You are a sweaty mess (thanks HIIT class!) and all you want to do is shower and eat that snack you’ve been fantasizing about for the last half hour. Wait! You must stretch first.
“We know people like to push really hard in their workouts, but you do need to recover and care for yourself to perform at an optimum level,” says Laurie Campbell, head of programming and one of the masterminds behind the new Stretch Lounge at the just-opened Barry’s Bootcamp in Venice, CA. Essentially, stretching after HIIT helps your body overcome the tightness that could hold you back from doing your best at your next workout.
It’s tempting to rush off post-workout, but a well-rounded cool down consists of three parts, says Campbell. Consider them essentials, not extra credit.
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Proprioceptive Neuromusclar Facilitation (PNF)
Ready for a mouthful? Proprioceptive neuromusclar facilitation, or PNF for short, “uses the nervous system by involving a contraction against light resistance, followed by release of the muscle,” says Campbell. Basically you will be contracting and relaxing the muscle during this type of stretching. According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, PNF has been shown to improve flexibility and mobility after six weeks.
By now you’re a foam rolling pro. But are you following your trainer’s orders to do it post-workout, too? Rolling out regularly can help address those “knots” in your muscle tissue, while also improving range of motion in joints and reducing post-HIIT soreness, according to research. In addition to a foam roller, you can use a TriggerPoint ball (or a tennis or lacrosse ball) to hit those trickier spots.
We’re talking holding one stretch for two to five minutes. This is what helps best stretch the connective tissues in joints. “In fact, if you don’t use your full range of joint flexibility, the connective tissue will slowly shorten,” explains Campbell. “If you try to flex your knees or arch your back after years of underuse, you’ll discover that your joints have been ‘shrink-wrapped’ by shortened connective tissue,” she says.
OK, it’s finally time for that much-needed TLC. Here are five recovery moves from Campbell that check all three of the boxes above. Do them after your next HIIT sesh (and stick to ‘em for optimal results!).
RELATED: 15 Stretches You Should Do Every Damn Day
5 Essential Post-HIIT Stretches
1. Runners Lunge with PNF
Why: This one’s going to target the muscle groups you worked all HIIT session long. Think: glutes, adductors (inner thigh), piriformis (that tough-to-reach muscle deep in the butt) and hip flexors.
How to: From standing, step your left foot forward into a lunge (a). Place your both of your hands on the ground on the inside of your left foot. (You can drop your back knee if you prefer.) (b) Place your left hand on the inside of your left leg. Turn the left foot slightly out. Lean forward to stretch the right hip flexor (c). Start to use light pressure with your left hand and press your left leg away from you. As soon as you reach your maximum stretch, actively push your left hand against your left leg as your left leg actively tries to pull back in. Keep pressing for 5 breaths (d). On an exhale, push back into your maximum stretch (e). Repeat 3-5 times.
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2. Dynamic Quad Stretch from Lunge
Why: Here’s another stretch that will hit many of the same muscle groups as above. Everyone feels tightness differently though, says Campbell, so this variation can help address any muscle group that’s giving you more trouble than others.
How to: Step your left foot forward into a low lunge. Drop your right knee, release your back foot and bring your palms to the floor on the inside of your left foot (a). Pick up your right foot, take hold of your right ankle with your right hand and walk your left foot outward. Drop your left shoulder back and look up to the sky (b). On the inhale, gently pull your right foot in towards you, sink your hips and let your left knee fall open. (If you can’t catch your right foot use a towel wrapped around the foot to catch.) (c) Exhale. Continue to deepen with your breathing. Spend about a minute or so alternating between going deeper and backing off (d). Switch legs.
3. Foot Release
Why: “If you’re lifting weights or running, your feet take a beating,” says Campbell. This SMR move will help you target those sneaky trigger points, and release them.
How to: Start standing with your hand against a wall for support. Place one foot on a ball (a tennis ball works) (a). Roll on the ball from heel to ball of foot focusing on the edge of your foot, arch and the plantar fascia (the ligament running from your heel to toes) (b). Continue for about a minute, then do the other foot.
RELATED: Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong?
4. Glute and Hip Release
Why: Power squats and jumping lunges are going to tax your butt and hips. You need this.
How to: Begin seated, knees bent in front of you, arms planted behind you for support (a). Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Lift up a bit and place a ball under your left glute/hip (b). Begin to roll back and forth, side to side around in larger circles to start. As you feel you can tolerate it, make the movements smaller and more precise (c). Continue for a minute or so, then move to the other side.
5. Sleeping Pigeon
Why: This is a take on one of those slow, steady stretches that will likely feel really good when you relax into it. If needed, feel free to use a block or blanket to help support your knee. If the time feels like forever to you, put in your earphones and take the opportunity to tune everything else out. Note: You can also make this one dynamic by pressing up from your hands, and carefully lowering back down (demonstrated above).
How to: Start on all fours. Bring your left knee to touch your left wrist and inch your left foot forward until it’s just in front of your right hip. (If your hips allow, walk your left foot closer to 90 degrees.) (a) Slide your right leg behind you and straighten it. Lower both hips toward the floor. Take two to four breaths, letting your hips settle toward the floor (b). Then, walk your arms forward so that they’re at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Press your hands firmly into the floor as if pushing away the ground (c). Hold for 2-5 minutes.