Quite often overlooked, warm-up and cool-down exercises form an essential part of a training program. Warming up before your training is just like wearing a seat belt before driving your car. It prepares your body and mind for an effective workout routine making you less prone to injuries and increases the mobility of your joints and muscles.
Similarly cooling down is just like parking your car in a safe spot. It calms your body and brings your heart rate and breathing to resting levels.
A good warm-up and cool-down session will also enhance your overall weight training results making you lift heavier weights without injury and enabling better recovery at the end of your workout.
What Happens During Warm-Up
A good warm-up is the first step towards a productive and power-packed workout. Warming up prepares our body for exercise by establishing a mind to muscle connection, which in layman’s terms implies that our mind sends signals to our muscles (via motor nerves) for the upcoming training activity. Warming-up is like switching on the engine of your body i.e. the cardiovascular system by raising the body temperature and increased blood flow to all the active muscles. This, in turn, results in more oxygen and nutrient supply to different parts of the body, preparing them to lift heavy weights.
Benefits of Warming-Up
The most important benefit of warming up is increasing joint mobility. During warm-up and flexing of joints, there is a secretion of synovial fluid that lubricates the joint and protects against injury. Our body works just like a machine that needs lubrication for the different parts to work together and protect against wear and tear. Another important benefit of warming up is the enhancement of our reflexes, i.e. lowering of our reaction time to a given stimulus or event. Athletes have tremendous reflexes to enhance their performance to events, for example, sprinters react to firing of the starter pistol in the air and their reaction time can determine their win or loss.
What Happens During Cool-Down
Cool-down is the reverse process for warming-up. It is a process of gradually lowering your level of activity and acts as a good transition between heavy workout to resting state. It involves normalizing your heart rate and breathing pattern to resting levels. If you avoid a cool-down session, your heart rate and blood pressure may drop rapidly, causing light-headedness.
Benefits of Cooling-Down
An effective cool-down session relaxes your muscles and leads to better overall recovery from muscle soreness. This will prepare you better for your next exercise session. Also, if you suddenly stop your vigorous exercise routine, there are chances of dizziness and fainting as most of the blood is collectively pooled into the active muscles.
How To Do Proper Warm-Up
A good warm-up session should last at least 10-12 minutes and activate all muscle groups. Exercises that would raise body temperature like jumping jacks, skipping rope, jogging on a treadmill can be performed, while ensuring that you increase the speed gradually and not at once. Then stretching your muscle groups especially the training muscle groups to increase joint mobility and establish that mind-muscle connection discussed earlier, should be a prerequisite for an effective workout session later on.
How To Do Proper Cool-Down
After your workout is complete, a cool-down session lasting 10-12 minutes should be incorporated through a sequence of slow movements. This involves stretching exercises to relax and lengthen the muscles, done in such a way that each stretch is held from 10-30 seconds. This will improve your overall flexibility (range of movement around joints) and give better results in achieving your fitness goals.
Despite the importance of warm-up and cool-down sessions, many people tend to skip these and directly jump to weight training, making them more prone to injuries and fatigue. Your workouts will start giving noticeable results the day you start including these as a part of your training regime. Finally, you will start enjoying your workouts even more.
So what are you waiting for? Time to Train, but the right way!