Updated: Feb 27, 2022
We've all been guilty of skipping one or both of these steps from time to time, but taking that extra few minutes to prime your body for your workout will have major benefits.
We're not talking a big deal here, 3-5 minutes before you get into your workout and ideally the same afterwards can have you squatting deeper, jumping higher and moving faster with more ease!
Why warm up and stretch?
The function of a warm up is to loosen up the muscles to be worked during your session by increasing the blood flow to them. Doing so will reduce your risk of injuries such as pulled muscles and joint pain, as well as allow you to work with greater mobility and less stiffness. This in turn will increase your flexibility and range of motion, enabling you to give that bit extra to your workout!
As well as priming your body for action, a good warm up will help get your head 'in the game' and motivate you to want to move!
After our workout, when we've moved our bodies an worked our muscles, we need to keep them happy and stretch them out!
Muscles stretch best when they are warm. While adding some dynamic stretches to your warm up is a great idea (but kicks, high knees, walking lunges), stretching after your workout will help with your recovery. A good stretch out has benefits like improving the range of motion of your joints, reducing your risk of cramps and minimising delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS as it's affectionately known). You know that feeling of struggling to sit on the toilet or move your arms above your head for the few days after a workout? That's DOMS!
Let's also not forget, stretching often feel pretty good!
Now that we know why we should warm up and stretch, how do we do it effectively?
What would a good warm up look like?
While a walk on the treadmill is great for getting your blood flowing, it is important to warm up the areas of your body you will be targeting during your workout. Remember, the aim is to loosen up these muscles and get them ready for the work ahead.
Keeping that in mind, if you were heading into a full body cardio style workout, you might like to increase that walk to a jog for a minute or so. Then add in a few squats, lunges and dynamic upper and full body stretches like side reaches or floor to ceiling reaches.
If your workout was more focused on a particular body part, maybe a heavy leg day, it is still a good idea to warm up your whole body while focusing on the lower half. This might look like a short walk on the treadmill, followed by some walking lunges or high knees, jumping jacks and some side bends. Then maybe move into a few of the exercises in your workout using bodyweight only, or a MUCH lower weight than you will use in your working sets.
Your warm up could be anything from 3-10 minutes long, whatever it takes to get your body and mind feeling ready to put the work in!
What about stretching and cooling down?
Just as it's important to warm the body up to get it ready to move, we also need to help it get back to it's resting state.
Spend a few minutes after your workout getting your heart rate back to normal, this might look like walking after a run or other cardio session or some light dynamic stretches after a weights based session. Then you'll need a good stretch out! Spend 3-5 minutes stretching the muscles you've used during your workout, ideally holding each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds. It's always a good idea to repeat a stretch too, you'll likely be able to stretch further the second time around. Bonus points if you can also add in a longer stretching session once or twice a week!
Four Peak Fitness can provide you with a sheet containing some great static stretches to add to your session, please ask!
Now that you all know the magic tricks to maximising your workouts, I look forward to seeing you moving freely, squatting deeper and jumping higher next time you're getting your workouts in!
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