Warm-up exercises are essential to preparing your body for the activities ahead. This step helps you pump blood more effectively, which you definitely need if you’re doing circuit training.
However, you might not be aware that after doing your last reps, spending a few minutes doing some cool-down exercises is a must. Basically, cooling your body down after working out allows it to smoothly switch to its natural resting state. Matthew Greenfield, a physical therapist from Excel Physical Therapy, says that cool-downs after any activity are important.
While at first glance, you might wonder if there are differences between warm-up and cool-down exercises. Think of it this way, the former aims to make your body more flexible while the latter aims to return it to its baseline. So when it’s time to cool down, don’t try to push yourself beyond your limit. Otherwise, it defeats its purpose.
What Do Cool Down Exercises Do?
Cool-down exercises have several benefits that help you get the most out of your workout. For starters, Heather Henri, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, recommends spending around 6 minutes cooling down to prevent yourself from feeling light-headed. Moreover, it slows down your heart rate, relaxes your body, and reduces lactic acid buildup.
5 Cool Down Exercises
Overhead Side Reach
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Place your left hand at your side with your palm touching your thigh.
- Raise the other hand high above your head. Fully extend your elbow and shoulder. Point your fingertips to the sky.
- With your right arm up high, lean to the left until you feel a tug on the right side of your torso.
- Let your neck drop and sink into the stretch.
- Maintain your position for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to your starting position.
- Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 10 to 20 reps.
- Letting your neck drop while doing this exercise relieves tension in your neck.
- This exercise stretches your back and core muscles if done correctly.
- The simplicity of this exercise allows you to do it anywhere, anytime.
- If you find yourself having a hard time balancing, you can hold onto something stable like a wall, chair, or table. You can also do it while seated.
- You can place your non-working hand behind your back for some challenging exercise.
Standing Forward Bend
(Image Source: Outside)
- Stand with your feet together. Slightly bend your knees and fold your torso over your legs, moving from the hips.
- Place your hands next to your feet or on the ground in front of you.
- Lengthen your spine by inhaling and extending your chest. Ensure your gaze is directed forward.
- Exhale and gently press both legs straight. Lift your kneecaps and gently spiral your upper inner thighs back. Ensure that you keep your legs straight.
- Exhale and extend your torso down without rounding your back. Stay long throughout your neck and extend the crown of your head toward the ground. Draw your shoulders down your back.
- The exercise targets and stretches the hips, hamstrings, and calves.
- It relieves stress and relaxes your body.
- It reduces fatigue and strengthens your thighs and knees.
- It keeps your spine strong and flexible.
- Feel free to let your feet touch or be hip-width apart. Go for the one that is more comfortable.
- Interlacing your fingers behind your back while bending forward can add a challenge and balance.
- Avoid locking your knees. Press your hands against the back of each knee to ensure that there is some room.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take one big step forward with your right leg. Shift your weight forward so your heel hits the floor first.
- Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Press into your right heel to return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg.
- This exercise increases core stabilization by engaging your core and back muscles.
- It targets your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexor muscles, gluteus maximus, and adductor muscles.
- Doing walking or reverse lunges makes this exercise more challenging and perfect for individuals who want something different.
- Avoid letting your upper body drop as it can strain your knees.
- Ensure your feet stay hip-width apart. Avoid narrowing your stance as it is an unnecessary challenge, especially if you’re new to it.
Overhead Shoulder Stretch
(Image Source: Self)
- Stand straight with your legs shoulder-width apart.
- Raise one arm overhead, bend the elbow, and place your hand behind your neck.
- Using your other hand, hold your elbow, and gently pull it behind your head.
- Hold the stretch for a few seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your other arm.
- This exercise stretches your arms, chest, shoulders, and back.
- It relieves shoulder stiffness.
- It can help correct postural issues like Kyphosis.
- Use your hand to reach down between your shoulder blades to increase the amount of stretch.
- Remember to breathe as it allows you to do the exercise longer and more effectively.
- Work within your current abilities, especially if you are new to fitness. Don’t push yourself too hard to avoid injuring yourself.
90/90 Lateral Reach
(Image Source: Healthline)
- Sit on the floor and bend one leg in front of your body. Position it so your lower leg and knee are resting on the ground. Ensure your leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Position the other leg beside you with your hip rotated inward. Ensure your shin and ankle are on the ground. Bend your knee so it forms a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your back straight and avoid bending to one side.
- Hold your position for 60 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe deeply.
- This exercise increases joint mobility and corrects muscle imbalances.
- It increases hip mobility and reduces hip pain.
- It targets your glutes, piriformis, psoas, hip flexors, hip abductors, and adductors.
- If you have trouble with your hip mobility, you can do the exercise using one of your legs only.
- Add a yoga block or rolled towel if you feel a cramping sensation. You can also place them underneath your hip on the side of your front leg if you have trouble keeping your body straight.
- Reposition your legs if you don’t feel the stretch in your groin and hip area. Remember to keep your ankles in a neutral position.
Similar to how warmup exercises prepare your body for the workout, spending a few minutes cooling yourself down is essential to revert it to its pre-workout state. So with that said, consider trying these 5 exercises the next time you hit the gym.
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