Post Exercise Cool Down Static Stretches
A proper cool down ensures that the blood flow to your muscles is decreased in a controlled way allowing it to flow back to the heart and brain – this will prevent the ‘head swim’ effect that you get if you stand up too quickly. It can also reduce the amount of stiffness that is suffered after a workout and could help improve your flexibility.
How to Cool Down and Stretch After Exercise
If you have just been excising on the bike, treadmill or cross trainer (Cardio equipment) you can complete you can perform the pulse lowering on this equipment. If you’ve been lifting weights you can move to the cardio equipment (in this case you will need to raise your pulse slightly first with a few minutes of slightly higher intensity work before moving to the pulse lowerer). You could simply reverse the actions performed in the pulse raiser as described here. If you've been running outdoors you could just slow down to a brisk walk.
This phase is about gradually slowing down to your pre-excise state, heart rate and breathing. Over a 3-5 minute period, gradually slow down your activity. Reduce the intensity until you reach a level where you can talk normally in full sentences.
These stretches are designed to return the muscles back to their pre-exercise length as they may have shortened and tightened as you were working out. If you cooled down before doing some tummy and back exercises (core) then stay on the floor to start these exercises. If you are starting from a standing position you may complete the stretches in reverse order so that you end up lying relaxed on a mat once you’ve finished.
Stretches should be held for 15-20 seconds and to a point of ‘mild discomfort’. Breathe normally whilst stretching. Complete the stretches one after the other with no rest between. The description tell you were you should be feeling the stretch. Do not ‘bounce’ any stretches.
Upper leg (back) – Lying on your back and ensuring that your lower back remains in contact with the floor, raise one leg straight up in the air and straighten the other along the floor. Grasp your raised leg as far up the leg as you can, keeping the head and neck relaxed. Hold, then change legs
Upper leg (front) – Roll onto one side, straighten your legs so that your body is streamlined and your hips and chest are perpendicular to the floor. Grasp the top leg at the ankle if you can (use a towel to pull it towards you if you can’t reach), keeping the knees together, pull the foot as close to you buttocks as you can, hold, change sides.
Hip – Slowly rise up from the previous stretch and onto one knee, push hips forward as if trying to scrape the bottom knee across the floor, you should feel the stretch from knee to hip. Hold, change legs.
Upper back –Slowly move to a standing position for the next stretch. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and hold your arms out in front of you so that they are parallel to the floor. Clasp your hands together and bend your elbows, trying to part your shoulder blades and open up the upper back. Drop you head down between your arms, hold.
Chest – Place the palms of both hands on your buttocks and try to push your elbows together. Hold.
Upper arm – Place one arm straight up in the air, the other down at your side. Drop the lower part of the raised arm down between your shoulder blades and using the other hand, stretch the upper arm by gently pushing towards the centre of your back. Hold, change arms.
Shoulder – Place one arm straight across your chest, use the other arm to gently push it into your body. Hold, change arms.
Calf - Take a step directly forward with one leg, keeping the rear leg straight and this heel on the ground bend the front knee. Keep body upright. Hold, change legs.
Have a warm shower and relax!
Safety: Seek advice from a medical professional before starting any exercise programme. Stop immediately if you feel pain. The first time you perform this exercise should be under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional.
By Michelle Day
Michelle is a Level 3 qualified Personal Trainer for Inspiring Fitness. She has a mobile and studio based PT business in Bristol. Her clients range from those who have never exercised before to Ironman triathletes.
Tags: Beginners, Beginners Guide to Exercise, cool down, flexibility, static stretch, stretches, stretching