6 Muscles You Must Stretch After A Workout
Unsure of what muscles to stretch after you’ve just finished a workout? Add this stretching routine to your post-workout cool down to help your body recover, loosen up and stay mobile. If you’re new to working out (here’s a few tips to get started resistance training) you may omit stretching because you’re unsure of which muscles to target. Instead of ignoring the situation, give theses stretches a go!
When it comes to a stretching routine most people either ignore it entirely or opt for the old school, bent knee quad stretch they did in high school gym class- and they even mess that up.
But when it comes to increasing your flexibility and mobility, there are a few muscle groups/body areas you don’t want to ignore:
- Thoracic spine
Now, personally I have trouble sticking to a full-on stretching routine. I would love to be a bit more flexible and I truly believe it would help my performance (both running and lifting) but I just never make weekly sessions a priority.
I do however, ,make these specific stretches a priority 4-5 times per week on top of foam rolling to help keep me injury free and able to do what I love (check out how to foam roll here).
And while every person has their own trouble spots, injuries, abilities and imbalances, I’ve found that these five stretches work well for just about everyone- which is why I give them to all my clients.
In our society, we suck at being active. We sit. A lot. We don’t move enough. And we use our body in ways it wasn’t meant o (like typing at this damn keyboard).
Because of this, many of our muscles are both weak and tight. Our hips, our upper backs and our chest muscles all function poorly.
As for fitness junkies, we may be strong in all those areas but it’s because we use them, a lot. So, if you’re working out hard and consistently, these muscles could all use a little but of recovery, loosening and love.
Chest & Anterior Shoulders
These poor muscles sit in a shortened position, a lot. Typing, on the couch, on our phone, while we eat etc. Even if you are fit and active, your chest muscles could use a bit of opening just from daily activities.
Hip & Pelvic Musculature
Unfortunately, due to our day to day life our hips (specifically our glutes) become extremely under-used. They’re weak and under activated. But they also end up a bit tight. Opening them up, getting some range into them will not only help you with your posture but pain as well.
This doesn’t mean we need to stretch your hip flexors all day long. While I do believe our quadriceps and hip flexors could use some attention, I’m more concerned about the glutes and to a lesser extent, the adductors (inner thighs). These muscles help prevent knee pain and shouldn’t be overlooked).
Likewise, for all the athletes, your glutes are probably strong AF. so, they need a bit of help releasing. Stretching your glutes will help make you more mobile in your squats (and deadlifts) and will help you perform better.
Thoracic Spine & Shoulders
This is one area that is far too overlooked when it comes to stretching/mobility work! You will hear rather frequently that we need to strengthen our back (to improve posture and prevent back pain and for everyday life- especially as a mom) but we rarely focus on how
to make it move.
For many of us, our upper backs and shoulders have poor movement (myself included). Either we don’t use those muscles enough and we’ve lost some ability to move them or we use the surrounding muscles a lot and thus they’re tight and don’t want to allow movement. Either way, working on some t-spine mobility does wonders for just about everyone!
Now that said, when it comes to stretching you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Stretching doesn’t always feel great and the trick is to breath into the stretch and with it versus tensing up (because that kind of defeats the purpose of the stretching…)
Stretch: Pigeon Pose
While this stretch is popular it’s often done incorrectly. Check out the video for more pointers but remember that to target the glutes in this pose you need to aim to keep the hips squared and not just sink into them.
If the post is extremely uncomfortable, use a block under the hip of the straight leg for a bit more support.
This is possibly the most uncomfortable one of the bunch! It helps open up the inner thighs as well as the hips and it truly sucks.
But more movement through the hips is a good thing (unless you’re pregnant, be careful stretching while pregnant! Instead, work on staying strong through your hips with these exercises). You’ll want to hold this post for about sixty seconds and every time to exhale push a little bit more.
These stretches are more like mini exercises and are done on a bench, chair, couch etc. They work by stretching out the back and getting some movement into it. Ensure you’re targeting the upper back though and not just arching the low back.
There are two chest stretches on the video and both can be done statically (holding the pose) as well as dynamically (moving through it for a warm up). The do require you to lay on your stomach though so again, there are other great options for pregnancy.
Otherwise, this stretch is a bit more intense than your classic, bent elbow, door stretch- which is what makes it so beneficial.
A few things to keep in mind when stretching:
- Always stretch a muscle that is warm, never cold. Which is why this five-minute routine is perfect at the end of your workout!
- Breathe. Holding tension while you stretch is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. It sucks, I get it but scale back and breathe through it.
- Push yourself. I don’t mean to just drop into the splits (seriously, I’ve done this. Do not do this). But in order to progress at something you do need to push your body little by little. This can be done by holding the poses longer or getting a deeper range of motion
Don’t forget to pin this 5-minute stretch guide!
Staying consistent with a stretching routine isn’t always easy. But since we don’t move our bodies as much as we should, simple stretches can go a long way to keep us mobile and moving. Add these stretches to the end of your workout or do a mini warm up before you jump into them. Stay consistent and show your muscles some love!
(pin; 6 stretches everyone should do, 6 stretches you must do if you workout out, 4 muscles you must stretch and a 5 minute stretching routine?)