So you’ve got your protein intake nailed, your foam rolling routine down to a T and you know how many rest days you need – but do you consider stretching when it comes to your muscle recovery routine?
If you don’t, you should. “Post-workout stretching is a little bit of a wind-down, taking your body and muscles from a high tempo situation back down to a rested state,” says Laura Dalby, injury prevention and rehabilitation specialist at Flexology. “This also brings your blood pressure and heart rate back down, helping you to recover faster from training.”
Not only does this speed up recovery but it also prevents injury: “You want to be able to get back into the gym for your next session without suffering any tightness or pain so that your performance doesn’t suffer and you don’t injure yourself from your body not performing optimally.”
And it is not just about what you do immediately, but also about how you support your muscles on a weekly basis. “If your schedule is full of training in the gym, exercise classes or running, it will be so beneficial to add in one or two stretching recovery sessions. They can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour, but it will really help the body to reset and explore your range of motion,” says Laura.
This is especially true if, other than your training sessions, you spend a lot of time sat still. “We don’t actually explore positions where our hands are above our head or down to our toes so we’re never hitting a lot of movements,” Laura says.
“We shouldn’t only be training to get stronger but also to increase the quality of our movement,” agrees Emma. She suggests post-workout stretches that mimic the movement lines you have created during your workout to release the muscles, for example, if you did reverse lunge in your training, stretch out with a low lunge. Then, in your recovery session, address multiple muscle groups for a full recovery.
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The best stretches for muscle recovery
Hip flexors and glutes take a lot of pressure when you’re training and sitting down at your desk. A pigeon stretch is a great way to release tension from them so they are nimble enough for your next workout. From a high plank, take your right knee to your right elbow and the foot to the opposite hand, placing the leg onto the floor. Lean forwards over that leg to feel the stretch through the right side, and repeat on the left.
Thread the needle
“Good posture is so important to training well and avoiding injury, so I always take the opportunity to open my chest,” says Emma. This thoracic rotation is a great way to release the upper body so you can stand tall. Do it on your hands on knees, lifting one hand to the sky then back underneath your body.
Active child’s pose
Rather than having your palms flat, stretch your arms so your fingertips are reaching the floor. This allows your chest to get deeper to the floor.
Holding your head through different angles is a really simple but crucial stretch, according to Laura. “We might turn our heads side to side but we rarely use all the range available,” she says. Releasing through the neck and upper traps won’t just make training easier but can release stress and reduce tension headaches.
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