by Dan DeFigio, Nashville personal trainer and nutrition counselor
How should you warm up for a workout?
The purpose of a warmup is to prepare the body for the activities to come. A proper warmup increases your core body temperature so that the muscles and connective tissues become flexible. Joints become lubricated, and the nervous system gets excited to facilitate better muscular synergy and improved neuromuscular efficiency.
The goal of a warmup should be to progress from minimal activity to ready-to-work. The full-body warmup can be just about any cardio-type activity such as walking or jogging, elliptical trainer or treadmill, or light calisthenics such as jumping jacks. An activity-specific warmup should then be performed to further activate the nervous system’s pathways and prepare the body for the specific activities to come. If squatting is your first planned activity, start with some unweighted squats with limited range of motion, and over the course of about a dozen reps, gradually work yourself down into a full range of motion at full speed. Likewise, if you’re warming up for a tennis game, don’t just slam into a full-strength serve after your full-body warmup. Start with some half speed racquet swings with a smaller range of motion, and gradually work into a full power, full range swing.
Note that you should not be short of breath or have a burning sensation in the muscles after the warmup. Exhausted is not “ready to work”!
A cooldown is the reverse of a warmup i.e. it returns the body to a lower level of activity. Just reverse the full body warmup phase and start cooling down with walking or other low-level activity. Static stretching (holding a stretch for 20 – 30 seconds) should go here.
NOTE: A proper cooldown is especially important for cardiac patients to prevent blood pooling in the limbs.