A Nighttime Stretch Routine for Athletes

Release tight muscles and calm your nervous system in 10 minutes.

Your body is feeling a bit banged up from a tough lift or brutal practice where your coach decided to spend some extra time on conditioning. Or maybe you're feeling a bit tight from sitting all day at school and at your desk doing homework.

In either of these cases, a quick nighttime stretch routine is exactly what the doctor ordered.

According to Dr. Matt Stevens, physical therapist and owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio), a short stretch routine can help lengthen your muscles, improve recovery and calm down your nervous system before you hit the hay.

Not only will this release tight muscles and alleviate some aches and pains, it may also improve the quality of your sleep, which is essential for recovery and even muscle growth (Read more about the importance of sleep). Better yet, you only need about 10 minutes to work through six relaxing stretches.

Here's the routine.

Child's Pose

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Assume an all-fours position. Bring your butt to your heels with your arms extended overhead. Relax in this position, taking deep breaths.

Sets/Duration: 1x45-60 sec.

Cat-Cow Stretch

nighttime stretch routine

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Assume an all-fours position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Inhale, arch your back and look up. Exhale, look down and round your back. Move slowly back and forth between these two positions.

Sets/Duration: 1x10

Thread the Needle

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Begin in the all-fours position. Thread your right arm under your body and bring your right shoulder to the ground. Now rotate your left arm upward until it's perpendicular to the ground to stretch your upper back. Hold this position.

Sets/Duration: 1x45-60 sec. each side

Downward Dog

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Begin in a push-up position. Pull your hips back and up toward the ceiling while keeping your hands planted firmly on the floor. Tuck your head in as you move and push the ground away from you. You should feel a stretch through your calves and hamstrings.

Sets/Duration: 1x45-60 sec.

Lizard Pose

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Begin in a push-up position. Bring your right foot to the outside of your right hand and lower your left knee to the ground. Relax in this position, driving your hips toward the ground.

Sets/Duration: 1x45-60 sec. each side

Pigeon Pose

nighttime stretch routine

How to: Start on all fours with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Slide your right knee to your right wrist, so your right shin is on the floor perpendicular to your torso. Slowly slide your left leg behind you until the front of your left thigh is on the floor. Keep the toes of your right foot dorsiflexed (pointing toward your shin) as you lower into a stretch through your right hip and butt. To increase the stretch, lower down to your elbows.

Sets/Duration: 1x45-60 sec. each side

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Topics: STRETCHING | INJURY RECOVERY | MUSCLE GROWTH | SLEEP | YOGA POSES