Let’s be honest, when you go to work out, do you warm-up and cool down every time? They might not be the most Instagram postable part of the workout, but they are part of the workout that you may need to start doing. Of course, everyone has had an excuse for why they skipped them. I don’t have enough time, too much warm-up could make me tired during my workout, a short walk on the treadmill will do, I’m not in the mood, and many more. We have all felt that way.
Not warming up or cooling down in the short term may work for you when you are younger. However, it can catch up with you with nagging injuries and lack of mobility. If you want to play the long-term game, you must learn how to warm up and cool down for workouts.
What Does A Warm Up Do?
A warm-up isn’t only for your muscles; it also helps prepare your mindset for the workout and nervous system. It is helping to get your body’s system firing and get the most out of your training.
During your warm-up, your body temperature will start to increase and promote the flow of synovial fluid. It surrounds joints and cushions them to reduce friction. The warm-up also helps to gradually elevate your heart rate and help prevent the “shock” to the system if you were to just throw on some weight and start lifting. It also helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles needed for the workouts while at the same time helping to flush waste from your muscles so they don’t fatigue as quickly.
When you start the heavy parts of your work sets, your body should be ready to go and your mind in the zone. This is a great way to improve your workouts overall without adding more accessories to the workout.
What is a Proper Warm-Up?
A good warm-up typically has two parts: a general warm-up and a specific warm-up.
A general warm-up is something you could do at the start of almost every workout. For many, a light aerobic activity for about five to ten minutes like an elliptical, a bike, or a treadmill covers this. Others might like a quick dynamic warm-up, a while you stretch or stretch through a joint’s full range of motion. Both are great ways to help get the blood flowing and help get your mind ready for the workout.
After the general warm-up, the specific warm-up is next. This is the part of the warm-up that you’d adjust per workout. Let’s say you are about the train chest. You would not need extra hip mobility work for the bench press. However, you’ll probably want to do shoulder stabilizing movements or get additional blood flow in your triceps.
This can also be where you transition into the workout. For example, say you were doing shoulder stabilizing, followed by light pulldowns with a band. You can flow into a few reps with the open bar and slowly add weight for warm-up until you are at the first work set. Now your nervous system is on the same page as you are training.
What Does A Cool Down Do?
Once the last rep of your working sets comes to a finish, that is when the cooldown would start. When you stretch your muscles, this helps the blood flow from the muscles you were training and back to your heart. Helping to flush your muscles and alleviate soreness and stiffness that you might feel after a workout. It also helps gradually bring your heart rate down to its regular rhythm instead of suddenly.
The pump is one of the best post-workout feelings, you look that much better, and the muscles are firmer than normal. While this may feel like a good thing to have for a more extended period to show off outside of the gym, this is not healthy. A cool-down helps resume the blood flow and blood pressure fluctuating during your workout. Unfortunately, the pump and just having blood ‘stop’ are not what we want to work out. Instead, you want to have the blood resume its flow, gradually. This will help recovery.
It is also a great time to think about how your workout went during the cool down. Are you happy with how the training went? Do you feel you need some extra work somewhere? Take some notes and use this time to reflex.
What is a Proper Cool Down?
Like with the warm-up, a cool-down can be brown down into two parts: the general portion and the specific part.
A general cooldown could be similar to its warm-up counterpart—light cardio or a short walk to help blood flow. The rowing machine and elliptical are popular favorites because you use both the upper and lower body. It can also be as simple as walking around the gym a little before going to where you would stretch. Think about getting your post-workout drink from the locker room and moving around a little. This simple task of walking around the gym for five to ten-minute could assist with your recovery.
The specific part of your cool down is where you would perform light stretching or foam rolling. You can spend time on parts of the body you were training and areas where you might be sore from the workouts before. Taking some time to do quick foaming of a tight IT band stretching the pectorals minor might seem like a waste of time. However, these easy-to-do cooldowns can dramatically impact your next workout or daily life outside the gym.
Taking Care of Your Body
This article touched quickly on how warming up and cooling down can enhance your workout, not hurt it. If you were the type to say that you don’t have time for a warm-up or cool down, it might be time to drop some less important accessories off your workouts. Fewer exercises performed well are better than more exercises.
If you were the person who says that warming up and cooling down is cutting into your gains because of ‘cardio,’ you either are going too hard or doing too many warm-ups movements. You might also need to build up your cardiovascular system so that the warm-up activities are not as complicated.
Doing a warm-up and cool down does not have to be boring. Use this time to mentally prepare for your workout or reflect on the workout you hard. Or post-workout, get on social media and start getting your workout videos uploaded. Either way, this time can be used in many positive ways. Doing a warm-up and cooldowns are great for helping to keep you injury-free and helping you recover. Don’t think you’re hardcore for skipping them. Lift more and look hardcore with a big squat or just pretend that you still ‘got it.’
Shellock, F. G., & Prentice, W. E. (1985). Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 2(4), 267–278. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198502040-00004