A proper warm-up is essential for optimal performance. Taking the time to get your body prepared for the grueling workout is only half the battle.
While warming up gets passed over to jump straight into lifting, I believe that your cool down is even more vital to your health. After crushing a workout, the last thing you want to do is roll around on the floor stretching, right?
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Putting the time and effort into your cool downs helps with getting your body prepared for the next session. When you do active recovery and mobility movements after your workout, you're allowing blood to flow through the muscles you just caused trauma to.
Cool downs will help keep the blood flowing which allows nutrients to reach your muscles faster. The extra blood flow keeps your muscles warm and primed to be stretched or foam rolled so that you are less sore the next day.
Allowing your heart rate to come down slowly and avoids a drastic drop in your blood pressure.
Fortunately, there are six exercises you can do pretty much anywhere that will hit all of your common tight spots. Spending 6 minutes post-workout doing these exercises will change the way you look at a cool down.
How This Cool Down Works
After you put up all of your weights (yeah right) go over to an empty spot on the floor.
Perform each move for 60 seconds without any breaks in between.
This entire cool down will take about six minutes depending on how slow it takes you to get into position.
6 Effective Cool Down Moves
Don't bat your eyes are some of these moves, they work well and allow your body to loosen up areas that you did not know need loosened up. They will improve your squat mobility, ease any pains in your back, and help open up problem areas.
Let's check them out.
#1 - Rock Back on All Fours
This exercise is going to help realign your spine and decompress your lower back. You're going to engage the muscles in your pelvic floor and core, and increase hip mobility. I actually like to do this exercise as part of my warm-up on squat and deadlift days.
Get on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart. Engage your core and sink your hips backwards towards your heels.
Return to your starting position and repeat for 60 seconds.
#2 - Child's Pose With Reach
Stretch your lower back, hips, quads, and ankles with this exercise. The gentle stretch while reaching will help reduce stress and fatigue.
Kneel on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders. Shift your hips back and rest your butt on your heels.
Bend forward so that your chest is on your thighs or as close as possible. Walk your hands to one side and then slowly walk your hands to the other side like a pendulum.
Repeat for 60 seconds.
#3 - T-Spine Foam Roll
Your thoracic spine takes a beating when working out. It also takes a huge beating if you have poor posture. This movement helps increase your t-spine mobility while stretching your chest and ab muscles, allowing your spine to sit more neutral.
If you do not have a foam roller, using a bench or Swiss ball can also help.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and place the roller across the middle of your back. Place your hands behind your head as if you were doing sit-ups and use your legs to push your hips forward, allowing the roller to travel up to your shoulders. Use your abs to crunch up as you allow the roller to go back to the starting position.
Repeat for 60 seconds.
#4 - Hip Flexor Foam Roll
If you want to experience some good pain, this is the exercise for you. This helps loosen up tight hip flexors.
Place your hips over the foam roller in a push-up position. Turn your side side to lower your left hip down to your roller. Keep your legs wide for balance. Relax your neck and allow your arms to support and control your rolling. Roll back and forth over your hip flexors as slowly as possible.
Repeat for the other side.
#5 - 90/90 Stretch
If you sit for your job, this exercise is one of the most beneficial to you. It's also going to be one of the hardest to execute. Your hips are tight and if you've ever wondered why the outside of your hips hurt when you walk, it's because they are way too tight.
This will open up your hips and release tension from your lower back. It also helps loosen up the tight hamstrings from sitting.
Sit on the mat and place your right leg in front of you as if you were about to sit Indian style. Place your left leg out to the side and behind you so that there are 90 degree bends in both legs. Bend at the waist and stretch your arms as far forward as comfortable.
Return to the starting position and repeat for both sides.
#6 - Neck Stretch
Again, if you sit a lot, this exercise will benefit you most. This movement helps release tension and strains in your neck. It helps with tension headaches and also allows your neck to maintain a neutral position.
Find a comfortable position to sit or kneel in. Take your right arm and place your fingertips on the left side of your head. Gently pull your head toward your right shoulder.
Repeat for other side.
Wrapping It Up
Look, if you want to make lifting and fitness a lifestyle, you need to implement a cool down strategy. Just like warming up, a cool down allows your body to start its recovery process immediately. If you've ever had DOMS, you know that keeping that muscle moving means no pain, right?
Try this cool down out for a week and I would bet that you will feel completely different in and out of the gym.