It’s easy to skip a cool down after your workout—you’ve just exerted tons of energy, stimulated your blood flow, and you’re exhausted. Your daily to-do list might be calling your name and you figure you can just put off stretching till later, right? Only you’ll probably forget and never get around to it.
Unlike warm-up stretching or exercises, cool-down stretches are vital to your physical health and come with a huge range of benefits, including potentially reducing delayed onset muscle tissue soreness, preventing blood pooling, and just mentally and physically coming down from the intensity of working out.
With that being said, here are some of the best cool-down stretches to slow your body down after your next workout.
When we work out super hard and get our heart rates up, it can feel fantastic to start a cooldown by easing back down to a normal heart rate. This lets our bodies know it’s time to settle down so we can move into the rest of our stretching and, from there, the rest of our day.
You can start with jogging if your energy is way up (3-5 minutes) before walking (3-5 minutes).
This is the only dynamic stretch exercise we’re going to mention; the rest will be cool down static stretching.
The forward fold is an awesome full-body movement to start your cool-down stretch routine with. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, reach up to the ceiling, and melt your torso down until your hands are on—or reach toward—the floor. Make sure to bend your knees as much as you need and let your head hang loose for a few seconds. Shaking your head as if you were saying “yes” and “no” also feels fantastic here.
Extended Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is more than just a stretch; it’s known to be a calming, grounding movement that can be a great tool for wrapping up a workout. That isn’t to say it’s not a great stretch though—it gets your hips, glutes, spine, knees, and shoulders.
Sit on top of your ankles with your knees pointed slightly outward and your big toes touching. Lay your torso forward until your forehead is on or near the ground, reaching out to grip the floor in front of you with your fingertips. Take some deep breaths and try not to fall asleep. If you’re at home, placing a pillow under your torso is a perfect way to relax in a child’s pose (and isn’t the worst position to start a nap in).
Seated Hamstring Stretch
The seated hamstring stretch is an awesome move for your legs and back.
Start sitting on the ground with your back straight and legs out in front of you. Bend one leg inward so the sole of your foot is touching the opposite inner thigh. Stretch your arms straight up over your head and fold forward over your extended leg. Your hands can rest anywhere that feels comfortable, whether that’s your thigh, calves, foot, or just beyond.
The reclined twist is a miracle stretch for the spine. It feels great, releases tons of tension, and is an incredible tool for winding down from a killer workout.
Lay flat on your back with your legs straight out. Bring one knee to your chest, grabbing it with your hands, and gently guide it to the opposite side of your body until it reaches (or gets close to) the floor. Once your leg is across your torso, you can release your hands and put your arms straight out to the sides. For a little extra stretch, turn your head in the opposite direction of your bent, crossed knee. Repeat on the other side and enjoy.
Standing Quad Stretch
The standing quad stretch is reminiscent of high school gym class, but there’s a good reason it’s so standard: it’s a darn good stretch.
Stand up straight with your knees hip-width apart. Kick one foot toward your glutes and grab it with one or both hands. Do your best to keep your upper and lower body in a straight line; tuck your glutes in and don’t bend over. Take a few breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
This one is a simple side stretch that gets to all of those intercostal muscles that support your torso.
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Put one hand on your hip and reach the other up and over your head toward the opposite corner of the ceiling. You can also do this with both hands clasped together with your index fingers pointing up. Breathe into that side body and repeat.
The twisting lungs stretches a whole lot of your body at once, which is why we love this stretch.
Get into a lunge position with your front knee over your ankle and back leg straight out behind you. Put the opposite hand from the front knee on the floor and reach the other arm toward the ceiling, twisting your body toward that front knee. Take a few deep breaths as you try to look at the ceiling before switching to the other side.
Knees to Chest Pose
This stretch supports your legs and lower back, gets you to relax, and massages the abdominal organs.
Lay flat on your back with your legs out in front of you. Bend your legs, bringing them to your chest, about shoulder-width distance apart, and grab your knees to keep them there. You can work on pulling your knees closer to your chest for some hip work and rocking side to side to massage the lower back.
The perfect way to end any intense workout and stretching session is with savasana, also known as “corpse pose.” It’s sort of the cooldown to the cooldown—it’s an essential pose in yoga that’s meant to connect the work you did on your body to the calming mind.
The corpse pose is simple: lay flat on your back with your legs out and arms by your sides. Close your eyes and breathe. That’s it.
If laying flat on the floor hurts your lower back, you can put your feet together and let your knees fall to the sides in a butterflied position, or you can put the soles of your feet on the ground a little wider than shoulder-width distance apart and let your knees fall together.
Now that you have an arsenal of cool-down stretches for after your workout, do yourself a huge favor by taking the time to stretch. You don’t have to do all of these; start with one or two full-body movements and work your way up as you move farther along in your fitness journey.
And if you’re looking for a place to take that journey, we have a world of resources and more than 30 gyms available to you!
This post originally appeared on Chuze Fitness.