The warm-up and cool-down are some of the most important, yet under-utilized tools for training and progressing. In fact, they are just as important as the actual workout. Spending 5-10 minutes before and after your training session can be your ticket to meeting your goals and more than likely meeting them before the expected timeline. Let’s discuss the in’s and out’s of warming up, cooling down, and what to do during these times.
Break a Sweat!
What’s the point of a warm-up? During the first 5-10 minutes of your workout, spend time gradually increasing your heart rate while focusing on movements, stretches, or muscles that you will be using during your workout or training session. You want to break a light sweat and feel your heart beating up to 50% of your max heart rate. The purpose is to gradually increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle flexibility to prevent injury.
The types of exercises or stretches to do during this time can range from:
-A light jog or other form of cardio (bike, walk, jump rope),
-Stretching using dynamic movements such as inchworm or shoulder pass-through, or
-Light strengthening exercises such as using a light theraband or dumbbell to complete shoulder press or clamshells.
Once you feel as though your muscles are warm and your joints are lubricated, begin to work into your training session. Keep in mind, it is during this time you will increase your heart rate even more, up to 80% of your max heart rate and do sets that are either heavier or more repetitions, or both.
Bring your Heart Rate Down!
The purpose of the cool-down is to bring your heart rate and blood pressure back down and again stretch the worked muscles to prevent injury. You want to prevent lactic acid from hanging around in your muscles to allow you to move more freely and decrease tight, stiff muscles and joints following the workout.
The cool-down is similar to your warm-up except your focus is bringing your heart rate down through deep nasal breathing and allowing your muscles to relax after your training session. Some examples of exercises could include:
-Walking or jogging with nasal breathing,
-Foam rolling, or
-Stretching with either gentle dynamic movements or static.
It is important to remember, especially after a heavy weight training day or intense workout, that you drink a lot of water and gently stretch and move throughout the day to prevent lactic acid build-up in the muscles which creates soreness and stiffness. It is easy to forget this part and wake up the next two mornings with extreme muscle soreness which commonly leads people to wanting to rest more. In all actuality, it is more beneficial to move the next day through some sort of exercise to get the muscles pumping and the lactic acid to leave the body.
Practice Pieces of the Movements you will be Performing in your Workout!
The biggest question I get regarding warm-ups and cool-downs is not knowing what to do during this time. I shared a few ideas of exercises above, but the best thing to remember is that you spend this time warming up the movements and muscles that you plan to use in your training session portion of your workout.
If my workout is going to include squatting then you need to make sure to gradually warm-up the squat. Here is an example progression:
-Groin stretches, groiners, cossack squats
-Barbell only squats
During your warm-up make sure to focus on correct technique, breathing patterns, and working into end ranges of the motion without pain. Once you feel like you are moving well and warm from these warm-up exercises progress right in to adding a light weight to your barbell and continue until you have met your training session goals before beginning your cool-down.
When completing your cool-down portion of your workout, make sure you address the main muscle groups used during your workout. To continue with the squat progression example above, some cool-down examples could be:
-Foam roll quad and glutes
-Child’s pose stretch
-Toy soldier and butt kickers
-Glute stretching: figure 4, knee to opposite shoulder
Each of your warm-up and cool-down sessions should be approximately 10 minutes long, but the most important part is that you feel warm, loose, and mildly sweating before you begin training and loose, cool, breathing normally when you finish your cool-down.
Train With ME!
If you’d like more examples of exercises you could do for a warm-up or cool-down or would like to learn more about strength and conditioning, progression, or injury prevention join my Facebook group: Strength & Conditioning Performance for Metro Atlanta Athletes.
You can also set up time for us to chat to further discuss your goals and see what the next best steps would be! You can schedule a time here OR text me at 740-590-3923.