You've just finished a sweaty workout, lifting weights or exercising with resistance bands, or perhaps you just got back into the house after a long run outside. What do you do now? Jump in the shower? Mix up a protein shake? Before you do any of those things, what you should be doing are cool-down exercises!
The focus of any workout is usually the exercise themselves, but cool-down exercises are just as crucial as the strength-training circuit you've just sweated your way through. Cool-down activities will lower your heart rate, help prevent injuries, and keep you feeling relaxed after an intense workout.
Cool-down stretches are simple to learn too, and you can even add a band for pull-ups to give you more variations. Keep reading for the best ways to add cool-down exercises to your workout!
How do I cool down after a workout?
What do we mean when we say "cooling down?" Cooling down after a workout is the simple process of relaxing your body, relaxing the muscles you've just stretched, and lowering your heart rate back down to its average resting pace.
Cool-down exercises are surprisingly simple to practice. A basic cool-down workout will involve stretching after a workout or walking around after a run. Your body needs more than only a few minutes to relax and return to normal again. An excellent cool-down activity can also help you avoid injury while also giving you a good stretch after workouts!
Any full body cool-down should take up at least 10 minutes of your time at the end of your workout for it to be effective. We suggest incorporating a resistance band into the cool-down for better results. You'll find our favorite resistance band cool-down exercises examples further along in this article!
Why are cool-down exercises so important?
Cool-down exercises aren't just for athletes, and no matter how intense your workout was, anyone can benefit from including stretches into their post-exercise routine. As we've mentioned, cool-down exercises allow your muscles to return to a resting state.
We know it's difficult to include anything extra to your workout, especially if you're tired and sweaty after challenging circuits set! Trust us; it's worth it! These exercises can even stop you from getting dizzy, injured, or, in severe cases, passing out completely after your exercise!
These are the most significant benefits that your body and mind will gain from cool-down exercises:
- Gradually lower your heart rate back down to a normal, resting pace.
- Stop your heart from overacting or overexerting itself as it lowers in pace.
- Avoid becoming dizzy by better regulating your blood flow (in extreme cases, cool-downs can stop you from passing out!).
- Relax your muscles and unwind your joints to avoid injury.
- Feel superb as you relax your body and mind after a challenging exercise!
What are the best cool-down exercises?
There are hundreds of different cool-down exercises and stretches that you can include in a post-workout cooling down session.
Cool-down exercises can be as basic and straightforward as walking after a run or rotating your arms after lifting weights. Cool-down exercises should be light and easy to perform, even after a demanding circuit!
Stretches are perhaps the most critical part of a cool-down, as stretching can loosen up your muscles and joints, making injury less likely.
Simple shoulder stretches or arm rotations are perfect after lifting weights, while hamstring or quad stretches are great if you've just got back from a run or a bike ride!
The best cool-down exercises with resistance bands
While resistance bands have become a popular addition to strength training workouts, people tend to overlook their usefulness when it comes to stretching, particularly during a cool-down session.
Resistance bands can help you loosen up and stretch your muscles and joints out after exercise, so we put together this list detailing the best cool-down exercises to practice with resistance bands. You can perform all of the following after your workout, or pick one or two that will work best for your routine.
Remember, this a cool-down, so pick a light resistance band rather than using the strongest one you can!
#1 Shoulder and back resistance band stretch
- Start by holding a resistance band in both hands, at arm's length from your body.
- Raise your arms so they are level with your shoulders.
- Slowly pull the band apart by moving your hands away from each other.
- Retract your shoulder blades as you pull the band apart.
- Relax the band back to the center and repeat.
#2 Shoulder and chest resistance band stretch
- Hold a resistance band at arm's length, so it's level with your core.
- Keep your arms straight and raise the band, so it's above your head.
- Keep extending your arms backward, rotating your shoulder blades until the resistance band is now behind your back.
- Raise your arms again, so they are at head height, then bring them round in front of your body to the start point.
- Repeat the exercise in both directions.
#3 Hamstring resistance band stretch
- Lie down with your back flat on the floor and your legs straight.
- Loop a resistance band around one foot.
- Hold the other end of the band and use it to pull your leg upwards gently.
- Keep your leg straight and raise off the floor and towards you.
- Keep raising, ideally, until you reach a 90-degree angle. You can bend your leg to achieve this.
- Lower your leg slowly and repeat on your alternate leg.
#4 Quad resistance band stretch
- Lie down on your side and loop a resistance band around your top foot.
- Hold the other end of the resistance band. Your arms should be bent over your head and behind your back.
- Bend your knee so that your foot and lower leg are behind your back.
- Pull the resistance band up, away from your foot.
- This action will stretch your leg and, specifically, your quad muscles.
- Relax your grip and repeat.
- Change sides and loop the resistance band over your alternate foot.
- Repeat the stretch on your other quad.
Cooldown and chill out
Cool-down exercises are a super important part of any exercise, be it an intense strength training circuit or a jog through the park. A full body cool-down can help your body relax, and your heart rate will drop, which is excellent for your health and great for avoiding any injuries.
Good cool-down exercises can be simple stretches, or you can use resistance bands for a more varied cool-down routine. Start practicing cool-down exercises after your next workout and say goodbye to post-exercise aches and pains.