How many of you are guilty of walking into the gym, maybe jog for a couple of minutes on a treadmill, do a few arm circles and then pick up the weights Without warming-up and cooling down? What about at the end of your workout, when after an hour or so of pushing and pulling weights you sit down for a bit, have a drink of water, maybe towel off and then head for the shower or the parking lot.
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in many gyms, training facilities, and parks. For all the good that you think you are doing for your body by hitting the gym, you could be putting it into a dangerous situation by not properly warming-up and cooling down after your workout. You can read about hyperacidity to know more.
Why Warming-up Your Body
By preparing your body for the exercises that you are about to partake in and then setting your muscles up for recovery, your workout will be far more effective and you will see results a lot faster. When considering the facility that you want to train in, or possibly the gym space that you are looking to own, having a designated area for proper warming-up and cool-down exercises is just as important as the floor space and equipment for all other workouts routines.
Purpose of a Warming-Up:
A proper warming-up routine, which involves dynamic movements (stretches) will help prepare your body for the potentially intense exercises that you are about to engage in. Just as professional basketball players or football players go through the movements that they are about to go through, preparing your body for a workout is equally as important and will lead to a more effective session.
A proper warming-up routine typically lasts about 10-12 minutes to target all the major muscle groups. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure that your body is prepped properly will go a long way towards avoiding potential injuries that could sideline you for days or weeks.
Treadmill jog / Exercise Bike
2 to 3 minutes of cardio is a great way to get the blood flowing and the body moving while working up a light sweat and mentally getting into the workout mindset.
A full-body warming-up working the legs and arms. There are plenty of options with jumping jacks to work different planes of movement including regular, scissor, squat jacks, and seal jacks.
15-20 reps will help prepare the lower body and core.
As with jumping jacks, legs swings can help loosen up the hips and glutes on several different planes of movement, sagittal and frontal.
Forward, backward, alternating (swimming), criss-cross, warming-up the movement, and rotation of the shoulders will help for most major weighted exercises that focus on using the arms, shoulders, and upper back.
Pushups for Warming-Up
Great strength exercises using only your body weight, push-ups also act as a perfect upper body and core warming-up for resistance training.
Standing tall, slowly bend over at your waist and put your hands on the ground, and with small strides forward walk your hands out until your body is in a full plank position. Whether you choose to walk your hands back to your feet or your feet into your hands is up to you as both provide their own respective stretches.
A great way to complete or kick off your dynamic warming-up. Another full-body exercise, jumping rope increases your heart rate and prepares the entire body. If you are creative, flexible, and able to multitask, there are a nearly infinite number of styles that you can add to your routine.
Purpose of a Cool Down:
Regardless of the type of workout that you engaged in, your body needs to recover. Allowing your heart rate, body temperature, and breathing to return to their normal pace is key to finishing off your session. A typical cool-down session will last anywhere from 7-15 minutes depending on the intensity of your workout. In addition to the already mentioned facts, the cooldown will help prepare your muscles for your next workout session and help prevent any cramping, spasms, or soreness that may occur while you rest. Another major benefit to a proper cool down is allowing time for the removal of lactic acid buildup that often occurs during various intensities of exercise.
Whereas a warming-up routine focuses on dynamic stretches and movements, the cooldown involves static stretching that requires each position to be held for anywhere between 20-30 seconds. Some of the basic and favored stretches include:
Figure 4 / Pretzel Stretch
Laying on your back, put your legs into a tabletop position and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Reach in between the gap between your legs and pull back on the hamstring of the leg on the tabletop. For an additional more intense stretch, gently push on the knee or quad of the crossed leg for a deeper stretch of the hips, glutes, and lower back.
Sitting straight up, put the soles of your feet together and try to bring your feet in as close to your body as possible, while your knees remain flat on the ground, opening out to the side. This is a great stretch for the hips, groin, and inner legs.
Kneeling on hands and knees, slowly raise your upper back (as if you were an angry cat), stretching out your upper back and shoulders. After a three count, slowly transition into lowering your upper back and dropping your lower back (if you can picture the droop of a cow’s back) and raise your head and chest.
Lying flat on your stomach with your arms out at a T, bend one knee and left your leg over across your body, and extend it out towards the opposite hand. Your upper body and hip will rotate with the movement. You can either continue to look downward or choose to turn your head opposite of the direction of the crossed leg. The scorpion stretch focuses on your glutes, lower back, and core. Some may choose this stretch as a warming-up movement, transitioning from leg to leg after only a couple of seconds, whereas others prefer to use it as a static stretch and hold for a longer period of time.
Bring one arm overhead, dropping it behind your head, and then using the opposite hand, gently press down just above the bent elbow until you feel the stretch in your shoulder and back of your arm. Caution, do not press directly on the elbow. Depending on your level of flexibility, another option is to link up your hands behind your back, one reaching up from the waist, the other reaching down behind your head and pull downward.
Cross-body arm stretches are great for your shoulders and your upper back. Cross one arm straight across your chest, using your other arm to hold it (approximately at the triceps) tight against your chest.
Most people tend to ignore this area of the body when they stretch after a workout, however, it is generally one of the sorest body parts at the end of the day. When you consider some of the pressures that are put on your neck with regards to your posture during your workout and your daily job, a stretch, much like a massage is probably much needed. Simply placing your right hand on your head and gently assisting with tilting it to the right and holding it for 20-30 seconds will help loosen sore muscles. Repeat on the other side.
Self Myofascial Release
Some people prefer to seek the benefits of a foam roller before their workout, whereas others will incorporate it after or as a stand-alone program. When implementing trigger point release using a foam roller or massage balls, you can help to increase the blood flow in the muscles, helping to remove tightness in specific areas of your body.
Athletic performance is enhanced by regenerating the muscles through compression and then increasing the flow of blood to the muscle tissue. For more information on self-myofascial release and equipment, please check out our previous article on benefits and helpful tips.
Providing clients with the best and most up-to-date fitness equipment is just a small part of what makes a gym attractive. By making a designated area available to clients, more people will likely take advantage of the opportunity to spend a few extra minutes taking care of their bodies before and after their workout session. With a reduced risk of injury and quicker recovery, clients will be able to increase the performance and frequency of their workouts.