Full Body Stretches for After a Workout

Full Body Stretches for After a Workout

Stretching tense, tight muscles provides a number of important benefits, from improving range of movement, posture and flexibility to lowering the risk for falls and injury during daily activities, to boosting sports performance. Don't neglect any major muscle groups when designing your stretching routine, and save those deep, holding stretches for after your workout when muscles are warm.

After Effects
Exercise, particularly repetitive motion such as running, kicking and rowing, can cause muscle tightening. Scheduling a stretching session after a workout loosens tight muscles and lets you work through the full range of motion around every joint. You get the benefit of the stretch without the dampening effect on peak performance that static stretching can cause. A study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in 2013 found that passive static stretching before exercise resulted in significant decreases in strength and lower-body stability. Pre-workout stretches weaken muscles, decrease speed and do not protect against injury. So don't use static stretches as a warm-up for your workout. Do include them after the exercise, when muscles are fully warm, to receive the greatest flexibility boost from holding a stretch just at the point of discomfort.

Upper Body
It's important to stretch the whole body and not just focus on the obvious hamstrings, glutes and calves. Shoulders and neck get tight when you sit in front of a computer screen all day or battle traffic in your daily commute. Poor posture leads to both tight and flabby muscles in your chest and back. Stretching your arms protects your reach and full range of movement, lowering your risk for injury. Lengthen and loosen your upper body with exercises like an overhead stretch with laced fingers; a triceps stretch with one arm behind your head, elbow bent, opposite arm pressing the elbow behind the head; neck tilts and rotations; sideways arm swings to open shoulders and chest; and sidebends and backbends for the midsection and spine.

Lower Body
Your powerful lower-body muscles can get tight and unbalanced during exercise. This will affect posture and the health of your lower back and increase your chances of injury, whether playing tennis or mowing the lawn. Runners should stretch after a workout to relax tight quad muscles and lengthen hamstrings. Dancers tend to develop tight calves, putting them at risk for shin splints, knee injuries and calf sprains. Too much sitting can result in shortened hip flexors, which affects pelvic alignment and the spine. Static stretches for the lower body include side leg stretches, lunges, calf stretches and step-ups, standing quad stretches, ankle flexes, and yoga poses like Downward-Facing Dog for hamstrings and Bridge for glutes and hip flexors.

Quick Fix
When you're short on time you can still lengthen most of your major muscle groups with one or two all-inclusive stretches. A forward-bending shoulder stretch hits arms, shoulders, chest, hamstrings and calves. Stand with a straight back and feet hip-width apart. Extend your hands behind your back, lock your fingers together and bend forward, allowing the arms to come up as you reach your head toward your shins. Relax your arms and place your hands on your hips before standing up, to protect your lower back. Warrior pose is a yoga stretching and strengthening move that stretches the arms, shoulders, spine, hips, upper and lower legs, and feet. From a basic standing pose, raise your arms straight overhead and step into a lunge with the back foot turned out. Breathe into the stretch for 30 seconds as you push up with your arms, lift your ribcage and square your hips. Switch sides.