How to Stretch After A Workout

Today, you’re going to learn how to stretch.

This particular article might be light on the nerdiness (hope you don’t mind), and maybe even a little boring, but fear not!  It’s going to keep you safe and healthy on your quest to living a better life.  On top of that, if you’re big into strength training, stretching is so freaking important that if you are tight on time, cut the workout short but not the warm-up before or cool down after.

Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

Why should you stretch after a workout?

Now, there are conflicting stories and reports and studies on the benefits of stretching before/after workouts.  In this nerd’s humble opinion and experience, along with the opinion and experience of those that I personally respect, static stretching BEFORE a workout isn’t beneficial and can actually decrease your strength.

However, stretching AFTER a workout can help kickstart the recovery process, loosen up your joints and muscles, and keep you feeling like a normal person rather than a robot.  Not that having the flexibility of a steel girder ISN’T fun, but it’s not my thing :)

This is why I find stretching AFTER a workout to be so beneficial (as it’s so eloquently explained in this great article):

“When you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is. Until the muscle has restored its length, it has not recovered. Hence he who does not stretch his muscles slows down the recuperation process and retards his gains.” Besides, tension and relaxation are the two sides of the same coin, “if the muscle forgets how to lengthen, it will contract more poorly. And that is stagnation of strength.”

When you go through a great stretch routine after a heavy weight lifting day, your muscles are already starting to recover and expand, which will allow to you get back to “normal” more quickly than if you didn’t stretch.

And with improved flexibility comes improved performance in almost all areas of life (yup, even THAT).

Also, as you get older, your flexibility and mobility start to go…making you FEEL older.  If you can stay flexible, you’re more likely to stay happy and healthy for far longer.  Staying flexible keeps you active, and staying active keeps you young.

Beginner Stretching Routine

Now, after working out, HOW should you stretch depends on a few factors:  Your particular fitness level, your level of flexibility, how hard you worked out, and which muscles have been stretched.

Here’s a beginner stretching routine to complete after your workouts, created by my buddy and co-author of the Rebel Strength Guide, Vic Magary.

What’s important is to try your best, don’t stretch beyond the point where the movements are actually painful.  Slight discomfort (from stretching, duh) is what we’re aiming for.

Now, how far you stretch is up to you – You know your body best, and it’s the only one you got – so please take care of it!


Beginner Stretching Routine Video

Advanced Stretching Routine

Here’s a video of a more advanced stretching routine that I adapted from my fitness yoda/friend Mike Rickett.  It’s a mix of yoga, stretching, tai-chi, pilates, and awesome.  This is relatively advanced, so don’t do any of these movements that are too much of a reach (get it?!) for you.

The video explains everything, so pay attention to both the movement and number of repetitions.  Although I move quickly through the movements (sorry about that), don’t confuse my movements with bouncing – stretch as far as you can, hold it for a few seconds without bouncing, and then repeat the process:


Advanced Stretching Routine Video

Questions?

Depending on how you’re feeling, where you’re sore, and so on – you can throw in some additional stretches like the ballet stretch, full body stretch, or back stretch.

This should hopefully get you started – if you have more questions on what to do or when to do it – leave a comment and I’ll figure it out.

And speaking of stretching, keep an eye on NF in the upcoming weeks, as I plan on having a nerd’s guide to yoga for ya.  Stretching, mobility, and flexibility for the win!

-Steve

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  • Anonymous

    “And with improved flexibility comes improved performance in almost all areas of life (yup, even THAT).”

    ..even playing video games?!

  • Todd Dosenberry

    I was thinking sex.

  • http://twitter.com/DaybreakJoe Joe Filipowicz

    Very timely post for me!  I’ve been beating myself up over not being devout on my stretching after my runs and strength workouts. No excuses now.

  • Chelsea Conlin

    Yoga?? Nice. :)

  • http://FitItAll.com/ Josh Hughes

    I need this. ^_^

  • Anonymous

    That was the obvious choice. You object to creativity?

