Emily Skye’s favourite stretches to relieve sore muscles after a workout
Do you put all your focus into choosing the right gear and workouts to achieve your fitness and body goals, then completely forget about your muscle recovery? This is why you’re so sore after workout sessions!
Knowing how to get rid of soreness is as essential to your training routine as your dumbbells and your workout mat. And if you want to know how to relieve sore muscles fast, you need my go-to form of workout recovery: yoga.
Should you stretch after working out? Yes, you should! Does stretching help sore muscles? Yes, it does. Why are your muscles sore after working out? I’m here to explain it all and get your workout recovery on track with some of my favourite stretches for recovery.
To find yoga for recovery classes and post-workout stretches to relieve sore muscles, start your free trial with Emily Skye FIT today.
Why are my muscles sore after working out?
So many ladies who are new to strength training ask me this question: “Why do my muscles hurt after working out?” Shock twist: it’s a good thing! That burning sensation in your muscles the next day, which makes it tough to sit down or carry grocery bags, is known as DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness.
DOMS happens because after making microscopic tears in your muscles during a workout, your body leaps into repair mode, fixing the tears and increasing the strength of your muscles at the same time. The soreness is a sign that your muscles have been working hard and are starting to benefit.
How long does muscle soreness last?
Picture the scene: It’s the day after a big lower-body workout and you now have to walk up a flight of stairs. Aaargh! We’ve all been there. The good news is soreness will usually only last 24-72 hours, and continuing to move will help.
This is why doing stretches after leg day – and muscle recovery after workouts in general – should be an essential part of your routine.
Why am I not sore after a workout?
Don’t worry if you don’t feel DOMS after a big training session – it doesn’t mean the workout wasn’t effective! Your body is incredible at adapting. So while early workouts may leave you feeling sore, as you grow stronger and more capable the soreness will ease and then disappear.
This can be a sign that your body has adapted to your current level of training and it’s time to kick things up a gear. Like my FIT members, you can do this by increasing the weight you are lifting, adding supersets to your workouts or increasing your training days (e.g. going from 3 to 4 training days per week) This process is known as progressive overload, and it can really boost your results.
Whether you get DOMS after a workout or not, a good post-workout recovery routine is essential to keep you feeling and performing at your best.
What can I do to get rid of soreness after working out?
I mentioned yoga above, and I’ll share some of my favourite stretches below. But if you want to know how to make the pain go away, you need to focus on the basics first: hydration, nutrition and sleep.
Tip #1 for getting rid of sore muscles? Never work out without your water bottle.
Hydration: Your water bottle should be working as hard as you are! Fatigue (including muscle fatigue) can be a sign of dehydration, and dehydration can worsen the symptoms of DOMS, so aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day. If you are new to working out or training in hot and humid conditions, you should be drinking even more.
Nutrition: Your muscles don’t just need fuel before a workout, they need to be topped up afterwards, too. That means protein for muscle repair and growth, and carbohydrates to replenish energy. You should be getting a good amount of both after training (within 1-2 hours) and the day after.
Sleep: Your body does its best repair work while you are sleeping, so try to get an early night! If you’re not getting enough sleep to repair and grow muscle, you can actually lose the gains you have worked so hard for.
In fact, you need to make sure you’re getting enough rest overall. My workout programs on FIT always include at least 2 active rest days to ensure your body has time to recover.
But if you ask what helps sore muscles after workout sessions for me, I have one word for you: YOGA! I’ve handpicked some of my favourite poses to do after strength training, all perfect for relieving muscle soreness and all taken from my Yoga for Recovery sessions on FIT.
My top 6 yoga stretches to do after workout sessions
Along with yoga teacher Michelle Cassidy – who shares her expertise through my FIT Post-Pregnancy program and weekly Yoga for Recovery sessions on FIT – I’ll show you how to do some of my favourite recovery stretches.
1. Downward-facing dog
After smashing leg day, I always turn to the queen of post-workout leg stretches! Downward dog will help stretch out sore hamstrings, calf muscles and your back.
How to do downward-facing dog:
Begin on hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and fingers spread wide for a good grip on the mat.
Breathe in, then as you breathe out, press the mat away with your hands, lift your knees and push your hips high, straightening your legs as much as you can. (It’s fine if your heels don’t reach the ground, or you need to keep a bend in your knees.)
Once you’re in the downward-facing dog position, you’ll notice that straightening your knees or lowering your heels will increase the stretch through your legs.
Try to hold it for 5-10 deep breaths.
2. Low lunge
This stretch is great if you go big at the gym, but also if you sit all day. That’s because it releases tight hip flexors, hips and quads, which can become shortened if you spend a lot of your time in a chair.
How to do a low lunge:
Step your left foot back and lower that knee onto the floor.
Brace your arms at the back of your head, then push your hips forward until you feel a stretch at the top of your thigh.
To increase the stretch, really tuck in your butt as you push your hips forward.
When you’re done on the left, repeat the stretch on the other side by stepping back with your right foot.
Don’t worry if your balance gets a little wobbly, that’s totally normal. Reset with stable and strong legs. (I sometimes find it easier if I move my front foot outward)
3. Pigeon pose
The day after doing big lower-body moves like squats and deadlifts, sitting down can be a scary experience! Pigeon pose will help to relax those angry glutes and hips so you can use the stairs without crying.
How to do pigeon pose:
Start in a low lunge position, place your hands on the floor in front of your body, then slide your front foot over to the opposite hand.
Keep your hips square and your front shin facing forward as best you can while lowering your hips towards and ground and extending your back leg.
From this position, bend forward at the hips and down onto your forearms. Breathe in and out, leaning further forward with each exhale. Switch to stretch the other side.
4. Cat cow
If you catch me doing cool-down stretches after workout days, chances are you’ll see me doing cat cow. It’s a must after upper-body training and will loosen up your back, shoulders and neck.
How to do a cat cow:
Position yourself on all fours, back straight and head neutral.
Breathe in, then as you breathe out raise your back up by lowering your head towards the floor and drawing in your stomach.
Hold it for a moment, then curve your back inward by raising your head to look up and dropping your stomach towards the floor.
Keep the move relaxed and steady, moving with your breath.
5. Forward fold with shoulder opener
Your shoulders, back and hamstrings will all thank you for this stretch – in your cool-down and in the days after training.
How to do a forward fold with shoulder opener:
Standing up straight, clasp your hands together behind your back.
As you breathe in, extend your arms out behind you, pull your shoulders together and push your chest forward and up, feeling a stretch across the front of your chest.
As you breathe out, bend at the knees and fold forward from your hips, bringing your chest to your thighs and letting your arms hang overhead. The bend at the knees increases the stretch through your hamstrings and up into your glutes while keeping your lower back safe.
6. Lying twist
Leave this one for last for ultimate relaxation! The twist will help to unwind your back, core and glutes.
How to do a lying twist:
Lay on your back with your feet on the mat and knees bent.
Move your arms out the side, forming a T.
Slide your butt a little to the left and let your knees tip over to the right – gently twisting through your core.
Hold it, breathing in and out, then bring your knees back up, shift your butt to the other side, and tip your knees to the left side.
Tip: If you feel any pressure or pain in your lower back while twisting, you can pop a pillow under your knees to reduce the intensity.
To find guided yoga for recovery classes and post-workout stretches to relieve sore muscles, start your free trial with Emily Skye FIT today.
Personal trainer • Founder
Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.
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