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The Facts About Warming Up and Cooling Down

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The Facts About Warming Up and Cooling Down

Many people don’t consider a warm-up or cool down before or after a workout to be completely necessary. Are they wrong? Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your pre- and post-workout routine.

The key to your pre-exercise warm-up routine

“The main thing to think about for warming up before exercise is doing a dynamic warm-up, rather than static stretching, which should be done post-exercise,” says Heather Abrahamson, Cooper Fitness Center Wellness and Sports Pro Manager.

A dynamic warm-up should be done to prepare for an aerobic/cardio workout or strength training. The purpose of a dynamic warm-up, explains Abrahamson, is to raise the body temperature, get blood flowing, increase breathing and heart rate, increase range of motion through the joints and ligaments and recruit muscles that will be used for exercise. “A dynamic warm-up preps the body before doing more intense activity,” Abrahamson says.

Exercise-specific warm-ups

Some athletes will do certain stretches and dynamic movements that are more geared toward their sport or exercise routine. For example, runners will focus on lower body, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and core, with less of an emphasis on upper body, arms, etc. However, someone who is preparing for a strength workout will think more about preparing for movement patterns and different ranges of motions they’ll perform during exercise, such as squats and pushups. In addition, they would focus on getting large muscle groups warm, joints loose, and stabilizing the core.

“The purpose of warming up is to stimulate the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems while activating metabolic pathways (how the body responds to exercise with energy),” Abrahamson says.

A warm-up should last approximately eight to 15 minutes, depending on the type of exercise you are about to do, suggests Abrahamson.

Pointers for your post-workout cool down

The goal of the post-workout cool down is to bring the body back to a resting level. Failure to do so could result in blood pooling, which can cause lightheadedness. “It’s important to allow the body to slowly come back down to a resting level by bringing the heart rate down with light exercise and static stretching,” says Abrahamson. Static stretching works to lengthen the muscles, reduce risk of injury, and prevent muscles from getting sore and tight after exercise. A post-workout cool down is “just as important as doing a warm-up,” Abrahamson says.

A proper cool down should take five to 10 minutes, depending on the workout you just completed. During your cool down, gradually decrease resistance and intensity in order to bring your body back to a resting level.

Taking the time to properly warm-up and cool down before and after exercise not only helps protect your body, it can also improve performance as it allows the body to move more freely and increases range of motion in joints and muscles.

No matter how long you are planning to workout, taking the time to warm-up and cool down before and after you exercise is important. If you are short on time, pick a few quick exercises for your warm-up, such as a slow jog with dynamic stretches. Listen to your body during your warm-up. If you feel that something is tight and needs extra attention, give that area more focus before moving into your exercise routine.

Spending a few minutes before and after your workout warming up and cooling down can improve the quality of your workout and reduce your risk of injury. Consider your pre-exercise warm-up and post-workout cool down an integral part of your overall fitness routine.

For more information about professional fitness training at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call 972.233.4832.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.