It's easy to brush off a cool-down. After you crush a workout (which is an accomplishment in and of itself), the last thing you feel like doing is using more of your precious time to stretch. But cooling down properly is an important part of recovery.
"Doing mobility exercises to cool down—instead of just stopping—keeps the blood circulating and prevents it from pooling, which may cause dizziness or fainting," says Noam Tamir, certified trainer and founder of TS Fitness. That extra blood flow means your muscles are warm and in a prime position to be stretched or foam rolled to leave you less sore the next day. A few easy movements also give your heart rate a chance to come down slowly, avoiding a drastic drop in your blood pressure, Tamir adds.
With that in mind, he gave us six do-anywhere exercises that hit all the most common tight spots and give your body a chance to reset post-workout. Trust us, you won't regret spending 6 minutes on this.
How it works: Perform each move below in order for 60 seconds, without stopping between moves. The entire warm-up will take 6 minutes.
1. All-Fours Rock Back
Benefits: Helps realign spine by allowing low back to decompress, engages the deep muscles of your pelvic floor and core, and increases hip mobility.
Start on all fours, wrists under shoulder, knees slightly wider than hip-width apart, spine neutral (not arched). Engage core and press into hands to slowly send hips back toward heels. Try to keep hips still throughout. Return to starting position and repeat.
2. Child's Pose With Reach
Benefits: Releases low back while stretching hips, quads, and ankles, and reducing stress and fatigue. Add the reach to gently stretch the side of the body.
Start kneeling on all fours, wrists under shoulder, knees under hips. Send hips back to shift butt to heels and rest chest on thighs while arms extend straight. Slowly walk hands to right side, back to center, then to left. Continue to repeat.
3. T-Spine Foam Roll
Benefits: Massages back muscles and increases thoracic spine (T-spine) mobility while gently stretching chest muscles and strengthening abdominal muscles.
Lie faceup on mat with knees bent and place foam roller across middle of back. With fingertips behind ears, use legs to pull hips forward allowing roller to travel up to shoulders, then use abs to crunch up as roller moves back to starting position. Repeat.
4. Hip Flexor Foam Roll
Benefits: Relieves tight hip flexors with gentle massage.
Place foam roller on mat and position hips over it in a high plank position. Turn to right side to lower left hip down onto roller. Keep legs wide for balance, neck relaxed, and use arms for support and control. Rock back and forth over hip flexors as slowly as is comfortable. Repeat on other side.
5. 90-90 Stretch
Benefits: Opens up hips and releases tension from low back while stretching hamstrings.
Start sitting on mat. Place right leg in front of you (shin parallel to hips) and open left leg out to the side (shin perpendicular to hips) so foot is behind you with 90-degree bends in both knees and ankles. Ankles should be in-line with heels. With a long back and neck relaxed, bend at waist and stretch arms as far forward as is comfortable. Return to starting position and repeat.
6. Neck Stretch
Benefits: Releases tension and relieves strain in the neck.
Start sitting or kneeling in a comfortable position. Take right arm overhead and place fingertips on left side of head. Gently pull head toward right shoulder, feeling a stretch along left side of neck. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds then return to starting position. Repeat on other side.
Shop the shoot:
Reebok ActivChill Performance Tee ($35, reebok.com)
Reebok Workout Ready Woven Short ($25, reebok.com)
Trigger Point Core Roller ($29.95, amazon.com)
Reebok CrossFit Nano 7 ($109.99, reebok.com)
Photography: Julia Hembree
Special thanks to Noam Tamir, certified trainer and founder of TS Fitness in New York City, for modeling these moves for us.