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If you haven’t been doing cool down exercises after your workout, we highly recommend that you start doing so. A quick cooldown routine that includes a number of exercises and stretches is essential for easing yourself out of a strenuous workout or activity. Cool downs provide a number of benefits, all of which we will be discussing below.
In this post, we are going to cover the following about cooling down after a workout:
A cool down is a quick and easy routine that you do after an intense activity, such as weightlifting, crossfit, sprinting, running, or sports. The purpose of a cool down is to transition your body to a resting or near-resting state.
A cool down often includes a slow walk (or even a slow jog) followed by static stretches. Another way to do a cool down is by doing non-strenuous bodyweight movements coupled with stretches. If you choose the latter, the stretches can be of shorter duration than your typical static stretches that you do after a cool down walk (i.e. 5-10 second holds rather than 20 seconds). This kind of cool down is more dynamic and it is often called a cool down flow or a decompression flow, with many stretches being pulled from yoga routines.
In any case, both options will give you similar benefits, which are…
Cool down exercises may come at the end of a workout, but they are the start of the recovery process. A good cool down will provide you with the following benefits:
The way you do a cool down depends on the activity you just finished. Generally speaking, we can break workouts down into two main categories - Cardio and Resistance Training.
Cardio includes running, cycling, rowing, and so on. It also includes sports that involve a lot of running.
Resistance Training includes bodyweight workouts, weight lifting, and HIIT. Any kind of strength training.
Cool Down For Cardio:
After running, a good cool down can be a brisk walk for 2-3 minutes, gradually tapering your pace or stroll. Sprinting is the same concept, but start with jogging, then taper down to walking. This will be followed by static stretches that aim to increase the range of motion and flexibility of your lower body. Start with standing stretches, then seated stretches.
As you can see, it’s a gradual pace to bring your body down to normal levels and relaxation.
Cool Down for Resistance & Strength Training:
After resistance training, you will want to do a mobility cool down routine. This involves gentle bodyweight movements and stretching. It’s like a yoga flow, where you move in an out of movements, holding stretches for 5-10 seconds (although you can hold stretches longer if you want, as after a workout it is fine). We have an example of this kind of routine further below (see 4-Min Cool Down Routine).
Note: Make sure you emphasize stretches for areas you worked most in your workout. So, if it was an upper body day, focus on your upper body more. If it was a full body day, you can do an evenly targeted full body cool down.
It’s also beneficial to focus on your breathing. During your cool down, practicing deep breathing. This applies to any kind of cool down.
As with a warm up, a cool down can range form 4-10 minutes. If you have the time, aim for 10 minutes so you can keep the taper down to homeostasis (a balanced state) gradual.
While there are many cool down exercises and stretches that you can do, we are going to show you 14 of our favorite. Many of these are yoga-inspired, as yoga poses and stretches make for great cool down exercises as you can move in and out of your stretches, giving you both the movement and stretching side of a cool down. This will let your heart rate return to normal slowly and it will help you relax muscles and tendons to reduce soreness and recover faster.
Combined, the below exercises will target all of your major joint complexes and muscle groups. You don’t need to do them all in one cool down after your workout. Pick and choose and switch it up as you go to keep things fresh.
This is a fantastic exercise that targets every vertebrae of the spine. This will release a lot of tension in your back and neck.
How to do spinal rolls:
Do this for a few reps.
How to do the cossack stretch:
Do this for a few reps on each side.
This movement is great as you get to move and work on your mobility at the same time, exactly what you want at the beginning of a cool down. It is going to put your hips and t-spine mobility to the test. Over time, you will improve the range of motion.
How to do squat to t-spine rotations:
Do this for a few reps on each side.
The down dog is one of the ultimate stretches. It strengthens your arms and shoulders, tones the core and waist, all while lengthening and stretching the hamstrings and calves, and stretching the spine and back. What’s more, it will bring blood flow back to the brain, which is important after a workout where much of your blood is in your muscles.
How to do the downward dog:
Note: inhale as you move into position, and exhale slowly as you release. Breathe as needed.
This is a great movement to transition into other movements, so use it throughout your cool down, even if its just one rep each time.
The Spiderman stretch is great as it will stretch your hamstrings, quads and hip flexors, which will give you better range of motion and mobility. Moreover, it helps with form for your future workouts and it prevents groin injuries and tightness. With the cow pose added, you will get some thoracic spine mobility in as well.
How to do the Spiderman Stretch with Cow Pose Variation:
Do this for 1 rep on each side, or as many times as you feel is needed. 1-3 reps is usually good.
The upward dog targets your chest, shoulders, abs, triceps and low back. It is a very relieving stretch that feels amazing.
How to do the upward facing dog:
Do this for a few reps.
They call it the world’s greatest stretch for a reason. It is going to lengthen and strengthen your ankles, hips and thoracic spine, while also targeting other muscles like your hip flexors, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, calves, quads, thoracic spine, chest, shoulders, lower back and obliques.
How to do the world’s greatest stretch:
Do this for 1-3 reps on each side.
