When it comes to cardio workouts, you may think that only the time on the machine really matters, but research shows that doing stretches after cardio machine workouts can affect your recovery and performance.
We all know we should do a dynamic warmup before exercising, but many of us hop off the equipment after a workout and head straight to the shower. If that’s your post-workout routine, you’re missing out on a component that research shows can improve your performance and help you avoid injury: static stretching. Static stretches after cardio help your body become more flexible and can reduce muscle tension after a workout, setting the stage for your body to be better able to improve your performance during the next workout.
Stretching doesn’t have to be a long, involved routine. Doing a few specific stretches after cardio workouts will increase your range of motion and improve muscle recovery. To get the most out of a stretching exercise, use slow, gentle movements, and hold the stretch for ten or more seconds as you increase your range of motion. Use your breathing to enhance the stretch by taking in a deep breath before and exhaling as you move into it.
Aaptiv Trainers help you control your breath while you stretch, so you can focus on loosening up the right way.
The following are targeted static stretches for the most popular types of cardio equipment. For each exercise, hold the stretch for at least ten seconds and repeat two to three times.
Indoor Cycling Bike
When you’re cycling, your legs are making a repetitive motion, but because the joints involved aren’t moving through a full range of motion (your legs aren’t fully extended or flexed when pedaling), your muscles can become tight and sore. Static stretches that gently increase flexibility can help your body recover more completely and even improve your cycling. These stretches after cardio on the indoor cycling bike focus on typical problem areas for cyclists—tight leg, back, and shoulder muscles.
Wall Calf Stretch
Place your hands at shoulder level against a wall. Extend one leg behind you, and bring the other leg forward with your knee bent. Press the extended-leg heel down until you feel a calf stretch. You can increase the stretch by dropping the back leg farther behind you and pressing your body toward the wall.
Supine Groin Stretch
Lie on your back with hands out to the sides and knees bent. Keeping your knees bent, drop them out to each side and then bring your feet together, so the soles are touching. Remain in this position as your knees drop farther toward the floor.
Forward Four-Point Stretch
Stand with your legs wide apart, and slowly lower your upper body down until you reach the floor with your hands. If you can’t reach the floor, set a step or stool in front of you and place your hands on that. Increase the stretch by walking your fingers forward as your muscles relax.
Kneel on the floor and drop your arms behind your body, grasping your feet or ankles if you can reach that far. Drop your head back as far as is comfortable while you reach back, and focus on relaxing your neck and shoulders as you arch your back.
Lie on your back with legs extended straight. Using your hands, bring one knee into your chest, and pull it toward the opposite shoulder while keeping the opposite leg straight. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Running on a treadmill can have a different effect on the body compared to running outside. The terrain isn’t as varied, and the repetitive movement can lead to tight calves, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as ankle and shin pain. These stretches after cardio on the treadmill help prevent cumulative muscle tightness and loss of range of motion.
Looking for challenging treadmill workouts? Aaptiv’s got them.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sit on the floor with one leg extended in front of you and the other resting on the floor to the side with your knee bent. Place the bottom of your foot on the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Bending from your hips, reach your arms forward as far as you can toward the foot of the extended leg. Try reaching a bit farther each time you stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Stair Calf Stretch
Stand one step up on a set of stairs. Place the toes of one foot on the edge of the step, letting your heel drop to the floor. You can enhance the stretch by pressing down on your heel as you stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one leg up toward your body with the knee to the side, and rest your ankle over the knee of the bent leg resting on the floor. Place your hands under the leg in contact with the floor, and pull it up toward your body. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Upper Body Extension
Stand with your hands on your hips, and slowly arch your back as you raise your head, so you’re looking upward. If you start to feel dizzy, place one hand on support as you do this stretch.
This cardio machine provides a great total-body workout but can leave you with tight hip flexors and glutes. If you use the arm pulls with your workout, you can develop tight shoulder and arm muscles. These stretches after cardio on the elliptical target those areas and improve flexibility.
The elliptical is a great low-impact alternative to running. Have you tried an elliptical class on Aaptiv yet? Our trainers sync the music with the movement so you pay more attention on having fun and less on the clock.
Seated Glute Stretch
Sit on a chair with one foot resting on the floor and the other bent to the side with your ankle resting on the knee of your other leg. Bend forward from the hip (don’t curl your back), pressing down until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hip. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Shoulder and Arm Stretch
Start in a kneeling position, and bend forward with your hands flat on the floor. Lift your hips and straighten your legs as you bring your hands toward your body. Continue to lift your hips upward until your body forms a V, with your feet pressing on the floor and hands under your shoulders. Press down on your heels.
Supine Side/Side Twist
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms at shoulder level out to each side. While keeping your knees bent, slowly lower them to one side and then to the opposite side. Try to keep your arms, shoulders, and head flat on the floor as you move your legs from side to side to avoid rolling your upper body with the movement.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, arms raised with elbows to the sides, and hands placed at the back of your head. Bring your shoulder blades together (as if you’re squeezing a ball between your shoulder blades) as you press your elbows back.
The stair climber is an excellent machine for improving your cardio. But it can give you lead legs without proper post-exercise stretching. Decrease tightness in your leg muscles and glutes with these stretches after cardio on the stair climber.
In standing position, extend one leg out in front of you with your heel on the floor. Slowly bend the knee of the opposite leg, lowering your body as you keep the other leg extended. Press your hands into the upper thigh of your bent leg as you lower your body. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bring one heel up behind your back and grasp it with your opposite hand. Pull your foot gently upward and toward your back. Avoid arching your back or leaning back as you do this exercise. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Gluteal and Piriformis Stretch
In a standing position, place one hand on a stable table or against a wall for balance. Bring one leg up with the knee to the side and rest your ankle on top of the other knee. Slowly squat until you feel a stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Incorporate these stretches into your post-workout routine to give your hard-working body the TLC it deserves.
Try the stretching classes on Aaptiv. We’ve got classes as short as 10 minutes to help you cool down and release tension in tight muscles.