For optimal health and fitness results, it is highly encouraged to cool down and stretch immediately post-workout. This is the best time to do all your favorite static stretches. As mentioned a few weeks ago, static stretching can reduce strength, power and explosive performance if done prior to a workout. However, after a workout, blood flow and vascularity to the muscles are high; therefore a perfect time to stretch. Static stretching is great for increasing muscle relaxation and lengthening.
Many exercises involve shortening of the muscle groups. For example, runners and soccer players commonly have tightness in muscles around the hips (hamstrings, hip flexors) due to the explosive nature of the sport. These are key muscle groups to stretch after games and practices. Targeting tight muscle groups for stretching and increasing flexibility will decrease your likelihood of injury.
It is recommended that static stretching be held for at least 30 seconds to one minute. Muscle groups that commonly present with tightness include:
- Pectoralis minor
- Upper traps
- Hip flexors