The cooldown is probably the most underrated part of a workout. You crush your tough session with full intensity and effort, then do a five-minute slow bike or a few stretches and call it a day—that is, if you're one of the diligent athletes who actually does a cooldown.
If you follow this approach, you could be missing out a critical time in your workouts to improve your performance and help you stay injury-free.
We recommend finishing your workout with a Restore Series. Developed by Brandon McGill and Ken Vick of STACK Sports Performance Training, a Restore Series is a three-exercise cooldown routine that targets the muscles you focused on in your workout to reinforce and improve mobility, flexibility and durability.
McGill explains: "You just worked on getting stronger and being able to put more force into the ground in a shorter time. We want to make sure you're leaving with the ability to use this strength through a good range of motion. If we can get athletes stronger, more powerful and moving well, then we will have faster athletes who are less likely to get injured."
The Restore Series focuses only on one muscle group and joint. This is different from other cooldown routines you've seen, in which you do a bunch of stretches and foam rolling, maybe even your entire body. The three-exercise system targets three keys aspects to improve range of motion and promote meaningful improvement in the targeted area. You focus on only one area but achieve far greater results.
"I would rather be savagely good at a few things than OK at everything. We choose things that are focused and specific to get the most bang for our buck," adds McGill.
Here's how the Restore Series works:
Step 1: Reset
The first exercise is some form of self-myofascial release, such as foam rolling or working your fascia with a lacrosse ball. McGill says this form of self-massage releases trigger points, spots in your muscle tissue where the fibers get bunched up and tight. Applying pressure with a roller or ball resets the direction of the muscle fibers and relieves tension within them. If everything is lined up in the proper direction, your muscles will be able to contract and relax with maximum length and force.
Step 2: Mobilize
The second exercise is a traditional static stretch where you hold a position for a specified duration. After you reset your muscle tissue and alleviate trigger points, your muscle is primed to lengthen. Stretching at this point increases flexibility in the targeted muscle group, creating greater range of motion around the joint on which that muscle group acts.
Step 3: Reinforce
According to McGill, if you stretch a muscle and leave the gym without allowing your body to recognize that it's gained a new range of motion, then Steps 1 and 2 go to waste. You need to teach your neuromuscular system that you're now able to move through a greater range of motion, so your nervous system can learn the new movement. The type of exercise in Step 3 reinforces this new movement by moving the targeted muscles and joints through a full range of motion in a common exercise, such as an Overhead Squat.
Sample Restore Series
Here are three examples of the Restore Series, designed for specific areas of the body. Choose one to finish your workout, depending on which muscle groups you targeted. If you want to get creative, you can develop a new Restore Series using this template.
Shoulder Restore Series
Lax Ball Pec/Pec Minor - 1x2 min. each side
Sleeper Stretch - 1x1 min. each side
Supine Shoulder Slides - 1x10 each side
Hip Restore Series
Foam Roll Quad - 1x2 min. each side
Kneeling TFL Stretch - 1x1 min. each side
Overhead Lunge and Press - 1x10 each side
Lower Leg Restore Series
Lax Ball Calf - 1x2 min. each side
Strap Ankle Stretch - 1x1 min. each side
Single-Leg Reach and Grab - 1x10 each side
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