Proper Techniques and Benefits of the Warm-up and Cool Down

Proper Techniques and Benefits of the Warm-up and Cool Down

There is no doubt that time spent on warming up and cooling down will improve your level of performance and accelerate the recovery process needed before and after training.  As a result, we encourage you to regard the warm up and cool down as an essential part of both your training session.

Warm Up

Muscle stiffness is thought to be directly related to muscle injury and therefore the warm up should be aimed at reducing muscle stiffness.  Warming up should at least consist of 5 to 10 minutes jogging/rowing (to increase body temperature) and 10 to 15 minutes dynamic stretching exercises which reduces muscle stiffness (explained below)

Performance may be improved because an appropriate warm up has the following benefits:

  • Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles
  • Dynamic exercises reduce muscle stiffness
  • Expedited oxygen utilization by warmed muscles because hemoglobin releases oxygen more readily at higher muscle temperatures
  • A specific warm up can facilitate motor unit recruitment required in subsequent all out activity
  • Increased blood flow through active tissues, increasing metabolism and muscle temperatures
  • Allows the heart rate get to a workable rate for beginning exercise
  • Mentally focused on the training  

Dynamic Stretching 

The traditional method of stretching, static stretching, holding a muscle in an elongated, fixed position for 30 seconds or more—could hurt performance if done before a workout.  Static stretching doesn’t improve your muscles’ ability to perform with more strength, power, or improve your range of motion, where stretching muscles in motion using dynamic warm ups does.

Dynamic stretching is active movement that increases your body temperature that gives your joints and connective tissues a range of motion, loosens up muscles and blood flow, which helps them perform better.  Research has shown that this type of stretching not only helps your muscles perform better, but also eases everyday tensions, improves flexibility, and reduces stress induced pain. 

Examples of dynamic stretches 

HANDWALKS - Shoulders, core, & hamstrings

Stand up straight with your legs together.  Bend at the waist and touch the ground, hands flat on the ground if possible.  Keeping your legs straight, walk your hands out forward until your back is almost parallel with the ground.  Walk your feet towards your hands, still keeping your legs as straight as possible. (Think an inch worm.) Repeat 8-10 times. 

STRAIGHT LEG MARCH - Hamstrings & glutes

Stand up straight with your arms out stretched to a ‘t’.  Kick one leg out with your toes flexed upwards to hip level.  Reach your opposite arm to the toe you’ve just kicked up.  Drop the leg, raise the arm back and repeat with the opposite limbs.  Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Repeat at least 8 - 10 times on each leg. 

HIP LEG LIFTS – Low back, hip flexors, and glutes

Swing one leg out to the side, then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.  Make sure to stand tall with abs contracted.  Feel wobbly? Hold onto a steady object. 

Cool Down

Cooling down should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of jogging or walking which decreases body temperature and removes waste products from the working muscles and 5 to 10 minutes of static stretching exercises

What are the benefits of a cool down?

An appropriate cool down will:

  • aid in the removal of waste products - including lactic acid
  • reduce the potential for DOMS
  • reduce the chances of dizziness or fainting caused by the pooling of venous blood at the extremities
  • reduce the level of adrenaline in the blood
  • allows the heart rate to return to its resting rate

Static stretches are more appropriate to the cool down as they help muscles to relax, realign muscle fibers and re-establish their normal range of movement.  These stretches should be held for approximately 30 seconds.

Examples of Static Stretching

HIP FLEXOR

  1. Kneel on ground with your front knee at 90°.

  2. Tilt your pelvis back by tucking your abdomen up and in and squeezing buttocks.

  3. Keep your back straight.

  4. Keep your head up.

Repeat both sides

GLUTEALS/LOW BACK

  1. Lie on your back with both hands around one knee.

  2. Pull your knee towards your opposite shoulder.

  3. Keep your head, shoulder and opposite leg relaxed. 

FRONT OF TRUNK STRETCH

  1. Lie face down on the floor, fully outstretched

  2. Bring your hands to the sides of your shoulders and ease your chest off the floor, keeping your hips firmly pressed into the ground

You will feel the stretch in the front of the trunk.

Next week we'll begin sharing workouts and more nutrition advice.