Name: Zuzka Light
Occupation: Fitness model, online personal trainer
Even though we know it's important to stretch after a good workout, many of us finish our last set and leave without doing it. Like any magnificent engine, our bodies crave a proper cool-down after running full throttle. After a pounding, your muscles need a little loving.
Post-workout stretching is a healthy habit to develop. It gives the most important muscle of all, your heart, time to come back down to its normal speed. It also helps your muscles maintain and even increase their flexibility over time. Flexible muscles are often healthier and less injury-prone, and can move through a full range of motion much easier than inflexible ones.
I'd like to walk you through my favorite stretching routine. I like to do this routine after I work out. It only takes about 10-15 minutes. Afterward, I feel great!
The next time you finish a workout and want to do a stretching routine, try this one.
Zuzka Light Zuzka's Favorite Stretching Routine
Start with this yoga pose. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your chest up. Inhale and reach your arms up over your head. Bring your arms back down. As you do, bend forward with a flat back. Keep your back flat as you bring your hands to the floor. Look at your knees and exhale.
Inhale and come up with a flat back until your torso is parallel to the ground, then bring your hands back down and move into a plank. If you're in a good plank position, your body should be in a straight line, your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Inhale, and then exhale as you bend your elbows and lower down into Chaturanga (low push-up position.) Inhale, and then exhale into upward dog, as you squeeze your glutes. While you're in upward dog, roll your neck a little to loosen it.
Bring your toes back under, push your hips up, and move into downward dog. Keep your back straight, press your chest to your thighs. Try to bring your heels to the ground. If your heels don't reach the ground, stretch your calves by moving your feet up and down. Relax your neck and continue to lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.
2Triangle pose variation
From downward dog, move back into a plank position. From the plank, step forward with your right foot and move it to the outside of your right hand. Bring your right elbow and forearm as low as possible. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Then, stretch your right hand up toward the ceiling and look at your hand. Try to turn your upper spine as much as you can while maintaining your lower body-lunge position and your arm in the air. Your left arm should be straight and in line with your right hand. Hold your right hand in the air for about 10 seconds, then bring it back down until your elbow and forearm touch.
Repeat two more times.
Triangle pose variation
After you've gone through the triangle pose variation three times, move back into the plank position. From there, step your right foot forward so it's between your hands. Push off your hands and stand up. You should end up in a lunge position. Bring the left knee down; the left shin should also be on the ground.
From there, reach back with your left hand and pull your left foot up toward your butt. Bring it as far as it can come comfortably. Don't hyperextend your lower back. Push your hips forward. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.
Let go of the left foot and sit back onto that left heel. Your right leg should remain straight. Flex your right foot so your toes are in the air. Bend forward as much as you can comfortably. If you can, try to touch your forehead to your leg. Breathe. Your hands should be on either side of your right leg, or you can grab on to your right foot. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
Sit up off of your left leg and bring your right leg back. Move back into a plank position. Inhale and lower back down into Chaturanga and exhale into upward dog. Inhale and move into downward dog.
Switch sides and repeat. Step forward with your left foot and repeat the triangle pose, quad stretch, and hamstring stretch on the opposite side. Once you've completed all the movements again, move back into plank.
Lie down and roll over onto your back. Bring knees up, but keep your feet together. Cross your right foot over your left knee. Your shin, not your ankle, should be touching your left leg. Keep your shoulders on the ground.
Reach up and grab your left thigh with both arms. Your left arm will be in between your left and right thighs. Pull your left thigh into your chest. Keep both feet flexed. If you need an extra stretch, push your right elbow into your right thigh so it goes away from you. Breathe. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Release and put both feet back on the floor.
Switch legs and repeat the stretch by crossing your left thigh over you right leg and puling your right thigh toward your chest. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
When you're done, release and bring both feet to the ground.
Stay flat on the ground with your knees bent. Cross your right leg over your left thigh and bring both feet up and off the ground. Reach up and grab your right toes with your left hand and your left toes with your right hand. Lie back onto the ground and keep your shoulders down. Pull on your toes and try to bring your knees as close to your chest as you can. Hold for 10-15 seconds
Switch legs by crossing your left leg over your right thigh. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Breathe. Release.
Lay completely flat on the ground with your legs extended. Bend your right leg, pull your knee to your chest, and put it over your left leg. Keep the left leg straight. Bring that right knee all the way to the ground but keep your right ankle on your left leg. You will roll up onto your left hip a little, but try to keep your shoulders on the ground.
Look to your right, bend your left leg, and use your right hand to pull the left foot up toward your glutes. Use your left hand to keep your right knee on the ground. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Breathe deeply.
Release your left foot and slowly move back into the starting position. Do the stretch on the other side by putting your left knee over your right. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
Lay down with your legs on the ground and your arms extended over your head. Inhale as you sit up with your hands in the air. Immediately bend forward and bring your chest to your knees. Try to grab your feet with your hands. If you can't, bend forward as much as you can. Hold for a few seconds.
Release your feet and lay back on the ground with your arms at your sides. When your shoulders hit the ground, bring your feet up and over your head. Try to keep your legs straight. Your palms should remain on the ground. If you can, try to reach your toes to the floor above your head. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
Breathe in, release your legs back to the ground, and roll up into a standing position. Try to roll up and stand up without using your hands.
For the final stretch, stand with your feet together and your shoulders tall. Inhale and bring your arms up. Exhale and bring your arms down. Reach behind your back with your right arm and grab your left biceps.
Keep your left arm bent and pull it up and forward. Let your head hang toward your left shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the right side of your neck. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Switch sides and hold for another 10-15 seconds.
How do you feel? After going through these stretches, you should feel limber, relaxed, and totally ready to take on whatever's next in your day!
For more routines like this every day, join my ZGYM.