You’ve finally dragged yourself out of your warm, cozy bed and made it to the gym. Workout complete, your mission is accomplished. But now what? While the feeling of sore muscles is satisfying and a sure sign of a good workout, how you stretch and what you put in your body afterwards will make a big difference. Recovery is the key to making huge gains.
At the end of every workout, it is important that you take the time to stretch. Normally I allot myself 10 minutes to make sure, that even if I’m in a rush, I still have the time to stretch it out. This ensures the release of any built-up lactic acid in your muscles, which will help to prevent soreness. Here are a few stretches for your main body parts that can be used after any workout:
1. Hamstring/calf stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs in the shape of a V, flex your feet and fold your body over one leg for about 30 seconds. Repeat on your other side.
2. Glute Stretch
This one is great for the booty – especially if you’ve done any squats in your workout. Start by sitting with one leg straight and then bend your other leg. Put the foot of the bent leg on the other side of the straight leg and pull your knee toward you. There’s also another variation of this exercise – one I find that makes it easier to adjust how much of a stretch you’re feeling. This time bend both legs, with the ankle of one leg coming to rest on the thigh (just below the knee of the planted leg). To get a better stretch, lay with your back on the ground and pull the previously planted leg toward your chest.
3. The Scorpion – An all-time favourite of mine
Lay on your stomach with your arms out in a T-shape. Swing one leg across the other to make the shape of a scorpion.
Tip: Try to keep your chest and shoulders on the ground. If this means your leg can’t get all the way over, that’s okay!
4. Chest and Pec Stretch
Find a wall and place one arm horizontally across it. Then twist your body so your feet are parallel to the wall. This one feels AMAZING after bench presses or push-ups!
5. Arm Stretch
This last stretch is simple – but that doesn’t make it any less effective! Start by pulling your arm across the front of your body and hold. The second step to this stretch is to bend your arm behind your head, with your elbow straight up in the air. Place your other hand on your elbow and pull your elbow back. My recommendation is to do each stretch 3 times for about 30 seconds, but obviously, listen to your body and do what works for you!
6. Rolling Out
For those of you who like to work out intensely, the next step is rolling out. If you don’t have a roller then a lacrosse ball works just as well! To roll out, put the roller or ball under the muscle you are targeting and rock back and forth. It’s killer but totally worth it. The main ones I try to hit every time are the calves, glutes (the ball is best for these two) and the quads.
Tip: Instead of using the roller for your back, put the ball up against a wall and pick the sore spots out that way. Be careful not to roll your lower back because it can cause an injury (child’s pose is a good alternative)!
This should give you a good idea of what a quad roll should look like:
This should give you a good idea of what a glute roll should look like:
7. Snack Time!
Stretching and rolling are not the only things that can help improve your results. What you eat afterward will also make that extra difference. Drink lots of water and eat some protein. Eggs, Greek yogurt, or protein powder are all quick easy snacks. Smoothies are also a good choice, and they’re yummy! Granola bars are easy, but their calorie content often isn’t worth how convenient it is. Protein bars are a slightly better choice; however, I suggest finding one that has high protein content with less than 20g of sugar and of course, taste matters too!
Stretching is not only good for your physical health, it also gives you time to chat with your girlfriends about the kick-ass workout you just did! So go out there and get it!