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Trainer Corner: Two Stretches to do at the End of A Workout

Sep 25, 2019

The last few minutes of a workout may seem nonessential, but the cooldown is an important component of setting yourself up for success for the next workout.

To find out more, we spoke to Shaun Phillips, owner of Fitness Together Winnetka on the North Shore of Chicago. Phillips is a certified personal trainer and massage therapist with a background in sports performance and working with elite athletes. As a former Division 1 football player, Phillips has always been drawn to fitness, and it was a natural fit for him to work as a trainer at Fitness Together, working his way to a manager and then eventually studio owner.

Phillips has a passion not only for sports performance, but for recovery as well.

What makes up a good cooldown?

Phillips: The cooldown depends on the person, their fitness level and what workout was performed that day.

At Fitness Together, we spend the last five minutes of every session on manual static stretching our clients, either on the table or on the floor. We do this to help them get a better stretch by playing off the resistance in their muscles. If the client just finished an intense cardio session on the treadmill, then we’d have them walk for at least 2 to 3 minutes before getting off the treadmill and stretching, but if they had been working on weights, then we may move straight into the stretching, because less time is needed to bring the heart rate back down.

I recommend the average person spend five minutes stretching the major muscles after each workout and then do some foam rolling. For stretching, I would suggest using a rope or band in order to help get a deeper stretch. Hit the glutes, hips, hamstrings, chest and upper back. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

Why is cooldown beneficial?

Everyone from Olympic athletes to a novice exerciser needs a cooldown after every workout to help with recovery, blood flow and even performance.

The body produces something called lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles during a workout, and that’s what makes your muscles sore. Stretching helps get oxygen to the muscles, so the lactic acid doesn’t build up and cause soreness.

In addition to that, stretching helps you keep elasticity in your muscles, which helps you maintain full range of motion as you get older. Full range of motion supports performance. If you’re going to try for a maximum lift, then you need full depth in your squat. If you’re going to try for a power move, then in order to utilize your muscle’s full explosive potential, you need complete range there, as well.

When it comes to stretching at the end of a session at Fitness Together, we’ve found that our clients look forward to it. We’re able to give them a deeper stretch than they’d give themselves, and they recover quicker, have less soreness and come back with better elasticity in their muscles for their next workout with us.

What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when cooling down?

The biggest mistake people make is that people don’t stretch or cool down for long enough. They may walk around the gym floor a couple of times and call it quits, or, if they do stretch, they may only hold the stretch for five seconds, which doesn’t give you the full benefit.

What are the two best stretches to do at the end of each workout?

I'd recommend the following two stretches.

Hamstring stretch: Many exercises include the hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thighs), and they need to be stretched properly after every single workout.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie down on back.

  • Put a band or rope on arch of one foot. Lift that leg in the air.

  • Pull leg back toward the body to stretch it, and try to keep the leg straight.

  • Keep opposite leg straight on the ground.

  • Keep hips down, and try not to roll to one side.

  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

  • Return moving leg to the ground to starting position.

  • Switch sides, repeat and hold for 20 to 30 seconds on second side.

Lateral hip stretch: A lot of people have office jobs or kids, so they often end up with lower-back or knee pain from a lot of sitting and tight glutes. This stretch loosens the glute medius (which is on the outsides of the rear), so there’s more elasticity and less chance of injury or pain.

  • Lie down on back.

  • Wrap a rope or band around one foot two times.

  • Pull wrapped foot/ankle toward your face, letting knee bend and point to side.

  • Advanced option: Push down on lifted knee for a deeper stretch.

  • Keep opposite leg straight and on the ground.

  • Try to keep hips from twisting or rolling.

  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

  • Return moving leg to the ground to starting position.

  • Switch sides, repeat and hold for 20 to 30 seconds on second side.

I’ve worked with pretty much every level of fitness and performance in my career, and stretching helps us all, especially for performance and as we get older,” said Phillips. “We reach our full potential when we’re more flexible, and stretching gets us there.”

If you want help with your stretching and cool-down routine, find a Fitness Together studio near you today …


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