One of the things that is often overlooked in a workout can be the warm-up and cool-down. However, these 2 aspects are essential for several reasons. Let’s have a look at what these are.

There are 2 types of warm-ups: the general and the specific warmup. 

General warmup 

This could be spending 5 minutes on the treadmill, stair-master, or any other cardio machine. Doing this increases your heart rate gradually, and warms up your body. Which is especially important as we enter the colder season! Our muscles become more malleable and less stiff when our body is warmer. Think of your muscles as chewing gum. The more you chew, the more elastic it becomes as it warms up. When our muscles are more elastic, it reduces the risk of injury. 

When we warm up, our blood vessels expand, allowing more oxygenated blood to get to the muscles. This means that we can be more efficient at producing energy in our muscles, as well as clearing waste products. 

Specific warm-up 

This consists of moving your joints through a range of motion that is specific to the workout you are doing. For example, if you are training legs, you may do some leg swings, good mornings, bodyweight squats, and anything else that targets the appropriate joints and muscles. 

There is also an opportunity here to focus on weak points. For example, if you have poor ankle mobility, you would emphasise ankle mobility. To do this, taking the joint through the full range of motion and holding an ankle stretch for 30 seconds has been shown to improve ankle mobility for the following workout. There is also evidence to suggest that warming up directly before training can reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness)

Person specific

A warm-up can look different for everyone, depending on their goals, training, and personality. For example, injuries will have to be taken into account during the warmup. More refined workouts will require a more refined warm-up. A longer workout will require a longer warm-up. A nervous person may suit a slower and longer warm-up, whereas a calm person may suit a quicker more intense warm-up. Choose what works best for you!

Now lets look at cool-downs:

Cool Down

As with the warm-up, your cool-down can also have a general and specific cool-down. 

A general cool-down is especially important following a high-intensity workout. For example, after a set of sprint intervals, it is a good idea to walk, gradually decreasing the speed. This has been shown to accelerate lactate clearing from the body. 

During the workout, blood flow is higher in the outer extremities of the body, favoring the working muscles. When we cool down, we allow our blood flow to return to the heart and brain.

Cool Down Stretching

Stretching post-workout decreases the risk of injury. During the workout, our muscles are shortened. Without stretching/lengthening the muscles at the end of the workout, our muscles can become chronically shortened, which is a common cause of injury.

Preparing your body by spending 5-10 minutes before you get into your main workout is essential for ensuring you get the most out of your training. Likewise, it’s just as important to spend 5 minutes after your workout to cool down, reduce injury and return your body to baseline.