When you’re all done with your upper-body workout, it’s definitely tempting to call it a day. But leaving time for upper-body stretches afterward is really crucial.
Stretching after your workout—whether we’re talking about a full-body routine, an arms workout, or one filled with upper-body strength exercises—doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to take a whole lot of time, either. Even setting aside just a few minutes after your workout is completed to cool down and show your muscles some extra TLC can pay a whole bunch of dividends.
But what upper body stretches should you be doing when your workout is in the books? There are a whole bunch of options, and it all depends on what muscles you worked during your routine, what areas may be feeling a little bothersome, and what moves simply feel amazing for your body. From chest stretches to triceps stretches, and upper back moves to ones that loosen up your traps, you’ll be sure to find some new ones to slot into your cool-down! But first, let’s talk a little bit about the benefits of stretching these muscles.
Why should you stretch after an upper-body workout?
Just like a warm-up is important going into a workout, a cool-down—which, yep, includes stretches—is vital to ending it on a good note. That’s because stretching regularly can help you relieve muscle tightness and improve your flexibility and mobility over time.
While static stretching after a workout does not prevent injury or cure muscle soreness, it can help change your perception of pain, Dan Giordano, DPT, CSCS, cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City and Seattle, tells SELF. What does that mean? Because stretching after exercise feels good, it may cause a placebo-effect of sorts when it comes to soreness. But the benefits of stretching are more long term, Giordano adds.
The more you stretch, the more your body will get used to it and your flexibility will hopefully increase—though everyone has different flexibility capabilities (yay genetics!) and things like muscle imbalances can also impact how bendy you are. Greater flexibility will allow you to move your muscles through a wider range of motion (ROM), which ultimately, can really help you do more exercises with proper form. It also will let you move easier and more comfortably through daily activities.
Which muscles should you stretch after an upper-body workout?
The exact muscles you stretch after an upper-body workout depend on which exercises you hit during your workout. For instance, if you did a lot of pushing or pressing work—like chest exercises such as chest presses, or shoulder exercises like overhead presses—it’s important to stretch the big muscles in the front of your body, like your pectorals (chest muscles) and your deltoids (shoulders) with chest stretches or shoulder stretches. Because your triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arms) assist in these pushing movements, you’d also want to stretch them, too, with some arm stretches.