Give your workout-worn muscles some self-care on rest day by treating them to this active recovery sequence from Nuffield Health trainer Zahra Sefiani…

Feeling tight and tired after exercise? Whether you’re recovering from injury, or have consistent niggles and tension, a thorough mobility and stretch sequence is one of the most valuable additions to your daily schedule. While stretching exercises will keep muscles flexible and healthy, mobilising moves will support these benefits by increasing your range of motion.

Enter this workout sequence of active recovery exercises, created by Nuffield Health trainer, Zahra Sefiani. The body-boosting session is designed to help improve mobility in day-to-day life, as well as release tension from tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury.

Related: Rest day workout: Low intensity stretch circuit

How to do this active recovery workout:

Follow the moves in order, moving from one exercise to the next. Throughout this sequence, try to hold each exercise for as long as feels comfortable, focusing on controlling your breathing throughout. Relax into the positions – don’t overstretch, as you shouldn’t feel pain when doing these movements.

Active recovery workout sequence

active recovery workout sequence childs pose to up dog

Child’s Pose to Up Dog

Child’s pose is a great and very gentle stretch for the back, hips, thighs and ankles. Up dog helps stretch the upper back, chest and abdomen. Together, they make a great mobility drill for the whole body.

  1. Start kneeling on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart.
  2. Sit back on your heels and lower your torso towards the ground, extending your arms overhead (A).
  3. Stay here for 20-30 seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable, then transition into Up dog by lying flat on your stomach. Keep your hands on the floor, slightly out in front of you. Start to lift your torso off the floor, keeping your hips on the mat (B). To make it more challenging, keep arms straight.
  4. Stay here for 15-20 seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable, before transitioning back into child’s pose. Repeat both positions for up to 60-90 seconds.

Related: What is yoga? Benefits & basic principles for beginners

active recovery workout sequence lying twists

Lying Twists

This is a mobility drill and stretch for the hips, back and shoulders. The ‘twist’ motion is a fantastic way to release tension in the spine.

  1. Start lying on your back, brace your core and raise your legs off the floor, keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Extend your arms
    out to the sides (A).
  2. Slowly drop both knees down to the left side towards the floor, keeping both shoulders on the floor.
  3. Turn the head to face the opposite direction from the knees and hold in the twist for 20-30 seconds or as long as feels comfortable (B), then switch to the other side.
  4. Continue to alternate sides for a total of 1-2 minutes.
kneeling hip flexor into hamstring stretch active recovery workout sequence

Kneeling Hip Flexor into Hamstring Stretch

Both the hip flexors and hamstrings are affected by sitting for long periods of time, so this is a great way to stretch them out.

  1. Kneel on one leg with your left leg in front and right leg behind. Tuck your pelvis under and slightly drive the front knee forward, without arching the lower back.
  2. To increase the stretch, raise your right arm above your head, squeeze your bum and feel the stretch in the front of the right hip (A). Hold for 20-30 seconds, or for as long as feels comfortable.
  3. From here, sit back onto your right heel and straighten the front (left) leg, keeping the heel on the floor. Place both hands on the floor for extra support (B). You should feel a stretch in the back of the left leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds or for as long as feels comfortable, then repeat both stretches on the same side 2-3 times before switching legs.

Related: Yoga for core strength: best poses for stronger abs

cat cow active recovery workout sequence


A back and spinal stretch will help ease tension and create length in the whole body – cat/cow is one of the fundamental mobility moves used for this.

  1. Start on all fours in a tabletop position, keeping your back straight, shoulders in line with the wrists and the hips in line with the knees.
  2. Press both hands into the floor and round your back, tucking your head towards your chest (A). Hold here for 10-20 seconds or for as long as feels comfortable.
  3. Transition into the opposite movement by arching the back and tilting the head upwards (B). Hold here for 10-20 seconds or for as long as feels comfortable. Continue to alternate positions for a total of 1-2 minutes.
lying glute stretch and chest opener active recovery workout sequence

Lying Glute Stretch and Chest Opener

This move will stretch the glutes, chest and back. It helps release so many muscle groups, plus is a great twist for the spine and lower back.

  1. Start by lying on your side with your left leg extended and your right leg across the left and bent to touch the floor in front of you. Both arms are stretched out in line with your shoulders (A). Hold in this position for as long as feels comfortable.
  2. From here, take the top arm (right arm) and open the chest by circling it across the floor behind you. Allow the head to follow, so you are now looking towards the right arm (B). Both arms remain stretched out. You will feel the twist in the back and the stretch across the chest and shoulders.
  3. Hold here for 10-20 seconds then return to the start. Continue alternating for 30-60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Related: How to beat a fitness hangover: post-workout recovery tips

side step and reach

Side-step and Reach

This is one of the key movements for stretching the torso and back, both large parts of the body that hold a lot of tension.

  1. Start standing with your arms by your side (A).
  2. Step your right leg out to the side, keeping a slight bend in the left leg. Reach your arms above your head and reach towards the left side to create a stretch down the side (B).
  3. Hold for 10 seconds before repeating on the other side. Alternate from side-to-side for 1-2 minutes.
upper back chest opener

Upper Back to Chest Opener

We end with a mobility stretch drill for the chest and back, and this one feels glorious!

  1. Start standing with your knees slightly bent. Grasp your hands together like you are hugging a giant beach ball. Dip your head and reach your arms away from you (A). You should feel a stretch in your upper back.
  2. Hold for as long as you feel comfortable and then open the arms wide and take them slightly behind you. Lift the head if this feels comfortable and feel a stretch across the front of the chest (B).
  3. Hold here for as long as it feels comfortable then transition back to the start of the stretch. Repeat the sequence for up to a minute.

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Photography: Marcel Grabowski