Let’s admit it. Doing warm up and cool down exercises can sometimes be neglected even by fitness lovers. So why do sports professionals insist on doing them before and after workouts? Let’s dive deeper into why it’s so vital to do warm up exercises before workouts, and cool-down exercises after workouts – and how to do them properly.
Warm ups explained
Warm up exercises, as the name suggests, warm the body by increasing the blood flow to the muscles. When this happens, the oxygen levels in the muscles increase as well, which prepares the body for a workout and minimizes the likelihood of injury caused by physical activity.
If you skip your warm up exercises, your metabolic activity won’t be enough to get your muscles ready for working and contraction.
The additional benefits of warming up before any physical activity include improved muscle and tendon flexibility, and joint lubrication. Since muscle stiffness is related to muscle injuries, enhancing muscle flexibility and reducing viscosity help minimize this risk.
Warm up exercises: How should I do them?
Warm up workouts should always include some low-intensity aerobic exercises and dynamic stretches.
An aerobic warm up helps to elevate the heart rate, getting the cardiovascular system ready for action. Stretches, on the other hand, are good for muscle flexibility.
According to Harvard Medical School, a good warm up should last 5 to 10 minutes and work all major muscle groups: chest, back, legs, abdominals, arms, and shoulders.
You can also do a simpler warm up by walking while swinging your arms – even dancing can be a warm up. For best results, start slowly, then gradually increase the pace.
Examples of the best warm up exercises to do before your workout:
- Jumping Jacks
- Plank Walk Out
- Arm Swing Lateral Steps
- Mountain Climbers
- Beginner Burpees
Cool down exercises after workouts
If there’s one thing that gets skipped more than warm ups in the fitness world, it’s the cool-downs. Imagine that you’ve just completed a sweaty workout and all you can think of is taking a shower and throwing your body on a couch… At this point, skipping a few more exercises is understandable, yet it won’t be good for your body.
In contrast to warm ups, the cool-down process aims to lower the body temperature. This brings the heart rate back to normal.
Another benefit of cool-down exercises is to prevent lactic acid building up in your muscles, which leads to sore muscles.
How to do cool down exercises
A cool-down workout normally includes very light aerobic activity and static stretches.
Performing light aerobic activity after exercise like walking will facilitate oxygen delivery to the muscles for faster recovery. This will prevent lactic acid and other chemicals from accumulating in the muscles. This part can last for 5-10 minutes.
For the static stretching part, major muscle groups should be stretched about 10-30 seconds each. The longer you can hold a stretch, the better it is for improving your flexibility.
Examples of the best cool-down stretches for after your workout:
- Standing Quad Stretch
- Cat Cow Stretch
- Deep Glute Stretches
- Hip Flexor Stretches
- Reclined Hamstring Stretches
To avoid muscle pain after your workout, you should avoid missing out on these exercises, even if you only do them for very short periods. For both warm up and cool down exercises, it’s best to flow from one stretch to the next without rests in between.
If you follow your personalized workout plan in Fitness Kompanion’s Journey section, you can simply do the warm up and cool down exercises that target the main muscle groups in your daily workouts.