This exercise will stretch your hamstrings, as the name suggests. But it will also strengthen your shoulders and arms. All in all, it is one of the most effective hamstring stretches you can do, and we all know the hamstrings are one of the areas that can get tight easily.
How to do the lunging hamstring stretch:
For this one, you can hold the stretch for longer, so you could do each side for 20-60 seconds or you could do a couple reps to each side for 10-20 seconds.
This is a great movement to stretch out the obliques and lats, as well as the spine and hip adductors.
How to do the 90/90 lateral reach:
Do this for a few reps on each side.
This is a simple exercise that is going to stretch your quads and shins. Do this towards the end of your cool down.
How to do the kneeling shin-quad stretch:
One or two reps for 20-30 seconds is enough.
Another great exercise to do towards the end of the cool down. The Cat-Cow will improve your posture and balance, strengthen and stretch your spine and neck, and lengthens your hips, abdomen and back. It is a very stress relieving, mind calming exercise.
How to do the Cat-Cow:
Do this for 5 reps or so.
This pose will stretch and open your shoulder and spine. It is very calming movement that relieves a lot of shoulder and back stress.
How to do the thread the needle:
Do this for 20-60 seconds on each side.
The scorpion stretch is going to open up your hips, low back and shoulders. Move slowly as to avoid any low back pain. If your low back mobility is not up to par, you don’t want to go all the way back with your foot. Know your limits. This can still be done if your low back mobility isn’t normal, just stop and hold your foot up rather than bringing it to the floor. You’ll see what we mean…
How to do the scorpion stretch:
Do this for a couple reps on each side and hold for 5-10 seconds or do it once on each side 10-20 seconds.
The child’s pose is the perfect exercise to end every cool down. It alleviates stress and anxiety. It helps to lengthen the spine and hips, as well as the shoulders, quads and shins.
How to do the Child’s Pose:
You can stay in this position for 30 seconds to a few minutes. It’s up to you. It is a very safe position.
Aren’t these good for warm ups too?
You’ll notice many of these stretches are great for warm ups too. These movements can be done both before and after a workout. For cool downs, you can hold the stretches longer, but before a workout, you want to keep things a little more dynamic by releasing from the stretch after a few seconds.
WHEN TO DO THESE COOL DOWN EXERCISES?
If you do full body workouts, try to do at least one stretching exercise for every joint complex and major muscle group. If you do a split workout, then emphasize areas that you trained that day.
With a simple google search, you can see examples of these static stretches.
More Resources on Stretching:
This is a quick and simple cool down routine that you can do after any of our workouts. It’s also a great routine to do at night before sleep to wind down and release tension in your body.
The cool down routine is pretty calm, involving various yoga poses and stretches. It’s really nice as it will slow down your mind and body after a rigorous workout, stretching you out nicely and making you feel refreshed.
10 Cool Down Exercise Routine (approx. 4 minutes):
You should do a cool down after any rigorous workout or activity, which includes sports. The same goes for a warm up. A warm up and cool down are equally important for your fitness longevity, so be sure to do them before and after every training session or intense activity.
Yoga works beautifully for a post strength workout cool down because it involves dynamic stretches, which means you are moving and stretching simultaneously. This allows your body’s heart rate to taper down slowly, rather than just doing a complete stop for static stretches.
While static stretches are great for a cool down, ideally you want to keep things more dynamic at the beginning of your cool down. Save the long static stretches for once your body's heart rate is near its normal state. Your heart rate will be more relaxed at that point but your body will still be warm, which is perfect.
At the beginning of your cool down, as you move in and out of our yoga-inspired stretches and movements, hold the poses/stretches for 5-10 seconds. After 5 mins of this, you can employ some static stretches. For good static stretches, you can see the list we made above.
A final note to why yoga is great for cool downs is that it is interesting and it can be challenging. It will give you (or your client) something to look forward to at the end of a rigorous workout. It’s much more exciting than the thought of good ol’ static stretches. Yoga movements are dynamic and they work to reconnect the mind, body and spirit. All in all, implementing some yoga into your cool down is surefire way to spice things up.
Decompression flows are a great way to cool down. You can learn all about decompression flows here. You will also find a full length 14-minute decompression flow that you can follow along to after a tough workout.
For seniors, we recommend simple cool down exercises that are easier on the joints. Dynamic cool down exercises like spinal rolls, cat-cow, and child’s pose are best. Know your limits and be careful.
Related: Best Stretches for Seniors
If you really lack flexibility and mobility, start with the easier cool down exercises. Give your body time to improve its mobility and flexibility. Practice more static stretches and get a buddy to help you on lower body stretches. They can help you hold the stretches and slowly deepen them (be sure not to overstretch or go too deep into the stretch! Slowly but surely is the way).
Don’t have a buddy? Get a set of resistance bands. Bands are a great tool to help you get deeper into stretches. You can anchor them and then pull on them from the stretching position to get deeper into the stretch. You can also wrap one side around your foot, for example, and pull on the band to get deeper into the stretch.
As a final note, we highly recommend prioritizing stretching and sleep, as opposed to other recovery methods like ice baths, to help with cool downs and muscle recovery. Your muscles will thank you!
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