When time is a limiting factor, many individuals choose to skip the warmup and cooldown portions of a workout. However, done correctly, warming up and cooling down can help reduce injury risk and improve performance. In this Movement Memo, our Fitness Team discusses the significance of adding a warmup and cooldown to your exercise routine and provides sample movements to try before and after your next workout.
Warming Up the Body for Movement
Warmups are essential in reducing the risk of injury and improving activity performance. A warmup prepares the cardiovascular system by increasing body temperature, increasing blood flow to the muscles, and increasing muscle flexibility. The three major components of a warmup are movement, dynamic stretches, and muscle activation exercises.
Gentle cardiovascular exercise, such as walking on the treadmill or cycling help to increase heart rate. As a general rule, aim for 5-10 minutes of movement as a part of your warmup.
Movement-based stretching increases range of motion, heart rate, blood flow, and delivery of oxygen to large muscle groups. Studies show a dramatic difference in injury prevention and optimization of exercise performance when dynamic stretches are incorporated in a warmup. For this portion of the warmup, focus on active exercises that move a joint (e.g., hip, knee, shoulder, etc.) through a full range of motion.
Try the below sequence for two sets of six repetitions per side:
Muscle Activation Exercises
Poor activation, especially in the hips, can lead to muscular compensations when exercising. These are often observed as low back side bend, knee collapse, or foot pronation (collapse). Gluteus medius and minimus are the primary muscles responsible for stabilizing opposite side hip drop. When properly activated, these muscles absorb shock and maintain proper biomechanics, especially during unilateral movements.
Try the below sequence for two sets of ten repetitions per side (or twenty repetitions total):
Complete your movement, dynamic stretches, and glute activation prior to any exercise.
Cool Down to Jumpstart Recovery
Cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up. The cooldown after exercise allows a gradual decrease in heart rate and body temperature back to resting. Static stretching minimizes the buildup of metabolites (e.g., lactic acid) in the muscles, which can cause cramping and stiffness if not addressed. It is ideal to stretch when your muscles and joints are warm (i.e., within 5-10 minutes of completing your workout). Cooldown stretches (unlike warmup stretches) consist of static holds of 30-45 seconds, which elongate, loosen, and increase flexibility of a muscle.
Before you begin stretching, walk with deep breathing for 2-5 minutes to bring the heart rate down, closer to 120 beats per minute. Then, complete static stretches targeted at various major muscle groups.
Try the below sequence for two sets of 30 second holds per side:
An effective warmup and cooldown can be as short as 5 minutes on either end. Developing the habits for a warmup and cooldown routine is essential for reducing the risk of overuse injuries and improving overall exercise performance.
Questions about warmup and cooldown routines that are optimal for your individual needs? Reach out to your SHIFT team for guidance.
In Real Health,