While stretching before your workout provides you with a greater range of motion and makes your workouts more comfortable, stretching following your workout is a great opportunity to improve flexibility and to reduce tension in the muscles while they are still warm and benefiting from the increased blood flow of your cardio workout. After your next workout, give these stretches a try to reduce your soreness and improve range of motion the next day. Stretches following your workout can address areas that you typically hold tension or feel unbalanced and can be held for a much longer period of time (up to five minutes!).

Supine Hand to Foot Stretch (Hamstrings): Lying on your back, using a strap or exercise band, loop the band around your right foot. Gently lead the right leg towards your right shoulder, lengthening the hamstring. Hold for up to 2 minutes, bending the leg slightly if you feel a pull behind the knee or on the sit bone. After holding for up to 2 minutes, keeping both hips on the ground, lead the leg across the body and towards the left shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg and hip. Hold again for up to two minutes. Finally, bring the leg as far out to the right side as you can comfortably hold, feeling the stretch on the inside of your right leg. This stretches all three segments of the hamstrings and can be helpful for low back pain.



Half Bow (Quadriceps and hip flexors): Lying on your stomach, bring your hand or a yoga strap around your right foot. Keeping the right knee in line with the right hip, draw the right foot close to the body until you feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. You may also kick back into your arm or strap, elevating the knee. Hold for up to three minutes. Repeat on the left.



Figure 4 (Hips): Lying on your back, bend your right leg, bringing the foot to the floor and the knee to the ceiling. Bring your left foot on top of your right thigh, flexing the foot and pressing the knee away from your body. For a greater stretch, pull the right leg closer using your hands or a yoga strap. Repeat on the left.



Supported Bridge (Low Back/Psoas): Bringing both heels to the floor, lift up into bridge pose. Now place a yoga block or bolster under your low back supporting you in bridge pose. Lower your back onto the block. Over time, straighten both legs. Over time, come into a higher bridge and bring the block into a higher position.



Seated Spinal Twist (Shoulders, hips, and back): Seated on the ground, cross your right leg over your left bringing your right ankle to the outside of your left knee. Place your right hand on the ground and bring your left arm over your right ankle as you rotate your shoulders and torso to the right. Hold for up to two minutes while focusing on opening the left shoulder and releasing the middle back. Repeat on the left side.



Adding these flexibility exercises to your home fitness program will prepare your muscles for the demands of your cardio and strength training, allowing you to perform better and more effectively. They will also improve your range of motion and reduce muscle tension, allowing you to recover quicker and making your daily activities more enjoyable. For the best pre-workout stretches, read this blog post.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.