14 Cool Down Stretches to Add to Your Workout Routine

Young woman stretching during cool down after exercising.

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If you are looking for a simple, quick, and almost effortless post-workout routine that could help you reduce the risk of injury, increase blood flow for better recovery, and return your body to balance, you may want to consider cool down stretching. Unfortunately, though, many of us are guilty of hopping off the treadmill or racking our weights and heading straight for the shower.

But taking just a few minutes to engage in cool down stretches can significantly benefit your body and mind. Plus, you don’t need a complicated routine. With cool down stretching, you can return your body to homeostasis post-workout and enjoy a smoother transition from exercise to your daily routine. 

Here is a cool down routine you may want to try the next time you workout. You can do the entire routine or mix and match your stretches depending on which muscles you worked that day. The entire routine should only take you about 10 to 20 minutes to complete depending on how many times you repeat each move. If you have time, do not be afraid to stretch longer to really allow your body to relax and recover after your workout.

Quad Stretch

quad stretch

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Quad stretches can help ease muscle tension and stimulate blood flow. They’re especially beneficial after running. Here's how to perform a standing quad stretch.

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Bend one knee, bringing your heel up towards your buttocks.
  3. Grasp your ankle with one or both hands.
  4. Press your hips forward and keep your knee in line with your body.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
  6. Complete two to three rounds on each side.

Hamstring Stretch

hamstring stretch

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Your hamstrings are the large bands of muscles behind your thighs. Stretching your hamstrings helps relieve tightness in the tendons and hips. Here's how to do a standing hamstring stretch.

  1. Start in a seated position with your legs extended.
  2. Bring the bottom of your right foot to the inside of your knee. 
  3. Bend forward at the waist, reaching for your extended leg’s foot. 
  4. Bend as far forward as you can.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Calf Stretch

Stretching your calves not only relieves tightness but also can help you cool down. A calf stretch can help your leg muscles feel looser and more relaxed after a workout. Here is you add a standing calf stretch to your cool down routine.

  1. Keep one leg straight with your heel on the floor, while holding the back of a chair or bracing your hands against a wall.
  2. Bend the other knee and your elbows slowly, slightly leaning forward until you feel a stretch in your calf.
  3. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg. 

Tricep Stretch 

tricep should stretch

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Stretching your triceps can help to loosen and free connective tissues in your upper body and joints. It may also improve your range of motion. Here are the steps to performing an overhead tricep stretch.

  1. Raise your right arm toward the ceiling, making sure not to let your shoulder rise toward your ears.
  2. Bend your right arm at the elbow, drawing your hand behind your head and your palm toward the center of your back with your middle finger along your spine.
  3. Grab your raised elbow with your left hand and slowly pull it toward your left side while gently pushing it down your back.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  5. Complete three to four times on each side.

Shoulder Stretch 

tricep or should stretch

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Shoulder stretches are great for reducing muscle pain and tension. They can help you feel more relaxed after a workout by relieving stress and tightness. Here is how to perform a cross-body shoulder stretch.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise your right arm perpendicular to your body.
  3. Bring it across your chest so that your hand moves toward the left side of your body
  4. Bending your left arm at your elbow, bring your left hand over your right upper arm. 
  5. Use your left hand to gently pull your right arm across your body.
  6. Hold for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Butterfly Stretch

woman doing butterfly stretch

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A butterfly stretch can be soothing to your central nervous system, helping your body to regulate after a workout. It can also be beneficial for opening up the hip joints and reducing stiffness. Here's how to incorporate a seated butterfly stretch to your cool down regimen.

  1. Sit down on the floor with your legs extended.
  2. Pull the heel of your right foot up toward your groin, using your hands if necessary.
  3. Draw your left heel in toward your groin, allowing the soles of your feet to meet.
  4. Hold your feet with your hands and softly rest your elbows on your knees.
  5. Sit up tall, keeping your back straight, and let your knees fall toward the floor.
  6. Apply gentle pressure on your knees using your elbows and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  7. Complete three times. 

Lower Back Stretch

Stretching your lower back can effectively reduce tension, improve your range of motion, and prevent injury. Here is how to do a knee-to-chest lower back stretch.

  1. Lie on your back, bending both knees and placing your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your left leg straight out along the floor.
  3. Bring your right knee toward your chest.
  4. Circle your arms around your bent leg, clasping your hands just below your knee. 
  5. Keep your back flat as you lengthen your spine and gently pull your knee up and in toward your chest.
  6. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Downward Facing Dog

downward dog

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Downward facing dog is a great way to restore balance to your body and mind. And because it is an inversion, it positions your head lower than your heart. This improves circulation, returns your body to homeostasis, and relieves tension. Here is how to perform downward dog.

  1. Start in a tabletop position, with the palms of your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and your knees on the floor under your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and spread your fingers wide.
  3. Push upward through your palms and the balls of your feet, drawing your hips up toward the ceiling.
  4. Straighten your legs as you lift your knees off the floor.
  5. Inhale and exhale deeply as you relax your neck and head, stretching through your upper back, the back of your legs, and the soles of your feet.
  6. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Seated Forward Fold

seated forward fold

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A seated forward fold can be used as a hamstring stretch to relieve tight muscles and increase your range of motion. Because it is a yoga pose, it’s also beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety. Here is how to perform a seated forward fold.

