Before you jump on the elliptical machine or hit the running trails & Importance of Warming Up, consider doing a brief warmup first. And think about following your workout with a quick cool-down session. Sure, a warmup and cool-down may add a few minutes to your exercise routine, but they might also reduce stress on your heart and other muscles.
Why warm up and cool down
Warmups and cool-downs generally involve doing your activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity.
Warming up helps prepare your body for aerobic activity. A warmup gradually revs up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury.
Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of preexercise heart rate and blood pressure. Cooling down may be most important for competitive endurance athletes, such as marathoners, because it helps regulate blood flow. Cooling down doesn’t appear to help reduce muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise, but more research is needed.
Although there’s controversy about whether warming up and cooling down can prevent injuries, proper warmups and cool-downs pose little risk. Plus, they seem to give your heart and blood vessels a chance to ease into — and out of — an exercise session. So if you have the time, consider including a warmup and cool-down in your workout routine.
How to warm up
Warm up right before you plan to start your workout. In general, warm up by focusing first on large muscle groups, such as your hamstrings. Then you can do exercises more specific to your sport or activity, if necessary.
Begin by doing the activity and movement patterns of your chosen exercise, but at a low, slow pace that gradually increases in speed and intensity. This is called a dynamic warmup. A warmup may produce mild sweating, but generally won’t leave you fatigued.
Here are some examples of warm-up activities:
- To warm up for a brisk walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for a run, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for swimming, swim slowly at first and then pick up the tempo as you’re able.
How to cool down
Cooling down is similar to warming up. You generally continue your workout session for five minutes or so, but at a slower pace and reduced intensity.
Here are some examples of cool-down activities:
- To cool down after a brisk walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- To cool down after a run, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes.
- To cool down after swimming, swim laps leisurely for five to 10 minutes.
- The Right Way to Warm Up
If (like most adults!) you have tight muscles or other issues, you’ll also want to add some mobility work, Ross says. In this case, he recommends 3 to 5 minutes of light cardio, then doing some self-massage on any tight areas with a tool like a foam roller, tennis ball, or stick roller. Aim for 3 to 5 minutes per body part. New to self-massage? Imagine “squeezing out” those areas as if you were wringing out water from a sponge, Ross explains. This helps to break up “sticky” parts of your muscle tissue. It also decreases muscle tension so you can work out with a full range of motion.
Next, follow up with 5 minutes of active, or dynamic stretches, which should be sport-specific, Sumbal says. For example, if you’re running, try some walking lunges, skipping, and bounding. If you’re swimming, do arm circles and ankle mobility work. For cycling, try some activation exercises for the hips, such as fire hydrants and clamshells. Before strength training, Ross recommends doing one set of exercises with very light weights to loosen up the joints before picking up a heavier set.
What Muscles to Target
To get the most benefit of warming up be sure to warm up your major muscles like the hips, thighs, glutes, calves, chest and shoulders.
You can target all of these muscles by marching in place and swinging your arms back and forth.
Additional Importance of Warming Up and Stretching
If you are trying to get all the benefits of warming up to participate in a sport, then your warm up routine needs to take your specific sport into account.
In addition to a typical warm up, you want to be sure to warm up and target the specific muscles you will be using while playing the sport.
To prepare the exact muscles you will be using during the sport perform the motion or activity of the sport.
For instance, if playing quarter back in a football game is what you are warming up for, then practice or mimic throwing the football several times to warm up those particular muscles.
For your next exercise routine, be sure to get all the benefits of warming up and cooling down by make time for these two critical steps of your workout.