Cooldown Guidelines For Muscle Growth and Recovery

Everything you need to know about a proper cooldown, from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Cool Down Stretch

By neglecting to stretch after training, you're shortchanging yourself with an incomplete workout. In order to build muscle and recover completely, the body requires a full cooldown. By focusing on flexibility, you'll enhance the range of motion needed to extend your body to field an errant throw in a baseball game, move laterally to tackle a halfback in football or ace a wicked serve on the volleyball court. (Read more on STACK's Stretching page.)

Basic Steps for a Complete Recovery

  • Make sure you are well-hydrated
  • Have a small pre-workout meal 45 minutes beforehand comprising protein and carbohydrates (learn how to create your pre-workout meal)
  • Perform a dynamic warm-up
  • Drink water periodically during your workout to prevent dehydration
  • Perform upper- and lower body static stretches to improve range of motion and gradually bring your heart rate down after intense weight training or interval training
  • Within 15 to 30 minutes, have a small post-workout snack high in carbs and moderate in protein (e.g., raisins and peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread) with water

Cooldown Stretching Benefits

  • Relieves mental and physical stress
  • Allows your body to slowly cool down instead of immediately stopping and sitting down after that last set while your heart is racing
  • Can deter delayed-onset muscle soreness (which occurs 24 to 48 hours after strenuous exercise) by removing lactic acid from the muscles

Cooldown Guidelines

  • Space-efficient: Standing stretches can conveniently be done anywhere
  • Stretch slowly: Gradually ease into each static stretch and hold 10 to 20 seconds
  • Breathe: Inhale and exhale naturally throughout each stretch without holding your breath
  • Picture: Try to focus your mind on mentally feeling the muscles being stretched
  • Stand up and stretch: To start the cooldown process following your last exercise set, perform stretches upright for a smoother transition
  • Time-effective: A complete cooldown for the full body, both upper and lower, can be done in under five minutes

Post-Practice/Game/Workout Full-Body Stretches


  • Place left hand against wall
  • Pull left foot up toward hip with right hand until you feel stretch in your quadriceps
  • Repeat with right hand on wall and pull right foot up towards hip with left hand


  • Place both hands against wall
  • Lunge forward with right leg until knee is close to wall while extending left leg back and pressing left heel down into ground to maximize stretch
  • Repeat with left leg lunge/right leg extension


  • Stand about a foot alongside a door frame or pole
  • Extend right arm and slowly turn upper body in opposite direction until you feel a stretch in the chest and front deltoids
  • Repeat for other side with left hand on frame/pole


  • Standing a few inches away, place both hands around two doorknobs
  • Bend knees and extend arms and hips away from doorknobs until you feel a stretch in your upper and middle back

Groin, Inner Thighs, Hips, Biceps, Forearms

  • With feet spaced diagonally slightly wider than shoulders, bend knees, extend hips and place hands flat on ground between feet with fingers facing toward body and arms supinated (externally rotated)
  • Feel stretch in forearms, biceps, inner thighs, groin and hips

Hamstrings, Triceps

  • With knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart, bend over and extend arms behind toward upper back
  • Straighten arms to feel stretch in triceps and straighten legs to stretch hamstrings


  • Interlace hands and raise arms overhead. Extend arms and shoulders slightly behind head to stretch shoulders


  • With arms extended at chest level, interlace hands and slowly rotate upper body toward right so arms/body turn about 180 degrees. You should be facing behind at the end of the stretch
  • Repeat rotation to left side

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