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July 23, 2020
In this article, we are going to share with you 10 of the best decompression exercises for post-workout cool downs. We also have a 14-minute decompression flow that you can follow along to after your next rigorous workout.
Additionally, we will be discussing the importance of cooling down after a workout, as well as the benefits of decompressing your joints, releasing tension of tissues and muscles, improving mobility and durability, and more.
A decompression flow consists of dynamic, ground-based movements and stretches done for repetitions, in a sequence, until the flow is complete. Decompression exercises are like yoga movements and poses. They are meant to improve mobility, and in turn, durability, as well as release stress and tension from the joints and muscles. A decompression flow will often target your full body, hitting every joint and the surrounding tissues, with an emphasis on the spine, hips, and shoulders. All in all, it is a flow made to “decompress”.
OTHER NAMES FOR A DECOMPRESSION FLOW
While this kind of “mini workout” is often called a decompression flow, it is not to be confused with spinal decompression therapy. Although it will have some of the same benefits. A decompression flow is about mobility, durability, and regulating your system and mechanics.
Decompression flows can also be called durability training, movement prep, mobility flow, or simply a yoga sequence.
For the purpose of this post, the decompression flow is for a post-workout cool down. However, a decompression flow like the one below can be added into your warm-up, intra-workout (in-between sets or exercises), post-workout, or on recovery days (active recovery). You can do a decompression flow any time you feel like tuning in to your body and mobilizing your joints.
We all know that we should do a cool down after an intense workout. However, the truth of the matter is, most people skip it. This is unfortunate as the benefits you can receive from a good post-workout cool down are as good and important as the workout itself, especially a smart cool down workout like a decompression flow. The two go hand in hand.
Below are some of the benefits you will get from a decompression flow:
All in all, taking a systematic approach to decompression after a workout is vital to enhancing your overall performance.
But, as we mentioned, a decompression flow is not just great for a post-workout cool down, it’s also an advantageous move before a workout.
If you do this kind of “decompression” dynamic yoga mobility flow before a workout, you will improve your range of motion and durability for the workout to come, which in turn will lead to greater strength and a much lower risk of injury. This is what we call "movement prep". It gets your body ready for the workout to come by connecting your mind to each muscle group, stabilizer muscles, and joints. If you have any noticeable joint or muscle issues, they will quickly come to light. Moreover, it will increase your blood flow, heart rate, and body temperature, as well as get you tuned into your breathing, which is essential when working out rigorously. All in all, a yoga mobility flow is a great way to start an intense workout. So, feel free to do the below workout, or a similar one like it, before and after your workout!
What about during your workouts?
While you don’t need to do a flow in-between sets or exercises. Take one particular movement from the flow and add it in-between sets or exercises. This will help keep your mobility in check throughout your workout while also keeping your heart rate up. If you are the type of person who likes to keep moving during your workout, dynamic ground based mobility movements are a great option. But make note, the movements are not just about mobility, they will build upon your strength as well, hence the other name for these kinds of movements - "durability training".
As we get older, every single one of us is subjected to aging’s detrimental impact on the quality of life. Joint and tissue degradation is one of the most prominent aspects of this. Without maintaining joint and tissue health, chronic pain and reduced function will start sooner than later. It’s simply inevitable. By focusing on improving joint function, mobility, and the quality of your movements, you can greatly improve the longevity of your joint and tissue health, which will allow you to move with strength, pain-free, well into your latter years.
Restorative modalities like the decompression mobility flow below, combined with smart strength training, will build the durability you need for the long haul. Even if your joints feel great now, stay ahead of the game. Because at some point, we will all fall victim to joint issues.
Mobility refers to the ability to move through a normal, optimal range of motion, pain-free and without restriction. A lack of mobility can limit your ability to perform certain movements and exercises. It can also lead to injury. Oftentimes, people aren’t even aware they are lacking mobility in a certain joint as they develop compensation habits, thus altering the normal movement pattern.
Durability refers to your muscles, bones and joints ability to withstand pressure and damage. For example, a young adult or teenager is much more durable than an elderly person. So if an 18-year old fell, he is much less likely to injure himself than the 80-year-old.
Now, the good news is, you don’t really need to focus on durability alone. To have durability, you must increase strength and normalize your mobility. So, strength training and mobility training are all you have to focus on to have mobility, strength, and durability.
When building your workout program, strength and mobility modalities must be included. Along with cardiovascular workouts, of course.
Mobility and strength training are twofold. Strength gives you balance and coordination, and mobility gives you all the flexibility you need as well. Therefore, that’s really all it takes for the longevity of fitness and life.
Cooling down is low-intensity exercise done after a more intense workout or activity. It allows your body to gradually transition to a resting or near-resting state. A good post-workout cool down will help regulate your breathing, blood flow and heart rate, while also returning your muscles to an optimal length-tension relationship. It may also help with reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
On the whole, think of cooling down the same way you think of warming up. You don’t want to just jump into an intense workout cold and stiff. Well, you also don’t want to abruptly finish a workout either.
Now, a decompression flow is simply a great way to do a cool down. It provides all the benefits of a walk or jog with the added benefits of mobility and releasing tension of the joints and tissues. The other benefits we’ve already mentioned further above so we won’t be redundant. A decompression flow is essentially the ultimate post-workout cool down.
