Q: What is the best way to warm-up and cool-down?
A: Warming up the body before a workout is really important to prevent injury during and after the workout. Lots of people think that static stretching is necessary before a workout, but you actually want to avoid it because it increases your chance of straining or tearing muscles.
For my warm-up, I do dynamic stretching and/or foam rolling for about 5-10 minutes. Dynamic stretching (stretching while moving) should be incorporated into everybody’s workout routine. It allows the body and mind to better prepare for activity. Dynamic stretching increases the heart rate, blood flow, and circulation to muscles. It also activates the nervous system to improve neuromuscular reaction, crucial during a tough workout. Dynamic warm-up can lead to fewer injuries and improved performance, something I’m sure we all want.
There is no one right way to warm up, there are tons of dynamic movements (you can search online for examples.) Pick the movements closely related to those that will be performing during the workout to target the muscles you’ll be working. If you’re training your legs, you could warm up with bridges, leg swings, walking on toes, walking lunges, high knees, lateral squats, etc. There are so many exercises, just pick your favorite 5-6 exercises (10-15 repetitions each or until you feel warm) and practice consistently. It’s very tempting to skip your warm-up, but don’t. Stick with it and it will pay off.
As for cool-down, it is important to let the heart rate come down after your workout. Cool-down can be as simple as walking one lap, just make sure that you recover. This is the right time for static stretching; stretch the muscles you’ve worked during your workout for about 10-20 seconds. Gentle yoga is a great cool down. I usually do a few static stretches at the end of my workout, like Downward Dog or Forward Fold.
I also love love love the foam roller. The foam roller, a very cost-friendly tool, can be used to boost circulation before the workout and/or to break up fibrous tissue after the workout, which prevents soreness. The foam roller is my best friend after a tough leg routine, it loosens the tightness.
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One Healthy Breakdown: warming-up the right way is just as important as what you do during your workout – replace pre-workout stretching with dynamic moves for good reason.