Optimal fitness has three components: cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. Many of us are motivated to work on strength and endurance, but let’s be honest, flexibility can sometimes be forgotten. Are you stretching often enough?
While cardio and strength are important, there are just as many stretching benefits for athletes. Just 10-15 minutes a day is essential to avoid injury, maintain flexibility, increase strength and promote recovery. With all of these benefits, what are the best stretches for athletes?
Best Cool Down Stretches for Your Whole Body
While this is not an extensive list of every possible stretch, each of these stretches helps improve flexibility in a different part of the body. Hold each one for 30-45 seconds. Never push a stretch to the point of extreme pain, always listen to your body.
Aim to stretch for 10 minutes a few times a day. It is a great way to take a break from work or help you cool down after a tough workout.
Cool down stretches for arms
Worked your arms with a tough arm day? You need these three arm stretches to help you recover. These are also great for doing at your desk when you just need a little break.
- Overhead tricep stretch.
- Put one arm overhead, putting your forearm as close as possible to your shoulder.
- Grasp your elbow overhead with your opposite hand and gently pull.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
- Chest opener.
- Lift your arms overhead and clasp your fingers together. Stand up tall and reach your arms as high as possible.
- Or you can clasp your fingers behind your back for a more chest-focused stretch.
- Across body arm stretch.
- Straighten your arm and pull it gently across your chest with the opposite hand.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other arm
Cool down stretches for legs
The legs are big muscle groups that help carry you through your workouts. Here are a few stretches to help loosen them up.
- Runners lunge with quadricep stretch.
- Get into a lunge position with one knee bent and the other leg outstretched behind you.
- Drop your back knee to the ground. Reach around and pull your foot up towards your hamstring for a quad stretch.
- Iron cross stretch.
- Lie on your back with your legs out.
- Bend one leg and pull it across your body, so your knee rests on the ground. Pull your leg down gently as you twist.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Pigeon pose.
- Cross one knee in front of your body while keeping the opposite leg extended behind you.
- Lean forward slowly until you feel a stretch in your hip/inner thigh.
- Hold for 30-45 seconds then switch sides.
Creating a Stretching Routine for Athletes
Stretching won’t do much for you if you only do it sporadically or when you remember. Like any health habit you have to create a routine to make it work.
Taking 10 minutes to stretch after your workout is a great start. But consider stretching during other times of the day as well, especially if you have a sedentary job. Other good times to stretch might be before your lunch break or before bed.
While stretching is critically important for recovery, it isn’t enough. Getting enough rest, staying hydrated and eating enough protein every day are also essential recovery habits. Whey protein in particular is well known to be beneficial for muscle recovery.
While getting your workout in is important for your health, so is treating your body to rest days and a stretching routine to help your muscles recover.