As a side note, a decompression flow is basically a yoga flow. So, all those great mind-body yoga rewards are in place too.
Remember, you can do this decompression flow before a workout or on active recovery days too! This is a workout with multiple heads.
The decompression flow we are about to lead you through will target your full body. It will hit all of your major joints, with an emphasis on your hips, shoulders and spine. These should always be the major focus of your mobility training. However, your knees, ankles, wrist and elbows are important too. They simply just don’t have the same mobility that the hips, spine and back do. Needless to say, treat all joints and the surrounding tissues equally important.
The movements within this decompression flow will take the pressure off your joints, especially your spine, and it will get your mobility back to where it should be after that effective, rigorous workout gets you all contracted and tense. There’s really nothing so relieving as elongating your spine, opening up your hips and loosening up your shoulders after a tough workout.
Note: This decompression flow is perfect after a rigorous full body workout (HIIT or strength training) as well as a split workout (i.e. upper or lower body workout) or even just a normal back or leg day. It doesn’t matter. It’s also the best way to end a long, intense run or a tough basketball, football, or soccer game, or any other sport for that matter.
So, you just kicked the ass of a resistance workout or cardio workout, now it’s time to cool down! Here are 10 yoga-based movements that make up our decompression flow. They will stretch those tired muscles, calm your body and mind, and if done regularly, increase your flexibility and mobility.
The movements you are about to learn are not only super effective, but they are efficient too. With one movement you will be targeting multiple muscle groups and joint complexes.
After we run you through the 10 decompression movements, we have a full-length decompression flow video by Paulina Kairys, with step by step instruction throughout the flow. All you have to do is throw it on your TV or phone and follow along.
We just want to run you through each individual movement first so you know exactly what to expect, as it will make the decompression flow workout easier to follow along.
This is easily one of the best spine mobilization exercises that you can do. It helps you learn how to articulate your spine one vertebrae at a time. By performing this exercise on a regular basis, you will gain more control and awareness of your posture while also loosening up your posterior chain.
This is a downward dog variation that will help open up your quads and hip flexors while also lengthening your spine. The half scorpion movement will also help to strengthen your back, torso, legs, shoulders and forearms, as well as stretch the diaphragm and other muscles in your chest and shoulder. All around great combination movement that targets pretty much every joint in your body.
They call it the World’s Greatest Stretch because it targets so many muscles and joints. It hits your hip flexors, hamstrings, adductors, thoracic spine, glutes, calves, quads, chest, shoulders, low back and obliques. Combine that with a Cat & Cow stretch, which helps to decrease compression of all the vertebral disks and you are left with arguably the best all-around decompression exercise there is.
While this movement may seem simple, it does require some good hip and thoracic mobility, and it is super effective for improving both. This hits your three major joint complexes, the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders, with an emphasis on the hips and spine.
The cossack to inner thigh stretch will target your adductors and inner thighs. It will also test your overall hip, knee and ankle mobility. This is one of our favorite lower body mobility movements to employ before and after rigorous training.
The shin box switch is a great movement for working both internal and external rotation of the hips all in one fluid motion. It’s simple, but extremely effective at ungluing the hips while also activating the glutes. When you add the overhead reach to this movement, you incorporate spinal flexibility too. The two movements pair very well together. So, you get hip and thoracic mobility improvements simultaneously.
Because this is a difficult movement for those who lack mobility, take it slow with this one if you are a beginner to mobility and yoga training. But don’t skip it as it offers tons of benefits. The alternating controlled crab reach is great for posterior chain activation and hip extension, thoracic mobility, shoulder stability and endurance, trunk rotation, and it is an anterior body stretch for your hip flexors, quads and torso!
This is a simple movement that requires healthy shoulders. It will keep those shoulder healthy for the long run too. The first part of the movement activates your scapular stabilizer muscles and mobilizes your scapula. Then you internally rotate your shoulder, which will improve your shoulder mobility and axial rotation. All in all, the movement will teach you how to disassociate your shoulder from your shoulder blades and it will improve your shoulder’s range of motion.
We love the spinal beast wave to neck rotation as a cool down exercise (and warm up exercise too!). It does a great job of opening and closing the spinal vertebrae to their full range of motion. The neck rotation is an added touch to decrease tightness and improve mobility in the neck, which is often tense after tough workouts.
The prone hip and scorpion to angel is a fantastic way to end the flow. From the prone position, you will open your spine and hip and shoulder capsules in such a relieving way. This is a must for anyone who workouts out hard or sits throughout the day.
How Many Sets & Reps For Each Exercise?
Ideally, you should perform each decompression exercise for 3-6 reps (each side), one after the other, like a yoga flow. Don't worry about how you transition into the next exercise so much, just aim to target each joint and the muscles surrounding them. Really open up those joints and fascia pathways.
Now, let’s follow along to the decompression flow. It is 14-minutes long. So book yourself 15 minutes for this and you are good to go!
The flow will also follow the movement order above, so it will be super easy to follow along to!
After you do this decompression flow a few times, you will quickly realize how beneficial it is for your fitness. There’s a big difference between lifting and throwing around weights and moving gracefully on the ground and through space.
Overall, the benefits of a good cool down workout like this decompression flow should not be overlooked. Do this after every vigorous workout and you will see just how great you feel, both mentally and physically!
Related: 14 Best Cool Down Exercises
Don't forget to warm up before your next workout!
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