  • http://twitter.com/Aaron_Morton Aaron_Morton

    Cheers Steve, a nice addition to your previous post on warming up

  • http://best-flat-stomach-exercises.com/ John

    Great Post, Steve!!

  • Bodyworkslubbock

    Great post! It is true that a lot of people skip this routine. It is one of the neglected part of a work out. Stretching helps decrease pain and soreness of the body.

  • AJR

    Great stuff! Thanks for the article. I have a question. I get up early to workout. After my workout I cool down but I also commute to work on my bike. When I get to work should I be stretching after my bike ride, before I head into the office?

  • http://twitter.com/amoderatelife oystergirl

    Stretching is the longest part of my workout by far for a number of reasons. First, I used to be a ballerina and it was widely understood that to keep muscles long and lean looking you had to stretch them out after exertion. Second if you stretch them after contraction they relax much more easily and you feel better faster. Thanks for a great article on stretching! Rock on! Alex

  • http://www.ombailamos.com/ chacha1

    Yes.  :-)

  • http://www.ombailamos.com/ chacha1

    Good entry-level videos here Steve, but I notice that both routines don’t really address the front and sides of the body.  Frex, in V2 you demonstrate good flexibility in your back, including rotational flexibility of the lumbar spine – but your hip flexors are basically made of wood, from the look of it, and your sides are sufficiently tight that you don’t really get your chest over your legs in the split-leg position. 

    Great start, I hasten to add!  But given your interest in unstable platforms, this may be an area to explore further. :-)

  • http://www.ombailamos.com/ chacha1

    I don’t usually flog my blog on other people’s blogs but flexibility is kind of what I do.  If anyone is interested in a verbal treatment I have brought up some archive posts onto my home page.  No photos because, you know, the innernets can be weird.  :-) http://www.ombailamos.com

  • http://www.pt3fitness.com/ Will

    Strength + flexibility = MOBILITY, i.e. useful strength. 
    It doesn’t matter how strong you are if you can’t apply it when you need it.

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  • David Maughan

    This is very helpful!  I just started doing the Beginner’s Bodyweight Circuit a few weeks ago with my housemates for the first time, and I was using my old stretches from when I ran cross country :P.  I was planning on looking for a good, balanced stretch routine soon, and this saves me from the trouble!

  • David Maughan

    I guess that image button doesn’t make it your profile picture haha.

  • Sheryl_Miller

    Stretching lengthens your muscles, so you can more easily reach for food and whatnot with one hand and continue playing with the other ;) So yes, even playing video games!

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  • bimal

    hi..actually i am working on a routine to increase my height… i do 10 min. cycling ,then 30 squats, 15 forward lunges,hanging 10 seconds and the last one straddle 3sets 30 seconds each… i am getting a lot of stretch marks around my knee area… but i feel my knees are not getting strong… my left knee often clicks when i sit down…. should i decrease stretching… or should i incorporate some other strenth giving exercises…. if yes.. then please elaborate… thanx..

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  • http://healthse.in/ anoop sharma

    stretching after a workout reduced aches and pains and improved flexibility. Post-workout stretching improves flexibility and range of motion.

    http://healthse.in/

  • Matt Alexander

    This is hilarious.

  • Chris Jensen

    Steve you really should add some forearm stretches to the routine. When I began doing push ups I would get tingling from my elbow into my fingers. I did change to some push up grips to keep my wrists straight, but soon after I got crippling pain in my wrist that fit the description of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Fortunately for me, I did my research found that some over-stressed muscles can simulate the pain, found the offending muscle and massaged and stretched it into submission. However if I had been stretching those forearm muscles to begin with I would never have encountered the problem. So it would be nice if you added some good forearm stretches (or as is more your style stretches that incorporate the forearms) to this routine, or at least as an afterthought for those of us who keep are arms continually stressed (I think that must be the underlying cause: lifting things at work, playing video games, and then flexing my wrist while sleeping, add in strenuous exercise and viola imitation carpal tunnel)

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  • Julian Rickards

    I wish that, in addition to the YouTube vids, that the routines on this page were also presented as a list.

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