When we finish a game or workout, it can be tempting to pack up and hop in the car instead of stretching. The alternative plan is to “do it later,” which we know never really happens.
A better option would be to take 5 to 10 minutes and perform a thorough warm-down on the court or field. At this point, your thinking I’m crazy and wondering why you should take this extra time instead of heading straight to the showers.
One reason is that when you complete physical activity, your heart rate still beats faster than normal, along with an elevated core temperature and dilated blood vessels. Performing a warm-down allows you time to return all these markers to pre-activity levels to aid in recovery. A warm-down routine can also reduce the feeling of stiffness in the hours or days following the activity as muscles that have shortened from use can return to normal lengths and allow chemicals and byproducts such as lactic acid to pass.
From a mental standpoint, the warm-down allows you time to reflect on the workout itself. What went great and what needs to be improved on are two things I ask athletes to ponder to themselves during this time.
Below is a 10-pack of warm-down exercises that will have you feeling better after your next workout. I recommend holding each stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side when applicable per exercise.
Overhead Tricep Stretch
What It Works: Triceps
How to Do It: Lift your right arm to the ceiling, then bend at the elbow so your right palm falls towards the center of your back. Place your left hand on the top of your right elbow and use it to gently push your elbow closer to the midline of your back.
Standing Forward Fold
What It Works: Hamstrings, Calves
How to do it: Stand tall and inhale. As you exhale, slowly bend over and reach for your toes. If your hamstrings feel particularly tight, slightly bend your knees to find the correct level of tension.
Standing Quad Stretch
What It Works: Quads
How to Do It: Balancing on your right leg, grab your left foot with your left hand and pull your ankle up to meet your butt. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. Focus on trying to extend your knee to get the maximum effect, along with squeezing your glute. Switch and repeat on the other side.
What It Works: Glutes, Hip Flexors, Thoracic Spine, Hamstring
How to do it: From a push-up position, take a big step forward with your left foot aiming for your foot to land just outside of your left hand. Twist your upper body to the left as you extend your left arm toward the ceiling. Return the left hand to the ground. Push your hips to the roof and keep both hands and feet planted. Try and straighten your left leg while bringing that toe towards your face. Return hips to push-up height and return the left foot to push-up position. Switch and repeat on the other side. Aim to complete five reps on each side.
Childs Pose Lat Stretch
What It Works: Back, Legs
How to Do It: From a child’s pose, reach your arms over to the left and stay there for 30-60 seconds. Once you’re done, switch and repeat on the other side.
Childs Pose to Cobra
What It Works: Back, Abdominals
How to Do It: Begin in a child’s pose. Keeping your feet on the ground, rock your entire body forward until you arrive in the cobra position. Rock back into the child’s pose position and complete 10 repetitions.
What It Works: Hips, glutes
How to Do It: From a quadruped position, step your left knee over your right knee. Keeping the right leg in place, slide your left leg straight back to feel the stretch in the right side glute. You can remain in this position or drop down to your elbows. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.
Lying Knee to Chest
What It Works: Lower Back, Glutes
How to Do It: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bend the left knee and pull the knee toward your chest and stomach. Hold your leg with both hands on your shin and continue to hold until you feel the stretch in your back. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.
What It Works: Glutes, lower back, obliques
How to Do It: Lie on your back and swing one leg over the other, rotating through your lower back. Place both arms out to the sides for balance. Try to keep your shoulder blades on the floor as much as you can. Your upper torso should be resisting the rotation in the opposite direction. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.
What It Works: Hamstrings, Low Back
How to Do It: While sitting on the floor, place one leg straight out. Bend the other leg at the knee and position the sole of that foot against your opposite inner thigh. Extend both arms and reach forward. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.