The last few minutes of your group fitness class is the appropriate time to gradually cool the body down and stretch for improved muscular balance, body awareness and flexibility. Take advantage of warmer core temperatures, lubricated joints and the body’s preparedness for larger ranges of motion to lead a combination of static and dynamic stretches. If you encourage participants to remain standing, you can also work on balance skills.
Dynamic stretching can reduce muscle tightness and allow for greater ranges of motion, less muscle tension and more dexterity. Moving into this segment of class from a standing posture can make the transition from cardio to cool-down and flexibility training both functional and seamless. These exercises can also be performed as a “grande finale” stretch sequence. The following moves incorporate static stretches, where the end range of motion is held, as well as dynamic stretches, where the stretches are not held but actually moved through. Start on the right leg and then switch to the left.
Lateral Spinal Stretch
Standing with feet hip width apart, extend one arm straight up to ceiling while other stays attached to side of body, reaching down to floor. Inhale, elongate extended arm and stretch laterally. Reach higher with each breath (3 repetitions).
Standing Hip Flexion and Knee Extension
Stand with feet hip width apart and grab right leg beneath knee, using both hands. Maintain hip alignment and extend knee while performing ankle plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. Hold torso upright—head is flush to ceiling, chin level with floor. Perform 4–6 repetitions of knee flexion and extension, continuing to move through ankle joint, and then place fingertips behind ears and hold extended knee out to stretch hamstring. Use quadriceps to stabilize extended knee. Hold for 6–10 seconds; focus on maintaining balance.
Standing Dancer Pose
Grab right foot behind you with right hand. Flex knee to stretch hip and quadriceps while extending opposite arm toward ceiling. Slowly take torso forward, flexing from anterior hip and increasing intensity of stretch and balance challenge. Hold in lowered position, and then slowly return to upright posture. Breathe throughout the exercise and maintain balance.
From standing dancer pose, release foot, place right leg over left thigh (as if sitting cross-legged in chair) and lower torso toward leg. Hold arms in circle in front of chest to assist with balance. Lower torso toward thigh and leg, and rotate ankle in circular motion. If possible, lower far enough to allow fingertips to touch floor. Hold this hip stretch for 6–8 seconds
before returning to upright posture.
Remove leg from thigh, and place foot
behind body at an angle so heel presses into floor; opposite arm reaches up toward ceiling. Feel long torso stretch driving up from calf through lateral spine. Gaze at
extended hand. Hold for 4–6 seconds.
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