helping you to maintain correct upright posture.
So, there's no reason not to take advantage of your whole body being warm and primed for flexibility. Feel free to stretch anything that feels tight, or any problem areas you have—like, say, the lower back or neck and shoulders.
improve your flexibility and range of motion. Hold each one for at least 30 seconds to get the best benefits. If you don't have time for all of them, pick the ones that target the areas you feel tightest, or the areas that feel the hardest hit from your workout.
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