Most people that exercise regularly know that warming up and cooling down are important parts of their workouts. Yet, many people skip one or the other and sometimes both. The warmup and cool down are key to preparing your body for the stress of the upcoming workout, while the cool down is the first step in a healthy recovery.
A pre-exercise warm-up literally warms your body up for exercise
A proper warm up should increase your body’s temperature, increase range of motion, and prepare for quicker muscle contraction. Your warmup also serves as mental preparation and prevents or reduces the chance of injury.
Raise your body temperature
Ideally, all workouts should begin with an activity that serves to raise the body temperature. Any type of light cardio will serve this purpose. Raising the body temperature helps to increase blood circulation and increase oxygen flow to your muscles. It also helps to get stiff joints moving prior to adding a load to them.
After you get your body temperature up and the blood is flowing you should engage in a dynamic warm-up. This should be a series of body movements that will help to prepare your body for the exercises in the workout. Dynamic warmup also helps to increase mobility and range of motion. This helps to minimize injury during the workout.
In the past, it was common to use static stretching as part of the warmup. The school of thought on that has changed over the years. Static stretching, where you stretch the muscle and hold it for a set period of time, is now typically reserved for the cool down. Static stretching elongates the muscles, which can reduce the explosive power of that muscle group during a workout.
The importance of the cool down
The other key part of the exercises session that most people blow off is the cool down. The cool down is important to help bring your heart rate back to normal. Additionally, a proper cool down helps prevent muscle soreness and speeds recovery between workouts.
Foam rolling and static stretching
Key components of a good cool down are foam rolling (myofascial release) and static stretching. Foam rolling the muscle groups that were taxed during the workout helps move built up lactic acid out of the muscles. This is important to help speed recovery. Static stretching after the workout serves to help restore muscle to normal length after repeated contractions, helps to increase range of motion and increase mobility for the next exercise session.
If you have any questions or concerns about a proper warmup or cool down, please ask a coach.
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