Stretch after exercise: 6 essential stretching exercises for beginners

It's a good idea to stretch after exercise to increase flexibility and look after your muscles.
Published 7 December 2015 | Updated 12 June 2024

Warm-up: Why you should stretch after your workout

Stretching is an essential part of any workout routine. It not only enhances muscle flexibility but can also improve joint mobility and reduce muscle tension and soreness. Be sure to include stretching at the end of each workout. It's a great way to wind down and relax post-exercise.

Always stretch when your muscles are warm, ideally right after your workout. You don't need to be sweating or out of breath to start stretching.

Stretching while your muscles are warm helps prevent injury, improves posture, and reduces soreness. Avoid stretching when your muscles are cold, as this can lead to injury.

You should focus on static stretches, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds until you feel some resistance. Make sure to complete all six stretches in your session for optimal results.

1. Ear to shoulder

Stretches: Your neck.

How to do it: Standing tall, gently drop your left ear towards your left shoulder. Ensure both shoulders are level at all times. You should feel a stretch down the right side of your neck – the side that is lengthened. Bring your head back to centre and repeat on the other side.Woman performing ear to shoulder stretch for neck flexibility.

2. Half cobra

Stretches: Your stomach

Equipment: A mat or towel

How to do it: Lie on your stomach with your palms face down beside your head and fingers forward. Keep your forearms in a straight line on the floor. Raise your chest up so that your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Keep your elbows, hips and belly button on the floor and your chin tucked into your chest.Half cobra Stretches

3. Hug stretch

Stretches: Your lower back and bottom

Equipment: A mat or towel

How to do it: Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Hug your shins or the back of your thighs. Keep your entire back, head and shoulders on the floor during the stretch.Hug stretch Stretches

4. Pectoral stretch

Stretches: Your chest

How to do it: Standing tall, clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Adjust the height of your arms so that you feel a comfortable stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders.Pectoral stretch Stretches

5. Quadricep stretch

Stretches: The front of your thigh

Equipment: A mat or towel

How to do it: Lie on your stomach. Rest your forehead on your left hand and look at the floor. Bring your right heel towards your bottom and take hold of your foot (hold your sock or pants if this is too difficult). Push your hips into the ground and keep your knee in a straight line from the hip. Release and swap sides.Quadricep stretch Stretches

6. Hamstring stretch

Stretches: The back of your thigh and calf

Equipment: A fit strip and mat or towel

How to do it: Lying on the floor, bend your knees and keep your entire back, head and shoulders in contact with the floor. Raise your right leg and, holding onto the two ends, hook a fit strip around the foot. Straighten the leg and draw it in towards the body.

Tip: To make the stretch less intense, keep the knee bent. To increase the stretch, flex your foot, bringing your toes down towards your face.Hamstring stretch Stretches

Before starting any new exercise routine, make sure to check in with your doctor.