  1. Begin in a seated position on the floor with your legs extended. 
  2. Breathe in deeply and raise both arms above your head.
  3. Lean forward from the hips slowly as you exhale bringing your hands down toward your toes.
  4. Place your arms on your toes, feet, or ankles and gently pull your upper body down toward your legs.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Figure Four

figure four or thred the needle

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Figure four stretch helps to stretch your hips and buttocks. Stretching these muscles may improve flexibility and range of motion. Because you will be lying down, it can also help lower your heart rate and steady your breathing after a workout. Here's how to do a figure four stretch.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Bring your right ankle to your left knee so that the sole of your foot is facing left, making a figure four.
  3. Clasp your hands behind your hamstring by bringing one arm around the outside of your bent knee and the other through the middle of your figure four.
  4. Use your hands and gently pull the bent leg toward your chest, keeping your knee from moving inwards.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Supine Spinal Twist

Supine twist

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A supine spinal twist can help loosen and relax muscles in your lower back. This can decrease tension and relieve stress after strenuous weight-bearing activities. Here's how to do a supine spinal twist.

  1. Begin lying on your back with your legs extended.
  2. Spread your arms out perpendicular to your body, palms facing down, to form a T shape.
  3. Bend your left knee, bring it to a 90-degree angle, and then lower it toward the right. The inside of your left knee should be facing the floor. 
  4. Twist at the spine, trying to keep your shoulders flat on the floor.
  5. Turn your head to look away from your bent knee toward your right fingertips.
  6. Relax into the stretch, letting gravity pull your knee toward the floor.
  7. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then switch legs. 

Wide Leg Forward Fold

Wide leg forward fold is excellent for your hip flexibility. In the standing position, it moves your head lower than your heart, boosting circulation and returning your heart rate to a resting rhythm. Here is how to incorporate a wide-leg forward fold into your cool down routine.

  1. Stand with your feet wide apart.
  2. Raise your arms straight up toward the ceiling when you inhale.
  3. Bend at the hips and lower your hands toward the floor in the center of your stance as you exhale.
  4. Pause by resting your hands on your shins, keeping your back flat.
  5. Deepen the stretch, if you can, by placing your hands directly on the floor in the middle of your stance, keeping your legs straight and not bending at the knees.
  6. Release your head down and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Floor Scorpion

Floor scorpion stretches and releases the muscles of the low back, hips, and buttocks. It can help relieve tension and reduce stress, says Jesse Grund, a certified personal trainer with Unconventional Strength. Here is how Grund recommends doing the floor scorpion.

  1. Begin by laying face down on the floor, stretch your arms out perpendicular to your body to form a T shape, and extend your legs straight out along the floor.
  2. Place your chin gently on the mat and gaze downward, so your spine is in a neutral position.
  3. Press your palms lightly into the floor to hold your shoulders, upper back, and chest in their current position.
  4. Lift your right leg by bending your knee until it is at a 90-degree angle.
  5. Draw your right foot across your left leg, trying to touch the toes of your right foot to the ground outside your left leg. Your hips and lower back will rotate, but your upper body should remain stationary.
  6. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes and return to a T position before switching sides. 

90/90 with Forward Fold

The 90/90 stretch is a great way to increase hip mobility and reduce tension-related pain. Doing this while your muscles are still warm after a workout helps to reduce lactic acid, which can cause future stiffness. In addition, achieving better hip rotation, it can help improve future workouts and reduce lower back pain. Here is how Grund suggests doing a 90/90 stretch with a forward fold. 

  1. Sit on the floor.
  2. Bend your left leg in front of your body so your hip rotates outwards and the sole of your foot is facing right, forming a 90-degree angle.
  3. Move your right leg so your hip rotates inward, bending it at a 90-degree angle so that your shin and ankle are on the ground.
  4. Keep your right knee in line with your hip.
  5. Sit up tall to keep your back straight once both legs are at a 90-degree angle.
  6. Keep equal weight in both your hips, bend forward, and extend your arms away from your head.
  7. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes and repeat on the other side.

A Word From Verywell 

Stretching post-workout can benefit your body and mind. It also is an effective way to return your body to homeostasis, returning your heart rate and breathing to normal levels.

Stretching after a workout can also improve circulation, boost flexibility, improve range of motion, and reduce pain and stiffness. As with any physical activity, you should discuss these stretched with a healthcare provider to ensure they are right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is stretching a good way to cool down?

    One primary benefit of stretching is its ability to return your body to homeostasis, which is a vital part of a cool down. In addition, stretching calms the nervous system, lowers the heart rate, and returns breathing to normal levels.

  • What are the benefits of doing a cool down?

    The benefits of a cool down include gradually returning your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing to normal levels. In addition, cooling down after a workout is less stressful on your body as it helps to regulate blood flow.

  • What happens if you don’t do a cool down?

    During a workout, your heart rate increases, your muscles may contract, and your blood pressure may increase. If you don’t cool down, you may risk future injury, blood pooling in your lower extremities, and increased stress on your cardiovascular system.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Warm up, cool down and be flexible.

  3. American Heart Association. Warm up, cool down.

  4. Hospital for Special Surgery. Yoga cool down stretches for runners.

  5. Maddux RE, Daukantaité D, Tellhed U. The effects of yoga on stress and psychological health among employees: an 8- and 16-week intervention study. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping. 2018;31(2):121-134. doi:10.1080/10615806.2017.1405261

  6. Your lungs and exercise. Breathe (Sheff). 2016;12(1):97-100. doi:10.1183/20734735.ELF121