To often we are running late for class and skip the warm up and just jump right into the workout. Other times we are pinched for time and skip out on the cool down and rather head straight to work. Why are the warm ups and cool downs so important for our body and how do they impact our performance during workouts?
The purpose of the warm is to enhance our performance and prevent sports related injuries. Warm up routines are used to increase muscle temperature, core temperature and blood flow. A series of dynamic movements involving the same muscle groups that will be used for the subsequent and more strenuous activity.
Performing a good warm up is beneficial for a couple different reasons. The warm up can help prepare the body for aerobic and anaerobic activity. Warm up activities gradually increase the working capacity of the cardiovascular system. This creates a surge in blood flow circulating to the muscles and an increase in core temperature.
Warm up and dynamic movements prior to exercise improves the elasticity of muscles & joints. Engages the neural pathways and stimulates the muscles prior to performance. Performing predatory movements prior to activity lubricates the joints, which reduces the friction with the joints during movement.
The increase in body temperature allows more oxygen to be readily available for the muscles to use during activity.
Gentle warm up exercises increase the nerve – impulse transmission & reduction in muscle viscosity. This preps the muscle before exercise and enhances the mechanical efficiency and power.
Warming up is essentially priming the body for activity and minimizing the risk of injury, sprains, strains, muscles soreness or inflammation post exercise.
The type of warm up movements performed prior to activity should be based off the type of exercise being performed. The warm up should involve performing similar or the same type of movements you will be doing when you exercise, but with a lower intensity.
Warm up activities include stimulating large muscle groups and sport specific movements. The ideal warm up prior to resistance training is performing warm up reps with half the target intensity. For example if you intend on performing weighted squats, the best warm up movements would be to perform body weight squats. The goal of warm up is to increase the core temperature, get a light sweat but not be out of breath or fatigued by the time you complete the warm up. Another example is a proper warm up prior to exercise class. Typical classes increase a full body workout, plyometrics, agility, balance therefore a proper warm up would be a dynamic warm up which includes flexibility, mobility, strength and stability.
The cool down is just as important so the warm up in preventing injury. The purpose of the cool down is to bring the body temperature and heart rate back to resting state and homeostasis. Cool downs are gradual movements that decrease in intensity. If you were running, your cool down would include a slow jog, to a walk, followed by static stretching.
While trying to bring the heart rate down and decrease body temperature focus your attention on steadying the breath and bringing your breathing back to your resting state.
Cool down movements strive to recirculate the blood back to the heart to prevent to blood from pooling. Blood pooling is from lactic acid and other waste products that occur during exercise staying in the muscles, this results in swollen muscles or pain. An excellent cool down stretch is the legs up the wall. This exercise stimulates recirculation of blood and allows the lymphatic system to absorb the waste products.
Post exercise static stretches are recommended, the goal os static stretches is to elongate the muscles back to their prior pre workout length. These stretches can be help for 20 – 30 seconds.
- Important fact to know about static stretching, according to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Association static stretching muscles prior to exercise can significantly decrease strength. For optimal results, static stretches should be performed after the muscles have already been warmed up to prevent injury Example: after dynamic exercises, or post workout.
So in conclusion the warm up and cool down activities are just as important as the workout itself. So next time, think twice about skipping out on the post workout cool down. Don’t let being crunched for time short yourself on potential gains.