It’s a common misconception that stretching is optional after high-intensity interval exercise (HIIT). After all, you’re hungry and sweaty, so you can’t be done fast enough. That extra few minute seems like a hassle, but it’s a necessary one. Here are some primary reasons why.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching is defined as hold and release movements. When you stretch, you contract and release tired muscles to improve their flexibility and enhance mobility during the healing process.
PNF is passive, so you simply tighten and release. For example, tighten up your thigh muscle, hold for a minute or two and then release. Another example of a PNF maneuver is pushing against something to stretch a muscle. Pushing against your trainer’s hands, for instance, or a wall.
Without PNF stretching, you risk muscles tightening up enough that you lose some range of motion. Use proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to target long chains of muscle like the side fascia, hip flexors or hamstrings.
Static stretches take muscles beyond normal limits to elongate ligaments and other connective tissue and improve joint flexibility. Static stretching after HIIT gives your joints a little TLC after the hard workout.
1. Runners Lunge with PNF
Why: targets the muscle groups you worked all HIIT session long.
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.
2. Dynamic Quad Stretch from Lunge
Why: also targets the muscle groups you worked all HIIT session long.
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: helps 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.
If you are into HIIT, you know all about the foam rolling. It is typically done before the workout, but it will feel good afterward, too. Foam rolling helps to loosen knots in muscles that can form as the lactic acid builds up. There is some indication that foam rolling after HIIT also improves joint range of motion and may reduce day-after soreness.
Not doing the foam thing? That’s okay. Pull out a tennis ball and roll over some of those sore areas like your buttocks, calves and thighs. It will massage the tissue and give you instant release from tightness.
High-intensity interval training is a top fitness trend because it allows you to workout in a shorter amount of time. Do yourself a favor and make the effort to stretch afterward, though. Your muscles and joints will thank you.