Have you ever skipped a warm-up, or a cool-down?
Perhaps you thought you would conserve your energy for your main workout session. In this article, we look at precisely why both the warm-up, and cool-down are just as important as the exercises you perform in your core regime. Just as with many things in our lives, everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is the same with a workout structure, a mainly consists of three, sometimes four parts.
If you are training with a personal trainer or a coach, this is typically always included. Usually, you will talk about the main goals for your training, your objectives and list of exercises. In order to be able to successfully focus on your workout, it is important not to get distracted by unnecessary chatter.
Is it necessary? Yes, only in exceptional cases is this not needed. So, what is it that determines a good warm up, and what does it actually do?
A good warm-up consists of both warming up the body, the muscles and such, along with getting you physiologically prepared for the workout that will precede. This can help to make sure you incur fewer injuries and get better results from your workouts.
In a warm-up, you achieve all of this:
- Improves blood circulation, therefore increases oxygen and nutrient uptake
- Raises the body temperature
- Improves muscle, ligament and tendon flexibility
- Joints excreted in synovial fluid, which helps to protect joint cartilage from wear
- It will speed up the pulse, which makes it easier to start a workout
- Psychologically prepare for the mobilisation of forces, ensuring a smoother transition to the following training session
- Protects the body from overheating
A warm-up is usually performed in two stages. In the first – general warming, using only your own weight or any machine, such as a treadmill or medicine ball, for example, it warms up equally all of the body. It generally takes 5 to 20 minutes. Remember that this is just the warm-up and you do not need to overdo it. Otherwise, you will not be able to do your workout with your full strength. A tired muscle is a weak muscle!
Then we come to the second stage – a special warm-up. This is carried out before each exercise in your workout and so it is repeated several times. The principle of this is that at the beginning, you perform the exercise you are going to do with a light weight one or more times, and then it is carried out with the full strength for the main activity.
There is also the question whether the warm-up should also include stretching exercises. This is a question and a very topical issue which has many different views, and it would be almost impossible to provide a definitive answer. The relevance is often determined by the chosen sport. If we talk about a workout in the gym, the warm-up time generally suggests that it is easy to carry only so-called dynamic stretching exercises. These are stretching exercises which are repetitive movements with a greater range of motion than is usually required on a daily basis. For example, if you lean down upright on one side, then to the other side, or alternately do straight leg raising, trying to reach the front of the outstretched hand.
Static stretching exercises are generally recommended for a cool-down. If you fall into any of the following, then please pay special attention to your warm-ups: The elderly, exercising in cold weather, morning workouts, before larger loads, or working out after injuries.
This is usually done directly after a warm-up. Its structure corresponds to the workout routine, so a detailed view here is not important.
It is even more rare that people remember to do this than the warm-up. After a workout most people head straight to the changing rooms. A cool-down, as well as warm-up, is a crucial part of the whole workout routine. It is not advisable, nor is it appropriate to ignore it! While the warm-up helps to prepare the body and the mind for a workout, the cool-down helps to end the workout and gets your body back to the normal rhythm of life. Both the warm-up and cool-down are transitions, and connect both sides of the workout, just like a bridge.
In a cool-down, this allows you to:
- The body disposes of metabolic by-products
- Starts to renew energy reserves
- Reduce muscle fatigue and stiffness
- Heart rate and breathing return to normal levels
- Renewed psychological tone
- Relaxes the body
- Muscles are prepared for the next workout
As we can see from the above list, the cool-down kick-starts the recovery process. Recovery is very important in improving your overall results. A cool-down can take an average of 10 to 30 minutes.
If after a cool-down, you are still perspiring the same way as in training, then it is too short.
Often, a cool-down is divided into two or more rarely three parts. It always starts off with easy exercises for the whole body, just like a warm-up. Then afterwards, performing the static stretching. Static stretches, are those in which the exercise, or pose is held for a certain period of time, the minimum is for 10-20 seconds. The greatest stretching emphasis should be given to the trained muscle groups which will be put to use during the workout. If you want to significantly improve your flexibility, then stretching exercises should be organised as a separate workout. During the stretching, you should take care not to overdo it because a cool-down is not a flexibility workout.
In the third part, it could be that you take a massage, or even a shower, where a mix of cold-hot-cold-hot water is used. If you have the facilities to do so, visit the sauna or just sit and relax on the mat afterwards for 5 minutes. Rarely are all three parts completed, it is mainly limited to the first two, or just one of them. If you are training together with your personal coach, at the end you can give feedback, and discuss the workout progress.
This workout structure is not the only way to organise workouts. In each sport, workout methods can vary. Here we are simply summarising the key aspects to consider if you are looking to maximise the benefits from your workout.