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Here Are Your Go-To Cool-Down Stretches

man stretching his arms
Cooling down after your workout can help prevent injury! Here are a few lower-, upper-, and full-body stretches to get you started.
by Lindsay Tigar

Much like warming up before your fitness routine, cool-down stretches can really benefit your overall health and performance. While you might be in a rush to make it to the office in time for your first meeting, or hurrying back home to whip up dinner, cooling down, even for just a few minutes, will have your body thanking you later!

There are a ton of advantages related to cool-down stretches. Not only do they help you lower your heart rate gradually (ensuring you don't feel faint or dizzy) they also work to remove any lactic acid collected in your muscles, helping to reduce soreness. You want to give extra TLC to your body before, during, and after working out — especially if you plan on maintaining a consistent schedule of sweat sessions. Did we mention cooling down also helps you avoid injury?

Here are a few ideas to get you started, whether you focus on lower-, upper-, or full-body workouts while at the gym.

Cool-Down Stretches: Leg Day

You lunged, lifted, squatted, and then repeated. You can definitely feel the burn at the end of leg day, which means you're in need of a smart stretch. Target your various lower-body muscle groups by alternating between three 30-second sets of these moves:

Crossover Hamstring Stretch
For most people, hamstrings are among the most difficult muscles to keep flexible. Thankfully, consistently working through the kinks can help! To do this move, stand with one leg crossed over the other as you bend forward at your hips. As you reach for the floor with your hands, keep your back flat and back knee straight. Hold this pose for 30 seconds then switch legs and repeat.

Calf Stretch
Because these movements are super easy and fast to do, you might not think they're all that effective — but trust us, tomorrow you'll think they're magic! Begin by standing up straight, facing the wall. Lift the toes of your right foot off the ground so you're standing on your heel, and then press your toes against the wall. Slowly lean forward until you feel the stretch in your calf and Achilles. Hold the position for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Standing Quad Stretch
Now it's time to give the quads some love! To perform this move, start by standing with your feet together. Then, bend your left knee behind you as you use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Make sure you keep your knees together, and if you need extra support, feel free to hold onto the back of a chair. Now, squeeze your glutes to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.

Cool-Down Stretches: Upper Body

There are endless ways to build definition above the waist; boxing, burpees, pushups, pull-ups, you name it. No matter what upper-body exercise you choose, it's important to release any built-up tension in your arms, shoulders, and neck with some follow-up stretches. Try doing three 30-second sets of the following stretches after your workout:

Overhead Triceps and Shoulder Stretch
If you've ever completed a triceps routine, you know how much you can feel it the next day. That's why it's important to stretch those triceps after your workout! First, bring your right arm over your head, then drop your forearm behind you so your right hand lands between your shoulder blades. Place your left hand on your bent elbow and put a little pressure on your right arm until you feel a stretch (your bicep should remain next to your ear). Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before repeating on the left side.

Biceps Stretch
It's a good idea to give those biceps some special attention after exercising them at the gym. To start, sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Now place your arms behind you, with your hands on the floor, so your fingers are pointing away from your body. Slowly inch your bottom forward until you feel the stretch in your biceps, chest, and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, breathe, and continue to go deeper if you can.

Chest Stretch
When you use your chest muscles for an extended period of time, you're probably able to feel a little tightness. You can work on these important muscles with a chest stretch. To begin, stand tall with your fingers interlocked behind your back. Maintain a straight back, then slowly start to push your arms away from your body and up as your chest widens and stretches. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Cool-Down Stretches: Full Body

By exercising every muscle group, you'll not only see a difference in your strength and form, you'll feel it, too. To ensure you get the most out of your full-body fitness routine, follow up with three 30-second sets of these moves:

Runner's Stretch
Your legs will love this one — and it helps that it's also easy to do. Start by stepping your right foot forward into a lunge. Now reach your fingertips toward the floor. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, straighten your right leg. Fold your upper body over your outstretched right leg and relax your neck muscles. As you inhale, slowly rise and return your knee to a 90-degree angle. Cycle through this movement for 30 seconds then repeat on the left side.

Standing Side Stretch
This is a go-to move that can help stretch large portions of your body. Start with your feet together and your arms extended over your head. As you clasp your hands together, lacing your fingers, inhale and try to reach even higher. Then, as you exhale, bend your upper body to the left. Take five deep breaths, return to the center, and repeat on your right side.

Low Lunge
Last but not least, give the low lunge a try! To start, step your right foot forward and lower your left knee all the way to the floor. Next, bring your hands to the front of your right leg and hook your thumbs together. If you're doing this correctly, your palms will face the floor. Inhale and slowly lift your arms over your head, stretching them as far back as you can. Hold this pose for five breaths, and then repeat on the other side.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.